1. Mock Question for UPSC Mains GSM1: Art & Culture
  2. Introduction : Define | Origin | Data
    1. Reason #1: Bronze idols more appealing than stone idols
    2. Reason #2: Both Hindu & Non-Hindus admire
    3. Reason #3: Excavated outside India also
    4. Reason #4: Lost-Wax Technique
  3. Conclusion: Yes they’re awesome!
  4. Pitfalls & Self-Assessment Benchmarks (SAB) for Mains-Answer Writing

Mock Question for UPSC Mains GSM1: Art & Culture

Q. Why are the Chola bronze sculptures among the most sought-after collectors’ items by art lovers all over the world? (150 words, 10 marks)

You can watch the lecture video on this Youtube link: https://youtu.be/dHFFqqYS9pY

Introduction : Define | Origin | Data

  • (Origin of bronze sculptures) The history of Indian metal sculptures is as old as the Indus Valley civilization, where a bronze statue of dancing girl was found in the city of Mohenjo-daro, in the Modern day Pakistan. Indian metallurgy reached its zenith during the early medieval period- as evident from the coins & pillars of Gupta empire in North India, & bronze sculptures of Imperial Cholas in the South India. [Then BODY: LISTICLE]
  • (Origin of Chola empire) During the Sangam Age, Southern India was ruled by three kingdoms- Chola (modern S.Andhra Pradesh), Cheran (modern Kerala) and Pandiyans (modern S.Tamilnadu). The Cholas patronized Shaivism, Dravidian school of architecture & bronze metallurgy. The international demand & popularity of Cholas bronze sculptures stems from following reasons: [Then BODY: LISTICLE]
  • (Data related to Bronze sculpture prizes) At the international auction houses such as Christy’s, Sotheby’s and Bonham’s, the bronze sculptures from Chola period command very high prices, ranging from 3 to 7 lakh US dollars. Their popularity among the international art collectors stems from following reasons: [Then BODY: LISTICLE]

Reason #1: Bronze idols more appealing than stone idols because

bronze sculptures

  • During the Post-Sangam age, new religious traditions emerged- Wherein, the devotees will take out a procession of deity like a human monarch during the festivals.
  • For such processions, bronze idols were more preferable to stone idols because they were lighter & more durable than stone idols.
  • Bronze gives monochromatic light effects in presence of lamps. It brings out the color contrast & vibrancy of silk garments, garlands, gems & jewelry worn by the deity. Hence even non-devotees are attracted by these bronze idols.

Reason #2: Both Hindu & Non-Hindus admire them

  • Bronze idol of ‘Ardhnarishwar’ portrays the fusion of Shiva and Shakti. The Hindu devotees see profound theological motifs in it, whereas Non-Hindus, including foreigners see sensual and erotic motifs in it.
  • Bronze idol of Nataraja portrays Shiva performing “Tandava”, the cosmic dance that balances life and death in universe. Indian classical dancer usually start performance after worshiping this idol. So easily recognizable by both Indians and foreigners. Therefore, given as gift, souvenir & memento.

Reason #3: Excavated outside India also

  • During the Imperial Chola period, Rajaraj-1 and his son Rajendra-1 maintained strong naval force, captured Sri Lanka, Maldives & other territories, built Shiva temples there.
  • Imperial Cholas had trade ties and diplomatic relations with the rulers of Burma (Myanmar), China, Malaysia. Hence, Chola bronze idols are excavated from multiple sites, easily recognizable among the foreign art collectors. Good resale value, just like IPHONEs.

Reason #4: Lost-Wax Technique = finesse in hand & face expressions

Bronze Lost Wax Technique

  • Chola bronze idols are built using ‘Lost-wax technique.’
  • Hence the shape, contours, facial and hand expressions of these idols are unparalleled among any other Indian and foreign idols.

Conclusion: Yes they’re awesome!

  • Given these unique features, great demand of Chola bronze sculptures not only among the devotees but also among the art collectors across the world. [ OR ]
  • Thus, Chola bronze sculptures give us a glimpse of the finesse in metallurgy during the early medieval India. Hence appreciated by the art lovers across the world.

Pitfalls & Self-Assessment Benchmarks (SAB) for Mains-Answer Writing

10M Question= Give yourself no less than 0 marks, and no more than 6 marks. Use the following benchmarks:

Parameter Marks Benchmarks
Introduction and conclusion 0-1-2
  • 0: if directly started body saying “Chola sculptures famous because …”
  • 1: if only introduction written
  • 2: if both introduction and conclusion written
Body 1 to 4 marks
  • If only Nataraja mentioned and rest of the body is just flowery & generic type appreciation of idols, then don’t give yourself more than 2 marks
  • 4 marks: if you’ve written Nataraja, Lost Wax, Trade Ties, why appealing to nonHindus etc
Logical structure -1 to 0
  • (1) if only flowery appreciations showed without mentioning any idol names or concrete reasons.
Concise expression -1 to 0
  • (1) if written too long introduction, or narrated the philosophical messages behind each part of Nataraja’s idol.
Language -1 to 0
  • (1) if appearing in vernacular medium, and yet used English terms such as “bronze sculpture”, “strong navy”, “technique” etc.
Total Marks out of 10 0 to 6
  • Don’t give yourself more than 3 marks: if only mentioned 1) Nataraja 2) Lost Wax in the body
  • Give yourself upto 6 marks: if mentioned above two, plus 3) Chola had foreign territories & ties 4) foreigners like them for sensual motifs, if not for religious motifs.

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