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V.-The Didarganj Image now in Patna Museum.
By D. B. Spooner, Ph.D.
What has come to be known as the "Didarganj" image was discovered by accident on the bank of the Ganges near Patna on the 18th October, 1917. The exact situation is described as Nasirpur Tajpur Hissa Khurd, known as Didarganj Kadam Rasul, which falls in the Malsalami Thana in the east of Patna City. It appears that owing to erosion of the river bank at this place a small portion of a square block of stone had been disclosed at a point fairly high up the face of the slope, which attracted the attention of Maulavi Qazi Saiyid Muhammad Azimul alias Ghulam Rasul, son of Maulavi Qazi Saiyid Muhammad Afzal alias Ghulam Mohi-ud-din. Fortunately for all concerned, the young man proceeded to scrape away the earth from this projecting bit, anticipating that the stone might prove to be one suitable for domestic purposes. Instead of this it soon became apparent that the portion first uncovered was merely part of a pedestal, which, being followed up, led to the disclosing of a complete and fairly large-sized statue, which was at first raised and set up erect near the spot where it had lain. Thence it is alleged to have been removed by unauthorized persons to a spot some few hundred yards further up the river. Here it was again set up, this time under a canopy improvised on four bamboos, which was so speedily invested with the character of an incipient shrine, that tentative worship had been instituted (under the mistaken notion that the figure was a Hindu deity) before the fact of the discovery was brought to the notice of any but the Police, who, however, reported it in due course in the proper quarter. It is to Professor Samaddar of Patna College that the general public are indebted for bringing the find
to notice. Hearing of the matter from a student in the College, this enthusiastic antiquarian reported it to the Honourable Mr. Walsh, Member of the Board of Revenue and President of the Patna Museum Committee. Mr. Walsh proceeded without delay to inspect the find-spot and the statue itself, permitting the writer to accompany him, when the importance of the treasure was at once disclosed. By good fortune it was easy to show that the figure was merely an attendant, bearing a chowry, and thus clearly no member of the Hindu pantheon, nor entitled to worship of any kind by any community; and the characteristically energetic steps which Mr. Walsh proceeded to take towards the recovery or rescue of the image, brought it in safety and triumph within the walls of the Patna Museun before the close of the year. There let us hope that it may long remain to add lustre to an institution whose chiefest treasure it is likely to constitute for years to come.
As has already been mentioned, the image is that of a female chowri-bearer or attendant on some divine or royal figure, upon whose proper right the present statue must have stood. It is lifesize, measuring 5 ft. 2 ins. from the highest point of the head to the top of the pedestal, which itself has a height of 1 ft. 6 ins. and is as near as may be square in plan, with a measurement of 1 ft. 8 ins. a side. The pedestal is a roughly dressed and unpolished block, which presumably fitted into a socket in some huge altar or other solid basement, where it would not have met the eye in the normal course; and the angles are now slightly damaged, except the left side, back. Both it and the statue it supports are cut out of a single piece of speckled Chunar sandstone, bearing the high polish assigned, in the present state of our knowledge, exclusively to the Mauryan Period of Indian History. This mirror-like polish extended originally over the entire surface of the statue, but portions are now sadly encrusted with a rough deposit of darkish hue which obscures the fact to a considerable extent. The portions. showing most sheen at present are the right side of the face, the left shoulder, the right arm and thigh, and portions of
the back where the latter is not draped ; in all of which positions we find that peculiar highly, nay brilliantly, burnished surface which, so far as is now known, none but the Mauryan sculptors have ever contrived to produce on this Chunar materia'.
Students of Indian Art are aware of the fact that, with very few exceptions indeed, sculptural representations in this country take the form of reliefs. Sometimes we find low reliefs, more commonly high; but almost always the back of the figure is engaged in some kind of background, which, in the case of sacred images, is frequently the aureole itself. It thus becomes a matter of special interest to note that, in the case of the Didarganj image, the figure is sculptured entirely in the round, a circumstance which associates it at once with that small but important group represented by the two standing figures from Patna and the huge female figure from Besnagar, now in the Indian Museum at Calcutta, and the disfigured Parkham image at Muttra; all of which are assignable only to the earliest period. The same detail enables us to study the drapery and the coiffure, and to gauge the sculptor's power as a modeller, to better advantage than could have been done in the case of an engaged figure in relief.
The drapery is interesting and reminiscent of the drapery on other very early statues and on early terracotta figurines. The garment, which is apparently in one piece, is thin and clinging, though these qualities are better remembered by the artist in fashioning the front of the image than in his treatment of the sides and back. It is worn wrapped round the hips dhotifashion, being gathered into elaborate folds in front which, caught in one long loop, fall gracefully to the feet. The left hip shows some kind of knot from which one end of the costume is then drawn up obliquely across the back to be caught in the fold of the right elbow, whence it falls, at first with twisting folds, to the ground, leaving the upper portion of the body quite uncovered.
As jewellery the figure wears an elaborate and highly decorative girdle of five strands, opening naturally and gracefully over