Tag Archives: Buddhist art

Ajanta Caves : some glimpses of sculptures

          Deep cut or excavated caves in the Aurangabad district of Maharastra in Western India are the now well-known Ajanta Caves. Made into a 75 metre wall of rock, between 2nd century B. C and 5th century A.D these caves are a marvel in art, sculpture and rock-cut architecture. The earliest caves are believed to have been excavated during the Satavahana period and belong to the Hinayana tradition of Buddhism. During the reign of King Harisena (r. 460-478 A.D)  of the Vakatakas, whose feudatories and minister supported the ”sangha”, the Mahayana Buddhists contributed to over 20 impressive cave excavations at Ajanta. These were embellished with mural art, sculpture and great architecture. The caves are cut into a mountain wall above the Waghora river.

Image result for ajanta caves art and architectureView of Ajanta Caves, 2nd century B.C to 5th century A.D, Maharashtra.

        The architecture of the caves were customised to the monastic needs of the Buddhists to include assembly halls, living quarters and spaces for meditation. A few caves are from the pre-Vakataka period. Some glimpses from sculptural marvels from the caves are showcased –

Cave 1 – Made under Harisena, this cave has an elaborate carved facade, with relief sculptures on the entablature and ridges, and most surfaces embellished with decorative carving. There are scenes carved from the life of the Buddha, animals, as well as a number of decorative motifs.

Frieze, Cave 1, Ajanta.

Cave 4 – This cave is squarish, with a large image of the Buddha in preaching pose flanked by bodhisattvas and celestial nymphs hovering above. It consists, of a verandah, a hypostylar hall, sanctum with an antechamber and a series of unfinished cells. This monastery is the largest among the Ajanta caves and it measures nearly 970 square metres.

Buddha and bodhisattvas, Cave 4, Ajanta.

Cave 6 – It is two storeyed monastery  made up of a sanctum, a hall on both levels. The lower level is pillared and has attached cells, the upper hall too has subsidiary cells. The sanctums on both level feature a Buddha in the teaching posture.  The Miracle of Shravasti  and Temptation of Mara is depicted in the lower level walls. Only the lower floor of cave 6 was finished. The unfinished upper floor of cave 6 has many private votive sculptures, and a shrine Buddha.

Buddha and bodhisattvas, Cave 6, Ajanta.

Cave 7 – a monastery of a single storey having a sanctum, a hall with octagonal pillars, and eight small rooms for monks. The sanctum Buddha is shown in preaching posture. There are many art panels narrating Buddhist themes. This cave has a grand facade with two porticos. The veranda has eight pillars of two types. One has an octagonal base with amalaka and lotus capital. The other lacks a distinctly shaped base, features an octagonal shaft instead with a plain capital. The veranda opens into an antechamber. On the left side in this antechamber are seated or standing sculptures, those of 25 carved seated Buddhas in various postures and facial expressions, while on the right side are 58 seated Buddha reliefs in different postures, all on lotuses.

Buddhas, antechamber, Cave 7, Ajanta.

Cave 19 –  This structure was completed during the Vakataka rule which which is grand chaitya hall. It has a courtyard with attached cells. It has an elaborate facade and a single entrance to the cave having a portico with pillars. It has a circular window  with lot of decoration around the opening. There are decorated pilasters and cornices. The grid has many sculptures, mostly Buddha figures. There is Naga group on the facade.

Entrance, Cave 19, Ajanta.

Naga group, facade of Cave 19, Ajanta.

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Entrance sculptures, Cave 19, Ajanta.

Cave 9 – This cave has a distinct apsidal shape. The aisle has a row of 23 pillars. The ceiling is vaulted. The stupa is at the center of the apse, with a circumambulatory path around it. The stupa sits on a high cylindrical base. It is a chaitya or worship halls from the 2nd to 1st century B.C, the first period of construction,  reworked upon at  the end of the second period of construction in the 5th century. Many sculptures adorn the facade, mostly Buddha images.

Cave 9, entrance, Ajanta.

Cave 9, Buddha with Ananda, Ajanta.

Cave 9, apsidal hall with stupa, Ajanta.

Cave 11-  It is monastery and the cave veranda has pillars with octagonal shafts and square bases. The ceiling of the veranda shows evidence of floral designs and eroded reliefs. The center panel is of the Buddha seen with votaries lining up to pray before him.

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Exterior, Buddha with a devotee, Cave 11, Ajanta.

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Elephant, Cave 16, Ajanta.

 

Cave 26 – It is  a worship hall or chaitya, with elements of a vihara design. The interior view of the cave gives a general appearance of a Mahayana vihara. An inscription states that a monk Buddhabhadra and his friend minister serving king of Asmaka, gifted this large cave. It has two upper stories and four wings of the cave were planned, but these were abandoned and only the carved Buddhas on the right and left wall were completed. The cave consists of an apsidal hall with side aisles for circumambulation . This path is full of carved Buddhist legends, three depictions of the Miracle of Sravasti in the right ambulatory side of the aisle, and seated Buddhas in various mudras. At the center of the apse is a rock-cut stupa with an image of the Buddha in front, 18 panels on its base, 18 panels above these, a three tiered torana above him. On top of the stupa is a nine-tiered harmika, a symbolism for the nine samsara in Mahayana cosmology. The walls, pillars, and brackets are intricately carved with Buddhist themes.

Entrance, Cave 26.

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Side shrines, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Reliefs, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Column designs, Cave 26, Ajanta.

Chaitya hall with stupa, Cave 26, Ajanta.

The enshrined Buddha is sitting in the pralambapadasana posture, with his legs down, maybe representing Maitreya, the future Buddha.

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View, Chaitya hall with stupa, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Stupa, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Capitals, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Aisle, Cave 26, Ajanta.

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Pariniravana of the Buddha, Cave 26, Ajanta.

 

 

References :

  1. The art of ancient India/Huntington, Susan,L,New York : Weatherhill, 1985.
  2. wikipedia.org
  3. Images from Wikimedia commons

 

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.

File:Worship of Bodhi Tree - Sandstone - ca 2nd Century BCE - Sunga Period - Bharhut - ACCN 294 - Indian Museum - Kolkata 2016-03-06 1561.JPG

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 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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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 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.

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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

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

© author

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.

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

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
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Paranirvana, 2nd-3rd century,Gandhara. 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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‘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

© author

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 .

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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

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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.

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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)

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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

©author

 

 

 

 

Jataka in art : previous lives of the Buddha

    The word Jataka means history of birth. The Jataka tales refers to the stories of Lord Buddha’s previous birth in human and animal form. The tales depict some virtue the future Buddha is believed to possess. Lord Buddha has undergone many births before he was born as Siddhartha Gautama who became Buddha,the enlightened one, whose teachings formed the basis of the religion Buddhism.

       The Jataka tales form a part of the Pali canon in Theravada Buddhism.The Jatakamala in Sanskrit by Aryasura has 34 Jatakas which are depicted in Borubodur,Indonesia. The Jataka tales are roughly dated to 4th century B.C. The Theravada Jataka comprises of 547 poems.

     The Jataka tales include :The ass in the lion’s skin, The banyan deer, The cock and the cat, The crab and the crane, The twelve sisters, The Vessantaka jataka,The swan with golden feathers,Prince Sattva,King Sibi,The King’s white elephant,The lion and the woodpecker,The ox who envied the pig, The measure of rice among many others. Many versions of the stories exist in different cultures. Some are similar to tales in  the Hindu Panchatantra.

  In some countries like Cambodia,Myanmar,Thailand, Sri Lanka the tales are enacted in dance and theatre; mostly the longer tales like Vessantara jataka. 

The last ten Jataka tales, the Mahanipata jatakas are to do with the human incarnations of the Buddha in his previous lives,his last ten births before Siddhartha Gautama. Mahajanaka jataka is one of these. The others include the the stories of him as Prince Temiya, Suvanna sama, Nimi,Mahosadha,Bhuridatta, Canda Kumara,Brahma Narada,Vidhura Pandita, and Prince Vessantara. The last ten Jataka tales represent the ten virtues of renunciation,vigour,benevolence, absolute determination,insight,morality,patience,equanimity,reality and generosity.

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Jakata depiction,tale of jackal and otters,2nd century,Bharhut,Madhya Pradesh.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, http://www.archive.org/details/jatakatalesfranc00fran

File:Meister des Mahâjanaka Jâtaka 001.jpg

Mahajanaka jataka,Ajanta Caves,7th century,Maharashtra.

By Meister des Mahâjanaka Jâtaka [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Candi Mendut - Reliefs - 033 Jataka Tale (11833015634).jpg

Jataka depiction,9th century,Candi Mendut,Central Java,Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (033 Jataka Tale) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

File:Tiger Jātaka, Cave 254, Dunhuang.jpg

Tiger Jataka, 4th to 9th century,Dunhuang,China.

By Anonymous artists of the Northern Wei period; I created the file (Wall Paintings at Dunhuang) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsDas Panchuposatha-Jataka 6207.JPG

Jataka depiction,terracotta tile,Myanmar,13th century,Museum of Asian art,Berlin-Dahlem.

By Bin im Garten – Own work (own picture), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14739741

File:Thangka of Buddha with the One Hundred Jataka Tales, Tibet, 13th-14th century.jpg

Buddha with the One Hundred Jataka Tales,Thangka painting 13th-14th century,Tibet.

By Anonymous (Christie’s Images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Jataka Tales,Thangka painting,  18th-19th century, Bhutan.

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

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Vessantara Jataka,depiction of Vessantara giving away the chariot,late 19th century,Thailand.

Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Jataka, La chouette et le corbeau en NB - 1.jpg

Jataka tale,drawing,Y.Coudert,21st century,France.

By Yvain Coudert (http://data.abuledu.org/wp/?LOM=26971) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

References :

  1. wikipedia.org

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

 

© author

 

 

 

Vajrapani in art : protector of Buddha

        Vajrapani means one who holds the vajra, a thunderbolt-like weapon in his hand. He is the protector of Buddha and symbolises his power. He is a bodhisattva around the Buddha and also called Vajrasattva. He is thought to be the general of the yakshas as per the Golden Lotus-sutra. He forms a triad along with Bodhisattva Avalokiteswara and Amitabha in some forms of Buddhism.

    Vajrapani is mostly depicted with a wrathful,angry expression; holding the vajra in his right hand. He sometimes wears a skull-crown but usually a five-pointed crown representing the  five Dhyani Buddhas.

     Vajrapani has many forms. He is called Dhyani-Bodhisattva equivalent to Akshobhya. He is referred to as Acharya Vajrapani in his role as Dharmapala with a third eye, a bell and a lasso. He is called Nilambara-Vajrapani when he has one head and four arms and treading on snakes. As Mahachakra-Vajrapani he has three heads , six arms and carrying the vajra and snakes. He is also depicted with the head,wings and claws of Garuda, when he takes this form to protect the nagas who came to worship Lord Buddha from the birds who devour snakes.

      In different countries where Buddhism flourished he is seen in different depictions.In Nepal he is white in paintings.In Cambodia he has four arms. In Japan he is seen depicted in mandalas. In Tibet he is seen in many fierce forms. His Indian depictions are many. In Gandhara art he is the protector of the Buddha.He is on one side of the Buddha along with Padmapani on the other at Cave No.1  of Ajanta caves at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

     Vajrapani is believed to rock the mountains with his weapon vajra as mentioned in some Buddhist texts.

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Vajrapani,7th century,Ajanta caves, Maharashtra,India.

By Indischer Maler des 7. Jahrhunderts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Vajrapani, 8th-9th century,Lalitagiri, Odisha.

I, Sailko [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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Vajrapani,  wall painting , Caves of the Statues, Kizil, 406-425 AD,Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

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

File:Bodhisattva Vajrapani, 9th century, British Museum.jpg

 Vajrapani, 9th century, Tibet,British Museum,UK.

By Anonymus (British Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Vajrapani, 1731, gilt bronze, Nepal, Norton Simon Museum.

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

References :

  1. wikipedia.org

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

Dhyani Buddhas in art : some depictions

      The Dhyani Buddhas are representations of the five qualities of the Buddha. They    are also called the Five Wisdom Thatagatas. In Vajrayana Buddhism they figure as an important subject in the mandalas.  The Dhyani Buddhas are aspects of the dharmakaya or dharma-body which embodies the principle of enlightenment in Buddhism.

The five Dhyani Buddhas are Vairochana,Amogasiddhi,Amitabha,Ratnasambhava and Akshobhya. Vairochana is associated with space,all accomodating,teaching the dharma; Amogasiddhi is associated with air,all accomplishing and represents the wisdom of perfect practice. Amitabha  is associated with fire,inquisitiveness and represents the wisdom of observation; Ratnasambhava is associated with earth, giving and represents the wisdom of equanimity; Akshobhya is associated with water,non-dualism and represents the  wisdom of reflection.

The Dhyani Buddhas are sometimes called the Five celestial Jinas or Conquerors. They usually have the urna,the usnisa and the long lobed ears, which are among the 32 lakshanas  or superior marks of a Buddha. They are bare headed with short curly hair with a shawl draped over one shoulder and arm.

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Five Dhyani Buddhas,painting.

By Unknown – http://www.fodian.net/world/buddhas/5b/5ba.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16961889

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Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara  seated on a lion,in lalitasana , snake wrapped vajra scepter, lotus flower, 5 Dhyani Buddhas are also seen, statue, black shist, Bihar, India, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/

Vairochana is mostly depicted with the dharmachakra mudra, Akshobhya with bhumi sparsha, Ratnasambhava with varada, Amitabha with dhyana and Amoghasiddhi with abhaya mudra.

Altar Painting of Vairocana (Treasure 1363).jpg

Altar painting of Vairocana,after 1590,Korea.

By Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea – http://www.cha.go.kr/korea/heritage/search/Directory_Image.jsp?VdkVgwKey=12,13630000,36&imgfname=b1363000036001.jpg&dirname=treasure&photoname=%BA%F1%B7%CE%C0%DA%B3%AA%BA%D2%B5%B5, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16341797

Amoghasiddhi, 14th century,Tibet, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco,USA. 

By jaredzimmerman (WMF) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33809747

Amitabha and Eight Great Bodhisattvas (Freer Gallery of Art).jpg

Amitabha and Eight Great Bodhisattvas, Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Korea,Freer Gallery of Art,USA.

By unidentified Goryeo-Dynasty artist – http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/singleObject.cfm?ObjectNumber=F1906.269, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29190158

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 Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya,painting.

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

Depicted below is a thangka of Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya. The background consists of multiple images of the Five Dhyani Buddhas.

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Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya, thangka, late 13th century,Tibet, Honolulu Museum of Art,USA. 

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

Ratnasambhava, Kadampa Monastery, Central Tibet, 1150-1225, LACMA,USA.

By anonymus – LACMA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26940160

 

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • wikipedia.org
  • Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.
  • Gordon,Antoinette K/The iconography of Tibetan Lamaism,New Delhi : Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers,1998.

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Avalokitesvara images : varied depictions

       Avalokitesvara or Lord who looks down, is  a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. This bodhisattva is  depicted differently and described.In Chinese Buddhism he becomes the somewhat different female figure Guan-yin.  Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapani ,holder of the Lotus or Lokesvara or Lord of the World. In Tibet, Avalokitesvara is Chenrezik. In Cambodia, he appears as Lokesvara. Avalokitesvara remained popular in India until the 12th century.

       In Mahayana Buddhism,as per the Karandavyuha sutra, the sun and moon are said to be born from Avalokitesvara’s eyes, Shiva from his brow, Brahma from his shoulders, Narayana from his heart, Saraswati from his teeth, the winds from his mouth, the earth from his feet and the sky from his stomach and he is an attendant of Amitabha. He is also mentioned in the Lotus sutra, Heart sutra, Nilakanthi dharani sutra and few others. From the 15th century, the Dalai Lamas are held to be his incarnations.

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Padmapani(Avalokitesvara), cave painting,6th century,Ajanta caves, Maharashtra.

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

File:Water-Moon Avalokitesvara (Musee Guimet).jpg

Water moon Avalokitesvara,painting,10-14th century, Goryeo dynasty,Korea,Musee Guimet,France.

By Goryeo-Dynasty artist (http://tayler.tistory.com/679) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Padmapani, Nepal, 14th century, gilt bronze,Berkeley Art Museum,USA.

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

        Avalokitesvara is highly revered in Tibetan Buddhism, and is regarded in the Vajrayana teachings as a Buddha. He is depicted on a lotus pedestal in yogic control and with differently numbered arms and multiple headed too. In thangkas, the sun and moon emblems can be seen on top. It is believed in Tibet that Tara was formed from a teardrop of Avalokiteswara which became a lake which revealed her in a lotus opening.

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Chenrezik (Avalokitesvara), thangka, Tibet.

Attibution : http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane

       Avalokitesvara has number of manifestations in different forms; Aryavalokitesvara,root form of the Bodhisattva,Ekadasamukha with  ten additional faces to teach all in ten planes of existence,Sahasra-bhuja Sahasra-netra thousand-armed, thousand-eyed sees and helps all beings. Chintamanichakra holds the bejewelled chintamani wheel; Hayagriva is a wrathful form. Cundi is a woman portrayed with many arms. Amoghapasa is with rope and net .

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 Avalokitesvara, brass sculpture, 11th century, Tibet,LACMA,USA.

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

File:Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin), China, c. 1220-1300 AD, gilded bronze - Östasiatiska museet, Stockholm - DSC09614.JPG

Guanyin( Avalokitesvara), gilded bronze, 13th century,China,Östasiatiska Museet, Stockholm.

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

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Avalokitesvara, probably Padmapani Lokeshvara,  Newari painting by Anandamuni Shakya,1940s,Kathmandu, Nepal.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/8630165611

     There is a belief that Avalokitesvara had taken a vow to free all beings suffering in samsara, and his head splits into eleven pieces struggling  to understand everyone’s misery; Amitabha helps him to get eleven heads to hear and react to the cries of the suffering. However his hands are shattered too, Amitabha then gives him a thousand hands to reach out to help the needy.

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Avalokitesvara,sculpture,Le or Nguyen Dynasty,18th century,Vietnam.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dalbera/15517356585..by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

 

 

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • wikipedia.org
  • Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Tara in Buddhist art : various depictions

      Tara is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana and Theravada are the two main forms of Buddhism.Tara is the mother of liberation and represents the virtues of achievements and success in work. In Tibetan Buddhism she is regarded as the bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avilokiteswara, an important bodhisattva in Buddhism and it is also believed that she originated from his tears.

Picturesque Nepal (1912) (14801528783).jpg

Tara,sculpture,Nepal.

By Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14801528783/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/picturesquenepal00browuoft/picturesquenepal00browuoft#page/n87/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43914726

Green Tara. Sumtsek hall at Alci monastery, Ladakh, ca. 11th century.jpg

Green Tara,11th century,Alci monastery, Ladakh.

By Unknown Artist – Sumtsek hall at Alci monastery, Ladakh, India., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44076245

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Tara, sculpture,12th century,Bihar.

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17563844

        Tara is the generic name given to a set of bodhisattvas of a similar quality. There are many known forms of Tara. Green Tara or Syamatara is known for enlightened activity, while White Tara is known for compassion, healing and serenity. Red Tara or Kurukulla is the fierce aspect, Black Tara represents power, Yellow Tara for wealth and prosperity, Blue Tara for transmuting anger, Chittamani Tara of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Khadiravani Tara who appeared before Nagarjuna, Buddhist philosopher of the 2nd century, in the predominantly acacian forest of the same name in South India. Tara was a well-worshipped deity in India and Tibet during Pala period in the 8th century.She was likened to the Mother Goddess in India. She is popular in Tibet,Mongolia,Nepal and Bhutan.

Presently Green Tara and White Tara are popular representations of Tara. Green Tara is associated with protection form fear, White Tara is associated with longevity; she counteracts illness and helps in having a long life. She is full of compassion, and is likened to the moon as being white and radiant.

A Very Fine Gilt Copper Alloy Figure Depicting Tara.jpg

Tara,gilt-copper sculpture, early 15th century, China.

By Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period (1403—1424) – Sotheby’s, lot.86, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51782138

     Below are depicted  two Taras  seated on lotus thrones. White Tara, represented with the multiple eyes of omniscience, sits in the dhyana or  meditation posture, while the Green Tara hangs one leg slightly;both lower one hand in varada-mudra of boon-giving.

White Tara and Green Tara.jpg

White Tara and Green Tara, 15th century,distemper on cloth,Tibet.

By Unknown – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/78194 direct link, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39107123

Different Taras,Tibetan thangka, 18th century.

By Anonymous – Rubin Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3580148

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • wikipedia.org
  • Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author