Heavenly Musicians in Indian Sculpture of V–X AD. An Analysis of Cave Temples of Maharashtra


Numerous heavenly musicians inhabit inner and outer walls, pillars and even ceil­ings of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples of ancient and medieval India, being de­picted in sculpture and painting. They are gandharvas, apsaras and kinnaras. They attend deities, present them gifts, dance, play musical instruments, sing hymns. The depictions of musicians appeared first in Harappa civilization in 2000 B. C., and then only in the early Buddhist art from II B. C., flourished in Sanchi sculpture and then multiplied in early medieval time. In this work author makes much use of images from the cave complexes of Ajanta, Aurangabad and Ellora (Central India, Deccan, V-X A. D.) This article raises a question not only of heavenly musicians’ iconography, but also of their function in a sacral space of this period. Author in­terprets these images with the help of literary sources: Vedic, Epic and Puranic lit­erature, Buddhist Jatakas and Jain texts