Category Archives: Buddhist art

Art of Gupta era : golden age of India

          The Gupta dynasty is an important dynasty which ruled ancient India between  4th century to 6th century. They have left amazing examples of their glorious reign which has been called the ‘Golden era’ of India’s history. During their rule art, sculpture, inventions, philosophy,mathematics and literature has flourished. The Kingdom was founded by Sri Gupta. Chandragupta I, Samudragupta and Chandragupta II were famous kings.

   Their art astonishes the onlooker and the serious art history student to this day.At Ajanta in Maharashtra are caves which have rock architecture along with painted walls and ceilings. A typical Gupta structure are chaitya halls and viharas  for Buddhist monks in the form of a monastery. The painted murals in the interiors of these caves are now world famous. Stone figures, terracotta reliefs have also been created during the Gupta period.  The Gandhara and Mathura schools reached greater heights during this period.

Padmapani, painting,Ajanta caves,Gupta period.

By Unknown – http://www.national-geographic.ru/ngm/200801/article_168/gallery_1394/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3411328

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Chaitya hall,Cave 19, Ajanta,Maharashtra.

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

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Shalabhanjika,terracotta,, 5th century, Gupta period,State Museum,Lucknow.

By Woudloper – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36096802

     They introduced new styles in architecture. In the 4th century the Mirpur Khas stupa was built having many arches. Another stupa Dhamek stupa at Sarnath is made of bricks. The Guptas made fine standing sculptural temples made from stone and brick. The  stone Dasavatara temple at Deogarh has superb carvings. Other temples include the brick Parvati temple at Nachna in Madhya Pradesh

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Dhamek stupa,Sarnath.

By R. M. Calamar from Brooklyn, New York, USA (Saranath Uploaded by Ekabhishek) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

          Examples of Hindu art during the Gupta era are from the north central and north India. The temples built by the end of the fifth century had a well developed shikhara or superstructure. The Vishnu temple called the Dasavatara temple at Deogarh in Uttar Pradesh is from the early sixth century. The shikhara is not in a good state due to the ravages of time.

Dasavatara temple, Gupta period, Deogarh.

By byron aihara – originally posted to Flickr as deogarh01, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8617319

The temple faces west with an elaborate doorway. Floral motifs, Ganga and Yamuna are at the top left and right of the doorway. Above the entrance is Lord Vishnu as Anantasayana. Further, Nara and Narayana  depict the means through which moksa may be achieved and Gajendramoksa story is the final outcome and is on the north.

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Lintel,Gupta period, Dasavatara temple,Deogarh,Uttar Pradesh.

By Bob King [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Nara-Naryana panel, Dasavatara temple, Gupta period,Deogarh.

By Bob King – originally posted to Flickr as 2705_Narayana_Detailfk.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6964968

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Parvati temple, Nachna, Madhya Pradesh.

By ArnoldBetten – Own work (Original text: eigenes Foto (Dia)), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25359563

       Vidisha was an important  art centre especially during the reign of Chandragupta II (380-415 A.D)  At Udayagiri a few km from Vidisha 20 rock cut caves are present. with inscriptions from his reign. Cave 6 at Udayagiri has a small camber with a rock cut verandah in front. The doorway has decorated pilasters,The goddesses Ganga and Yamuna are at the top of the pilasters. Two dwarapalas are at the sides of the doorway. The cave has Mahisarsuramardini on its facade, Ganesha  is adjacent to the left wall next to the facade. Vishnu is carved between the dwarapalas on the left and Ganesha, between the dwarapalas on the right and Durga. Cave 5 is the Varaha cave which has the representation of Varaha, the boar avatar of Lord Vishnu.

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Cave 6,Udayagiri,Madhya Pradesh.

By © Asitjain / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21676023

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Cave 6, Udayagiri caves, Madhya Pradesh.

By Zippymarmalade – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48503988

     Examples of Buddhist art at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh include the now world famous  Great stupa  which saw a lot of additions and modifications during the Gupta period,in the 5th century. A figure of Vajrapani capital near the northern gateway is at the Site Museum at Sanchi. Mahayana forms became prominent at this time. Cosmologically speaking, access to enlightenment is gained through the north. There are four Buddhas on all four sides. He is depicted in dhyana mudra, indicative of meditation.

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Buddha statue, Great Stupa, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

By Suvro Banerjee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

       During this time many new temples were added. At Sanchi is a temple called Temple 17 which is a well preserved small shrine. It has simple mandapa and a garbagriha. The temple has both Buddhist and Hindu architectural features.

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Temple 17, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

By Ismoon (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

   Art at Mathura has flourished during the Kushana reign. which ended by the end of late third century. Many minor dynasties like the Nagas etc. took their place. The Nagas were defeated by Samudragupta and Mathura came under the Guptas. The Buddha images of Sarnath are carved in  sandstone from Chunar. The Buddha is shown standing, having a slender body, relaxed with fluid lines. The style is a combination of the north-western and Indian stylisation of the human form. The sculptures must have been originally painted ones. The Buddha is mostly in the abhaya posture with a slightly bent leg. By the third quarter of the fifth century Sarnath had developed into an important Buddhist centre. Lord Buddha had given his first sermon here.The hand is lower compared to the Kushana sculptures. The drapery or cloth is very close around the body. The expression is gentle with eyes downcast .The dharmachakra mudra is also seen in some sculptures..

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Standing Buddha, 5th century, Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh.

By Ismoon (talk) 11:48, 18 February 2013 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Standing Buddha, 5th century,Sarnath,Indian Museum,Kolkata.

By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia – 090 Crowned Buddha, 5c, Sarnath, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37232665

   The Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya which has been repaired many times is from the late Kushana or Gupta period. The original structure was built by Emperor Ashoka. At present the temple has a central shrine with a tall tower with four smaller shrines around it.

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Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya.

By Bpilgrim (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

        Dated to the fifth century on the cliff-side are a series of caves excavated at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. At the end of the valley a tall 55m figure of Buddha and similar smaller Buddhas are located on the other side about a kilometre and half away.Smaller devotees accompany the Buddha figures. The large Buddha could be Vairocana and is believed to be  associated with the cult of Brhad Buddha influenced by Indian Mahayana Buddhism.

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Buddhas at Bamiyan, 5th century,Afghanistan.

František Řiháček [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

At Bhitargaon is a well preserved structure of Gupta art from the first half of the fifth century. It is made of burnt bricks joined by mud mortar, the wall very thick. It is an east facing temple on a square jagati or plinth. There are niches on the exterior of the temple and the superstructure. There were many sculpted panels, many are now missing or partially destroyed. There are arches in the shrine and porch. Sculptures of this shrine have been similar to the ones at Ahichchattra in Uttar Pradesh, The Ganga and Yamuna figures originally were at the sides of a Shiva temple. Their costumes have tight bodices and heavy drapery. Their corresponding vahanas or vehicles, the makara and the tortoise are seen, also an attendant with  parasol.

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Goddess Ganga, Ahichchatra,Gupta period,National Museum, New Delhi.

By Miya.m (Miya.m’s file) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Lord Vishnu, 5th century, Mathura, State Museum, Lucknow,Uttar Pradesh.

By Woudloper – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36096800

 

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Mithuna (loving couple), terracotta,5th century. Honolulu Academy of Arts,USA.

By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “Department_of_Trife” [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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Ramayana Scene,Gupta Art,Indian National Museum,New Delhi.

By Fotografía tomada por el Dr. Benjamín Preciado Centro de Estudios de Asia y África de El Colegio de México [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Mother Goddess,Gupta period.

By Nomu420 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Dinar of Chandragupta II,4th century.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Mahabharata Scene, Gupta period,National Museum, New Delhi.

By Nomu420 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

References :

  • The art of ancient India/Huntington,Susan,New York : Weatherhill,1985.
  • wikipedia.org

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

Bodhi tree in art : some depictions

   The Bodhi tree, a sacred tree ,the peepal , is a variety of fig, botanically Ficus religiosa under which Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya; to become the Buddha. It has beautiful heart shaped leaves which glisten in the sunlight. Many sculptural depictions of the Buddha depict this tree. At the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, a bodhi tree, believed to be the original tree’s descendant is worshipped by pilgrims. The tree at Shravasti where the Buddha performed many miracles, a bodhi tree called Anandabodhi is present. At Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka , the bodhi tree is believed to have been propogated from the original tree., known as Jaya Sri Mahabodhi.

 

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Buddha meditating under the Bodhi Tree, 800 C.E . Brooklyn Museum, USA.

By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “Opal_Art_Seekers_4” [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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The Buddha sits under the Bodhi Tree, Borubodur, Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Sadao, Thailand (015 E The Buddha sits under the Bodhi Tree) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

           The Bodhi tree has many historical tales and happenings around it. It is believed that Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty revered the tree in great measure and the spot was a holy site with a shrine in whose honour a festival used to be held every year. His queen grew jealous and tried to get the tree killed; but the tree grew back. The tree was again tried to be killed by King Pushyamitra Sunga in the 2nd century B.C. and King Shashanka in 600 A.D., but a new one was always planted in its place.

    A seed was taken from a fruit of the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya; as it fell from its stalk and was caught midway by Mogillana, a disciple of Buddha. It was planted in a golden bowl which grew  very quickly and the Buddha  consecrated it by meditating under it for a night. It was planted by Ananda, his disciple, in front of the Jetavana monastery at Shravasti. The tree that grew is called Anandabodhi.

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Worship of Bodhi Tree ,Sandstone, 2nd Century BC, Sunga Period, Bharhut, Indian Museum,Kolkata.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

          Bhikkuni Sanghamitra , Emperor Ashoka’s daughter along with other nuns, took a sprig of the tree from its southern bough to Anuradhapura, Sri Lanks’s ancient capital where it grew at Malta meghavana (grove of the Great rain cloud)  and was called Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.  It was planted in 288 B.C. The tree considered the most sacred, was worshipped by Buddhists who performed rituals near it, as it was believed to augur rain and have powers of healing and fertility.  During Emperor Ashoka’s time , women looked after the tree and four royal maidens were chosen by him. They were bedecked with ornaments and would sprinkle water from golden and silver pitchers on the tree during the annual festival. The four maidens enjoyed great status at the king’s palace. The tree’s descendants are believed to exist in this area to the present day.

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Bodhi tree leaves.

By Marshman at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2203566

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Manuscript illustration, the Buddha sitting below the Bodhi tree, 10-11th century,Nepal/India.

By Anonymous ancient artist from India or Nepal. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya,1810, British Library,UK.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Bodhi Tree, illustration, 1891, Anuradhapura,Sri Lanka.

By w:James Ricalton – The City of the Sacred Bo-Tree, w:Scribner’s Magazine, pp. 319-335, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47122078

 

 

 

References:

  • wikipedia.org
  • srimahabodhi.org

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

© author

Buddhist sutras: some textual images

       Buddhist literature  is having many forms and has been produced from different cultures wherever Buddhism flourished and still does. The most important ones  are in the form of sutras which are the Buddha’s words or Buddhavachana, abhidharma concerned with analysis of phenomena, shastras or treatises. Initially it was passed down orally by monks. It was written down in different languages; mostly Indo-Aryan which were  later translated. The earliest manuscripts have been found in the civilisation of Gandhara dating to the 1st century B.C, near Taxila ( now in Pakistan).

     The Pali canon known as the Pali tripitaka is the most important collection of Buddhavachana in Theravada Buddhism. It was preserved in Sri Lanka and was written down in the first century B.C; the Theravada textual tradition developed there. The Pali tripitaka which means three baskets  which refer to vinaya, sutta and abhidhamma,  The Vinaya Pitaka contains disciplinary rules for the Buddhist monasteries. The Sutta Pitaka contains words attributed to the Buddha. The Abhidhamma Pitaka contain expositions and commentaries on the Sutta. The Taisho Tripitaka is the Chinese Buddhist canon. In Tibet the Kangyur is the Buddhavachana. It belongs to various schools of Buddhism and contains sutras, vinaya and tantra. From the Kushana period in India, Sanskrit has been used to write the Buddhist texts. In Mahayana Buddhism, the sutras , based on the idea that the word of the Buddha has been transmitted by supernatural beings like the nagas, or revealed directly by bodhisattvas, were written in Sanskrit. which were later translated to Chinese and Tibetan canons. In the Mahayana school of Buddhism there also exist shastras or treatises which outline the sutras and expand on them. The works of important Buddhist philosophers like Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu and Dharmakirti are called shastras written in Sanskrit. The class of Buddhist texts called tantras developed in the seventh century. The tantras describe ritual practices and the use of mandalas,mudras etc. These are important texts in Vajrayana Buddhism dominant in Tibet. Vinaya texts are about monastic discipline.

        The Sutras  are the discourses given by the Buddha or by his close disciples. Buddhavacana, the word of the Buddha.

          The sutras were delivered in forms like the sutra,prose discourses, geya,mixed prose and verse discourse, vyakarana,explanation, analysis, gatha,verse, udana, inspired speech, ityukta,beginning with ‘thus has the Bhagavan said’, jataka,story of previous life, abhutadharma, concerning wonders ,vailpulya,’those giving joy’,nidana,in which the teachings are set within their circumstances of origin,avadana, tales of exploits and upadesha,defined and considered instructions.

  Other well-known texts include the Dhammapada, a collection of sayings and aphorisms. the Udana, a collection of inspired sayings in verse, the Sutta Nipata, contains oldest of Buddhist practices,Theragatha, Therigatha; two collections of biographical verse related to the disciples of the Buddha and  Jataka or birth stories, which recount former lives of the Buddha are part of the Pali Khuddka Nikaya. The prajna texts deal with wisdom or insight, which refer to the ability to see reality as it is. The  Diamond sutra, the heart sutra are prajna texts.

        Other important sutras are the Lotus sutra, the Amitabha sutra, the Golden Light sutra, the samadhi sutras, kandavyuha sutra, Mahaparinibbana sutra  among others.

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Illustrated manuscript of the Lotus Sutra, 14th century,Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), Korea,Metropolitan Museum of Art,USA.

By Unidentified artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Preface to the Lotus Sutra decorated with Buddhas,9th century, Japan.

By Kukai ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Manuscript fragment , Buddhist Jatakamala, Sanskrit language in  Gilgit-Bamiyan-Type II Protosarada script, Toyuk, probably 8th-9th century , Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

         The image below  is the  frontispiece to the world’s earliest dated printed book, the Chinese translation of the Buddhist text of the ‘Diamond Sutra‘. This consists of a over 16 feet long scroll, made up of a long series of printed pages. It was printed in China in 868 A.D., it was found in the Dunhuang Caves in 1907 in China.

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Diamond Sutra,9th century,China.

Source : flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/12459240784

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Lotus Sutra, chapter on Expedient means,10th century,Japan.

By attributed to Minamoto Toshifusa [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Folio from Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita manuscript ,Sanskrit (Ranjani  Varendra Bhumi), palm leaf – 12th Century, Eastern India, Indian Museum, Kolkata.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Title-page,Kangyur (Buddhist canon), 12th-17th century,Tibet,LACMA, USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

         Below is depicted  a the first leaf from a Prajnaparamita or perfection of wisdom  manuscript. The text is in Tibetan language and script,  a translation of a Sanskrit text that was produced in India a 1000 years earlier. The Buddha Shakyamuni is depicted on the left;on the night of his enlightenment at Bodhgaya. The tree under which he was enlightened appears above the temple. The goddess depicted at the right is Prajnaparamita, a personification of the text.

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Tibetan  Buddha Shakyamuni and Prajnaparamita ,ink and paint on paper,13th century, Walters Museum, USA.

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Partial manuscript on metal plates with ornamented wooden covers, Pagan Kingdom, 11th-13th century, National Gallery for Foreign Art.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Amitabha Sutra in book form.

By tamakisono [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

References:

  • wikipedia.org

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

© author

 

 

Vajrayogini in Buddhism: depictions in art

Vajrayogini is a female Buddhist deity, a tantric  istadevata. She is capable of transforming the ordinary into the spiritual. She is a meditation deity in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is often called sarvabuddha dakini, the dakini who is the essence of all Buddhas. Her consort is Chakrasmavara. The term dakini is related to drumming in Sanskrit and means sky-goer in Tibetan language. In the Kathmandu valley of Nepal there are several important Newar temples of Vajrayogini. She has other forms like Vajravarahi and Chinnamasta.

       Vajrayogini is mostly depicted as a red young, strong female with a third eye of wisdom on her forehead.  She wears a garland of fifty human skulls. She holds a driguk, a vajra-handled knife in her right hand and a kapala or skull filled with blood in her left hand, which she drinks from. On her head she wears a crown made of five human skulls.  She stands in the centre of the blazing fire of exalted wisdom.  Her right leg tramples the chest of the red Kalaratri and her left legs treads on the the black Bhairava.

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Vajrayogini, brass and gilt copper alloy, 18th century,  Rubin Museum of Art, New York.

Source and attribution : flickr.com/photos/andryn2006/22666470775

           

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Vajrayogini , gilt bronze, 18th century,Nepal, Honolulu Museum of Art,USA.

von MyName ( Hiart ( Diskussion )) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

     Vajrayogini  with her red body symbolises her inner fire.  She has only one face which means she has realised that all phenomena are of one nature in emptiness.  She has three eyes which depict that she has the ability to see past, present and future. The knife she holds in her right hand can cut through delusions and obstacles of living beings. In Vajrayana Buddhism she appears in a mandala to her followers which they visualise according to a sadhana describing the practice of the particular tantra. Many collections have sadhanas connected with Vajrayogini but the guhyasamayasadhanamala contains only Vajrayogini sadhanas for practice.

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Vajrayogini ,Tibetan mandala,19th century, Rubin Museum of Art,USA.

By Anonymous, improved by Poke2001 – Rubin Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3589258

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Vajrayogini or Sarvabuddha Dakini , copper alloy sculpture, early 19th century, Tibet.

Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Vajrayogini, board carving, Tibet.

By Original carving and photograph ShahJahanUploaded on Commons by :Miuki – Self-published work by ShahJahan, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1512565

References:

  • wikipedia.org

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

© author

Buddhist mudras : depictions in art

        There are various mudras in Buddhism and Hinduism. A mudra can mean a spiritual gesture or symbolic mark. The mudras are non-verbal.  Some important  ones in Buddhism include the dhyana mudra, the bhumisparsha mudra, the varada mudra, the vitarka mudra, the abhaya mudra,the dharmachakra mudra, the tarjani mudra,the namaskara mudra,the buddha sramana mudra,the bhutadamara mudra among others. Each of these mudras have a deep significance and meaning. Mostly the hands and fingers are used to depict a particular mudra. 

    The meaning of the namaskar or anjali mudra  is a prayer position ; a bowing gesture. The attitude is one of devotion. A special gesture of Avalokiteswara when he has more number of hands.

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Buddha in anjali or namaskar mudra, Java, Indonesia.

By Veit Zahlaus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

     The abhaya mudra is one of reassurance, protection,blessing,; the word abhaya meaning fearlessness. The Buddha used this gesture while walking. In sculpture seated Buddhas too are depicted in this mudra.

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Seated Buddha in abhaya mudra ,Kushana  period, Government Museum, Mathura.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Standing Buddha,abhaya mudra, 20th century,Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad.

By Swapnika amancha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

         The bhumisparsha mudra  or touching the earth symbolises the enlightenment of the Buddha,calling the earth as a witness to the event. This mudra usually has the left hand in the dhyana mudra.  In this mudra Buddha overcame the obstructions created by the demon Mara. the Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya is often shown in this mudra.

Buddha in Bhumisparsa mudra.jpg

Buddha, bhumisparsa mudra, cloth painting, 19th century, Tibet, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Jen – Own work (I took this photo), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7656718

Borobudur - Buddha Statue - 006 Bhumisparsa Mudra, Akshobhya (11678949555).jpg

Aksobhya, bhumisparsha-mudra, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia – 006 Bhumisparsa Mudra, Aksobhya, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40749973

   The dhyana mudra is a flexible gesture either made with one or both hands. It is the mudra of meditation. This was the gesture of the Buddha before he attained enlightenment. The Dhyani Buddha Amitabha is depicted in this mudra.

File:Buddha in Dhyana Mudra, China, Ming dynasty - Museo d'Arte Orientale Edoardo Chiossone - DSC02393.JPG

Buddha,dhyana mudra, Ming dynasty,(14th to 17th century), China, Museo d’Arte Orientale,Italy.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

   The dharmachakra or vajra mudra is shown while depicting the Dhyani Buddha Vairocana. The Buddha used this gesture while preaching the first sermon in Sarnath. The dharmachakra means wheel of dharma.  It symbolises teaching and preaching.

Buddha,vajra mudra, 2nd century, Gandhara, ,Tokyo National Museum, Japan.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=135258

File:Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra).jpg

Buddha,dharmachakra mudra, sandstone,Gupta period, (4th to 6th century), Archaeological Museum,Sarnath. 

By พระมหาเทวประภาส วชิรญาณเมธี (ผู้ถ่าย-ปล่อยสัญญาอนุญาตภาพให้นำไปใช้ได้เพื่อการศึกษาโดยอยู่ภา่ยใต้ cc-by-sa-3.0) ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย (Tevaprapas Makklay (พระมหาเทวประภาส วชิรญาณเมธี)) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

   The varada mudra is a gesture of giving and charity. It symbolises dispensing of boons. The right hand is used with the palm pointing downwards.

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Standing Buddha,varada mudra, concrete,Bodh Gaya, Bihar.

Source : flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/5978081277

     One of the lesser known mudras, is the tarjani mudra which is a gesture to ward off evil forces. In the depiction below the left hand is in tarjani mudra. The middle and ring fingers are folded while the other three are outstretched as shown.

        File:Shwezigon, Standing Buddha, Pagan 0208.jpg

 Standing Buddha,left hand in tarjani mudra, Pagan,Shwezigon.

By Michael Gunther (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The vitarka mudra symbolises discussion,debate and explanation of the dhamma.  In this gesture all the fingers are held upwards with the thumb and index finger tips touching, as depicted below. The miidle and ring fingers too can touch the thumb, in case it is the middle finger it depicts compassion and in case of the ring finger it depicts good fortune.

File:Buddha's statue near Belum Caves Andhra Pradesh India.jpg

Buddha,vitarka mudra,near Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh.

By Purshi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

References:

  1. wikipedia.org
  2. lotussculpture.com
  3. buddhas-online.com

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Soma Ghosh

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Parinirvana of the Buddha : depictions in art

      The word parinirvana refers to death which happens to the body of a person after attaining nirvana; a release from samsara , the cycles of birth and death and rebirth. This is different from an ordinary person dying, as per Buddhism.An ordinary person is reborn due to unresolved karma which passes on to a new birth.

   The pariniravana of the Buddha is mentioned and described in Buddhist literature. The parinirbanna-sutta  is an important source in this regard. According to this source of the Pali canon the Buddha around the age of eighty  declared he would soon reach parinirvana , the final deathless state. He had his last meal which was an offering from Cunda, a blacksmith. He fell violently ill after this and left his earthly body. The place is believed to be Kushinara or Kushinagar, (east of Gorakhpur in present day Uttar Pradesh) India, in abandoned jungles of the Malla kingdom.  His disciple Ananda was against him achieving this state in the jungles. He also explained to Ananda that the meal had nothing to with his death, in fact it was a great meal as it was the last meal of a buddha  or enlightened one. Before entering pariniravana he asked all the bhikkhus or monks to clear any doubts or questions they had. His final words were ” ..all composite things are perishable… strive for your own liberation with diligence..”After this he passed away into parinirvana. The Buddha had told his disciples to follow no leader. Mahakasyapa was made the chairman of the First Buddhist Council. His body was cremated and his relics were divided between eight royal families and his disciples. Much later Emperor Ashoka enshrined them in stupas. He built a stupa and made a pilgrimage site in Kushinara, the Gupta kings (4th to 7th century) further developing the site. Kushinara had remained under the Mauryas, Shungas, Kushanas, Guptas and Harsha dynasties.The site had been abandoned around 1200 A.D due to invasions. It continues as an important pilgrimage site for Buddhism, following its rediscovery by  British archaeologists in late 19th century.

File:Death of the Buddha BM.jpg

Pariniravana,schist, 2nd-3rd century,Gandhara.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
File:Paranirvana.JPG

Paranirvana, 2nd-3rd century,Gandhara. 

Volné dílo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3244686

File:Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Buddha Parinirvana.jpeg

Pariniravana, painting, Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra, 700-1100,Nalanda, Bihar.

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Parinirvana1.jpg

Parinirvana,painting, Wat Tha Thanon,Thailand.

By ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Gal Vihara- Reclining image(js).jpg

Buddha, Gal Vihara,12th century,Sri Lanka.

 By Jerzy Strzelecki (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Mahaparinirvana.jpg

Buddha image,Mahapariniravana temple, Kushinagar.

By myself – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1766418

The painting below depicts the Buddha transitioning to parinirvana. Buddha is  in a forest with Sala trees and surrounded by mourning animals, gods, demons, and human beings.

File:Parinirvana Buddha.jpg

‘Nehan-zu’/Parinirvana,painting,1867.

Offentleg eigedom, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=628097

References :

  1. wikipedia.org
  2. Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

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Scenes from Buddha’s life : some miracle depictions

         Lord Buddha‘s life has many miraculous incidents right from how he was born and what happened from then till he left this earthly abode.  It is believed that immediately after he was born he took seven steps to the north and uttered a few words about his birth being his last one, and wherever he stepped a lotus flower bloomed ! His birth too was via a dream his mother  Mayadevi saw of a white elephant. He was born in Lumbini grove in Nepal, from Queen Maya’s side .

File:Birth of buddha peshawar.JPG

Birth of Buddha,Gandhara, 2nd-3rd century.

By The original uploader was Fowler&fowler at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

           Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. His cousin was Devadatta who was also the brother of Ananda, a chief disciple of Buddha. Devadatta too was abuddhist monk but parted ways with the Buddha with 500 monks. He started a sangha of his own and gained some psychic powers. However he was against the Buddha and wanted him to retire. Buddha was against this; Devadatta plotted with Prince Ajatashatru to kill him. But the mercenaries who came to kill him (who were again ordered to be killed by others) were unable to carry out the task and got converted instead. Devadatta even lets loose an intoxicated elephant Nalagiri to trample the Buddha. But the elephant gets tamed totally owing to the Buddha’s loving-kindness and bows down before him !

 

 

 

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Nalagiri, elephant charging at the Buddha,painting,Wat Phra Yuen,Thailand.

By ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Buddha with the Elephant Nalagiri.jpg

Nalagiri bowing to the Buddha,painting.
By myself – Picture of a painting in a Laotian Temple, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=807355
       The miracles of the Buddha are many and have been depicted in sculpture and paintings. He spent many of his monastic years in Shravasti,in present day Uttar Pradesh. It was the capital city of Kosala, in ancient India. Shravasti was on the banks of Achiravati,now called as Rapti river. He had visited this place on the invitation of Anathapindika. He had performed the twin miracle of producing contradictory elements; flames from the upper part of his body and water from the lower. He also could multiply his body supernaturally. He performed a series of miracles at Shravasti.

Site of the Twin Miracle, performed by Buddha in Shravasti.

By myself – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1793879

 

       The sculptural depiction below in gray schist  depicts Buddha standing on a pedestal with an altar, flanked by seated Buddhas and their attendants. The Buddha’s robe falls elegantly on his body , his hair secured in an ushnisha and flames are seen emanating from his shoulders and water from his feet.

File:Buddha performs miracle of Sravasti Gandhara.jpg

Miracle of Shravasti ,2nd-3rd century,Gandhara.

By Cea [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons(Source: Christie’s E-Catalogue Indian and Southeast Asian Art 12.09.2012)

File:Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sravasti Miracle.jpeg

Buddha multiplying his body,painting, Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra manuscript, 700-1100 A.D,Nalanda, Bihar. 

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

       The Buddha’s miracles included, purifying water, power over nature , walking on water,travelling through space, make himself as big as a giant, and small as an ant, walk through mountains, dive in and out of the earth,allowing people to read each other’s mind and spreading a cleansing light throughout the world. His miracles resulted in the conversion of the Kasyapas’ ninety-thousand followers.

The sculpture below again depicts the Buddha performing his twin miracle. Flames rise from his shoulders, and water flows through his feet.

The twin miracle, 3rd century, Gandhara, Museum für Indische Kunst Dahlem, Berlin.

By Gryffindor – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=784387

 

References :

 

wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

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