It was here that Buddha was first represented in human form. Sculpture tradition of Gandhara has confluence of Bactria, Parthia and local Gandhara traditions. Thus, the new Gandhara style of art that developed in sculpture was a fusion of Greco-Roman/Hellenisitc
and Indian styles from the 1st to the 5th century. Gandhara art, named after the region of Gandhara now in Pakistan, presents some of the earliest images of the Buddha. The Bamyan Buddha of Afghanistan were also example of the Gandhara School. Taxila, which is also in Pakistan now, was also another important center of Gandhara art. Kanishka, the greatest of the Kushanas was a great patron of art and architecture.
In all the Buddha depicted in the Gandhara Art is shown making four types of hand gestures and this is a remarkable feature in this art.

The gestures are as follows:

I. Abahayamudra: Don’t fear
II. Dhyanamudra: Meditation
III. Dharmachakramudra: A preaching mudra
IV. Bhumisparshamudra: Touching the earth.

The characteristic features of the Gandhara School of art were –

I. The subject was Indian
II. The form of art was foreign.

The Gandhara sculptors made images of Lord Buddha in the Greco-Roman style. The images of Buddha resembled Greek God Apollo. Buddha from the Kushan period has Apollonian faces, their hair is in the Graeco-Roman style and their draperies arranged in the style of a Roman toga.
The Gandhara School is represented in sculptures, stucco, and clay as well as in mural paintings. Grey sandstone is primarily used in Gandhara School of Art. The other materials used were Mud, Lime, Stucco (a type of plaster).
The greatest of all Gandhara stupas as the one erected by Kanishka outside the gates of modern Peshawar.


It is the Buddhist art during times of Kushana and it was largely indegenous.The Mathura School of Art was a result of the religious zeal of Brahmanism, Jainism and Buddhism. It was inspired by the early Indian Buddhist arts of Bharhut and Sanchi of MP.
The material used in this school was the spotted red sandstone.
The image of the Buddha from the Katra mound belongs to the second century CE is one of the most famous examples of this style. It represents the Buddha with two Boddhisattva attendants which are identified as Padmapani and Vajrapani as one holds a lotus and the other a vajra (thunderbolt). The Buddha is seated in padmasana (cross-folded legs) and the right hand is in the abhayamudra, raised a little above the shoulder level whereas the left hand is placed on the left thigh.

The Jina image and Indigenous style of Buddha’s image was a remarkable feature of Mathura art. The Sarvatobhadrika image of 4 Jinas standing back to back also belongs to the Mathura school. The Standing Buddhas of the Sravasthi Sarnath and Kausambhi also belong to the Mathura School.
Buddha image at Mathura is modeled on the lines of earlier Yaksha images whereas in Gandhara it has Hellenistic features.
The garments of the body are clearly visible and they cover the left shoulder. However, in the second century AD, images got sensual with increased rotundness and became flashier. The extreme fleshiness was reduced by the third century AD and the surface features also got refined. The halo around the head of Buddha was profusely decorated.
Another most famous sculpture is the headless statue of Kanishka from Mathura. It shows that, art was now not confined to religious purposes only.
Later this school also imbibed some elements of Gandhara art also.


Both were under the reign of Kushans, still there are some differences –

  • Mathura School has more indigenous component. The Buddha image at Mathura is modeled on the lines of earlier Yaksha images whereas in Gandhara it has Hellenistic features.
  • Gandhara art is primarily Buddhist art, but Mathura art also deals with subjects from Hinduism (both Vaishnav and Shavite images) and Jainism as well. Images of Vaishnava (mainly Vishnu and his various forms) and Shaiva (mainly the lingas and mukhalingas) faiths are also found at Mathura but Buddhist images are found in larger numbers. Further, the images of Vishnu and Shiva are represented by their ayudhas or weapons.
  • Location – Gandhara is in today’s Pakistan, Mathura is in India
  • The expression ofcalmness is the centre point of attraction of Gandhar Buddha. Gandhar Buddha is primarily spiritual in a serious mood sitting in a ‘Yogic’ mudra, Mathura Buddha is delighted in mood, seated in Padmasana and right hand in Abhyamudra and left hand on left thigh showing masculinity. Gandhar Buddha is also bearded and bears moustaches,
  • while Mathura Buddha has a shaven face and head. Gandhara Buddha has wavy hair, large forehead with a proturbance on forehead signifying Buddha knows all, while Mathura Buddha. Mathura Buddha is also shown with an ornate halo.
  • Mathura tradition, Buddha images have longer ear lobes, thicker lips, wider eyes and prominent nose. In Gandhara images, eyes are
  • longer; ear lobes shorter and noses sharper and better defined.
  • Mathura Buddha is also often shown accompanied by two Bodhisattvas – Padmapani holding lotus and Vajrapani holding thunderbolt
  • Mathura Schools typically used red stone for making the sculptures, while Gandhara sculptures use grey sandstone, stucco (lime plaster).
  • Most scholars are believed that Gandhara images of Buddha are earlier to those of Mathura.
  • Halo of Mathura Buddha is more elaborately carved.
  • Earlier, Mathura Buddha was more fleshy, but later grew slender, probably as a result of confluence of two schools.
  • The Mathura school contributed clothes covering the left shoulder with thin muslin, the wheel on the palm, the lotus seat, etc.

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