Sculptures of Mangalkot

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Sculptures of Mangalkot found at Chingaspur village under Namuja union about one kilometre west of mahasthan archaeological site in Bogra district, was discovered by Alexandar cunningham in 1879. The Department of Archaeology of Bangladesh carried-out an excavation programme during 1981-83 and unearthed remains of a temple there. The square shaped temple was 5.02m by 4.92m in size.

Over one thousand archaeological objects were found during the excavation, of which mostly were earthen sculptures. These were created by the sculptors during the reign of the Gupta dynasty and in the post-Gupta era. Here were found the largest number of sculptures ever found in any archaeological site of Bangladesh. The average height of the Mangalkot sculpture is two feet (.061 metre) and most of these are proto-type statues of women bust having an expanded hood of snake on the head. Actually these were all idols of manasha , the snake goddess. The well-shaped, beautiful, healthy and fascinating woman figure depicted in these sculptures attracts full attention of the devotees as well as the spectators. The graceful beauty of the statues is unparalleled and a few of those do not have snake-hoods on their head.

Most of the sculptures were found in damaged condition except a few which were found intact. In order to understand the art form of these typical sculptures, the standard of creativity of the sculptors and the method they used should be analysed carefully. All the characteristics of art form of the Gupta era are strongly evident in the graceful face of the sculptures (Fig.1) having a pair of bow-shaped eye brow, eyes looking downward, a pointed nose, smiling lips and a sharp chin. The sculptor of Gupta School successfully created the face of goddess Manasha with extra-ordinary expressions, as if her caring look understands the desire of the devotees. This form of creation can be compared with the facial expression of a terracotta sculpture (Fig.2) of Gupta era found in mahasthangarh. Art form of both the sculptures are almost same.

The best example of classical Gupta art form found at Mongolkot is a sculpture of an young lady wearing a heavy necklace looking like a twisted plait and a pair of rolled earrings, keeping a long plait of hairs on the front from the back of the head and having a strong and stout figure and a posture with attractive look. The artist depicted all these features vividly in the sculpture in such a way as if an adolescent girl (Fig.3) is observing the world from her inner eyes with wonder. Her wide face, thick lower lip, pointed nose and chin etc are determinant elements of the classical fine arts of the Gupta era. Another statue, bust of a women, (Fig.4) found in Mongolkot is almost similar to the earlier one. But its expression of look is different.

The sculpture of goddess Manasha's bust (Fig.5) is regarded as the classic example of fine arts of Gupta era in Bengal. A snake hood on her head, earrings and a plain but decent necklace gave her an elegant image. The creations of the Gupta era tried to portray the real beauty of the well-structured figure of women, not by exposing too many ornaments. The sculpture contains all the aesthetic characteristics of goddess Parvati, as described by poet Kalidas of Gupta era in the Kumarasmbhava. The thin waist of the idol is the real sculptural transformation of women's beauty narrated in the epic Meghadoot. This particular sculpture successfully portrayed the overall fascinating beauty and elegance of women.

In another snake-hooded statue, the sculptor depicted a mild smiling lines on the face. They attained this finest quality, perfection and skill of sculpture creation through their practice and dedication from generation to generation. Accordingly the artists of the area had contributed enough to the enrichment of fine arts and their contribution is well recognised in the history of sculpture. The terracotta plaques discovered at Mahasthangarh are bright examples of their ancestor's excellent artwork. Their descendents in the Gupta era depicted various expressions of human being around them in different art media. The face of this snake hooded human head (Fig.6) is a remarkable example of a sculpture expressing human emotions.

Only the young generation was not made the subject of the sculptures of Mangolkot, senior citizens were also presented. Image of a middle-aged male (Fig.7) and a mature woman (Fig.8) were depicted in two sculptures. The male figure was created with a heavy wide face and nose to express its mood and age. Similarly all elderly women were portrayed in other sculptures with an expressive fleshy face. The Mangolkot sculptors were not only master of making statues of human beings, they were also very efficient in depicting animals in their works. In a terracotta plague, a goose is seen cleaning its ornamented feathers with the beak. The extraordinary posture of this bird is simply unparalleled.

The inner expression of a statue is artificially revealed on the face and it is the most remarkable characteristic of the sculptures of the Gupta era. In this context, a number of terracotta sculptures of Gupta era, discovered in Mahasthangarh and adjoining areas may be revisited. A head of god, kept as an exhibit in showcase no 4 of the Mahasthan Museum and another godhead of Paharpur Museum are remarkable sculptures of the Gupta School. The godhead found at Kazipur and being exhibited in Mahasthan museum is another remarkable specimen of Gupta style. Its mature and fleshy face, thick lower lip, pointed nose, half-opened eyes and laugh lines around lips one created in such a way that the god's expressive face was revealing restrained and proper mood of satisfaction and realisation of joy achieved after meditation. It is difficult to describe the details of expression of the faces of statues. Simply it may be mentioned that only the sculpture of the Gupta era had the quality and artistic skill to reflect the souls satisfaction on the faces. Another female idol with a crown on her head found in Mahasthangarh bearing similar physical features and facial expression refers to the art form of Gupta sculpture.

A godhead statue found in Mahasthangarh, has been put on display in the Paharpur Museum in a mysterious light and shadow condition inside the gallery. Its eyes seem to be so expressive that the perceiving look can read the untold speeches of devotees. The idol, a masterpiece of stone engraving of the Gupta age, was carefully created with crown on its head. The face was given an oval shape, the nose pointed and the lower lip was made thick as per school of the Gupta sculptures. Two sculptures of godhead, put on display, in showcase no. 4 of Mahasthan Museum are of same physical features but just opposite from each other in terms of expressions on the faces. The first one's look was very innocent and simple, free from sin and ugliness like a god. But the expression put in the face of the second statue by the sculptor demonstrated the pride of a god through the sculpture's sharp look and an impression depicting the depth of knowledge beyond eternal life. Most of the faces of statues, particularly those of Lord Buddha, found in Mahasthangarh, are rich in detailing the mood of mind.

The terracotta sculptures found in Mongolkot, was created during the Gupta era and it was mentioned in the entry on Pundrabardhana, highlighting the quality and high standard of practice of classical fine arts. Stone was not available in our country and as such we had to depend on the source of Rajmahal in Bihar for making stone-sculptures. It was also very costly as well as time consuming. Considering the fact the sculptors of the Gupta age opted for terracotta medium and created many sculptures of extraordinary artistic skill. In many ways, those works excelled the artistic quality of stone sculptures. The continuity of this tradition was traced later in north Bengal during the Pala era; in South-East Bengal during the Deva-Chandra Dynasties and the whole of Bengal during the rule of the Sultans with a little transformation. [Mokammal H Bhuiyan]