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Article

Aihole  

Gary Michael Tartakov

[Aihoḷe, Aivalli; anc. Āryapura, Ayyāvoḷe]

Temple site and city in Karnataka, India, that flourished c. ad 525–1200.

An important centre of the early Chalukya dynasty (see Chalukya, §1), Aihole is situated, like the nearby sites of Pattadakal and Badami, near the Malaprabha River. Little is known of the ancient urban complex, but there are remains of a massive city wall with bastions and fragmentary crenellations. Inscriptions indicate that Aihole was a prominent commercial centre and the home of the ‘Ayyavole Five Hundred’, a corporation of traders and craftsmen. The remains of about 150 temples (in diverse styles) are preserved at the site. The oldest date to the mid-6th century and later examples to the time of the Rashtrakuta dynasty (c. 752–973) and Chalukyas of Kalyana (973–1189; see Chalukya, §2).

The temples at Aihole were first photographed and published in the mid-19th century by Col. Thomas Biggs, Bhau Daji and ...

Article

Ajanta  

Gary Michael Tartakov

[Ajaṇṭā]

Ancient Buddhist monastic and pilgrimage site (c. 200 bcad 500) located 100 km north of Aurangabad in the Sahyadri range of western India.

Ajanta is India’s richest surviving Buddhist complex. Far from any city, but close to the trade routes linking northern India with the western coast and the Deccan plateau, the monastery (saṅghārāma) and pilgrimage centre are composed of some 30 halls cut into the coarse, volcanic rock of a horseshoe-shaped gorge of the Waghora River (see fig.). The ‘caves’ were excavated along a 550 m-long stretch of a single path 10–30 m above the river bed. Five halls are in an early aniconic style, lacking images of the Buddha, and 24 are in the later image-filled style conventionally associated with Mahayana Buddhism of the Gupta age (c. 4th–5th centuries ad). The aniconic series, created between c. 200 bc and ...

Article

Alchi  

W. A. P. Marr

Buddhist monastery in a small valley on the left bank of the River Indus, c. 64 km west of Leh in Ladakh, India. Tradition attributes the monastery’s origin to the Tibetan scholar and temple-builder Rinchen Sangpo (ad 958–1055), the ‘great translator’, and although its buildings mostly date from the 11th century, the site is replete with his memory, from the ancient tree he planted to his portraits and images in the temples. A treasure-house of art, Alchi has been preserved because of its isolation from trade routes and the decline of its community, the monks of the Dromtön sect of the Kadampa order.

Ringed by a wall and votive chortens (stupas), the religious enclave (Tib. chökhor) comprises three entrance chortens, a number of shrines and temples, the Dukhang (assembly hall) with its courtyard and monastic dwellings (see Tibet §II, and Indian subcontinent §III 6., (i), (a)...

Article

Robert Knox

[Amarāvatī]

Site near the ancient city of Dharanikota on the right bank of the Krishna River in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India, that flourished from the 3rd century bc to the 14th century ad. It is also the location of a modern town, but the site is celebrated for its stupa, which may have been the earliest Buddhist foundation in the region and which certainly came to be its largest and most elaborate (see fig.). It was rediscovered in 1799 as a ruined but largely intact mound by Colonel Colin Mackenzie, first Surveyor General of India. His work in that year and in 1816 led to the excavations conducted in 1845 by Walter Elliot of the Madras Civil Service. Most of the sculptures now in the British Museum, London, were excavated at that time, although part of the Elliot collection remains in the Government Museum, Madras. Unfortunately, between the rediscovery of the stupa and these early excavations, much damage was done to it, with limestone slabs being quarried for building materials by the local residents. The stupa was further excavated in ...

Article

Frederick M. Asher

[anc. Vikramashila, Vikramaśīla]

Site of Buddhist monastery on the River Ganga in Bhagalpur District, Bihar, India. Until recently, the location of the monastery of Vikramashila was known only approximately from Tibetan sources, but excavations at Antichak have almost surely revealed its remains. The monastery was founded by the Pala dynasty monarch Dharmapala (reg c. ad 781–812; see Pala and Sena family). At the middle of the site is a tall brick stupa with a cruciform plan, closely related in form and dimensions to the stupa at Paharpur, also part of a monastic complex built by Dharmapala. Both stupas are set on an elevated terrace for circumambulation and in both cases the lowest portion of the stupa wall (where it survives) is decorated with terracotta plaques. At Antichak these depict mostly animals, human figures and ritual devices (pots, conch shells etc). Although sometimes described as ‘folk art’, they are carefully rendered and appear to be arranged according to a systematic programme. A row of cells forms the site’s outer perimeter, enclosing the large courtyard in which the stupa stands. These may have been intended as dwellings for monks or to accommodate images and likely functioned as the outer rim of the three-dimensional ...

Article

Senake Bandaranayake

[Anurādhapura]

Ancient city and religious centre in north-central Sri Lanka on the Malvatu Oya River. The site (see fig.) extends over an area of about 64 sq. km. At its centre are the vestiges of a fortified inner city, surrounded by several ancient Buddhist monastery complexes and four large, man-made lakes. The founding of Anuradhapura as a major urban complex is traditionally ascribed to the semi-historical figure of the pre-Buddhist period, King Pandukabhaya, in the 4th century bc. Recent excavations indicate the existence of settlement, import ceramics and early writing from a horizon of the 5th century bc or earlier, indicating the possibility of urbanization taking place from c. mid-1st millennium bc. The earliest rock shelter monasteries at the site date from the last few centuries bc.

Anuradhapura was the country’s principal political and religious centre for nearly a millennium and a half, until the closing decades of the 10th century ...

Article

Gary Michael Tartakov

[ Auraṅgābād]

Buddhist monastic and pilgrimage site—fl c. 100 bcad 600—and later city in Maharashtra, India. Together with Ajanta and Ellora, it represents the culmination of Buddhist rock-cut art along the trade routes of western India. The Buddhist site, located in the hills north-west of the city, contains a dozen excavations, an aniconic prayer-hall (Skt caityag ṛha) of the 1st century bc, two possibly Mahayana Buddhist designs that resemble examples at Ajanta closely enough to be by the same artists, a series of profusely decorated Vajrayana Buddhist ma ṇḍala shrines and a unique syncretic temple combining Brahmanical and Buddhist deities within a single sanctum. The richness and sensuousness of both the architecture and the sculpture is exceptional.

The earliest structure at the site is an aniconic caitya (Cave 4) of the 1st century bc. This prayer-hall was followed in the 5th century ad by two caves in the manner of later Ajanta: Cave 1, a ...

Article

Bagh  

Frederick M. Asher

[Bāgh]

Site of Buddhist rock-cut sanctuaries in Dhar District, Madhya Pradesh, India. During the second half of the 5th century ad a series of ten sanctuaries, one of them incomplete, was carved at Bagh from rock a great deal softer and thus less durable than that of sites in the Deccan plateau, such as Ajanta: consequently the work is not well preserved. The most elaborately carved caves are nos 2, 3, 4 and 6. All the caves at Bagh are viharas (monastic dwellings). The characteristic plan places monks’ cells around the outer walls enclosing a large pillared central hall. The pillars have thicker shafts than those of contemporary shrines at Ajanta (probably to compensate for the quality of stone), yet their design is imaginatively varied. Some of the shafts have diagonal or spiral flutes, while others are composite varieties combining a lower section of four sides, with upper sections moving from an octagonal to a 16-sided section; yet others become 12- or 24-sided. The pillar brackets of Cave 4 depict animals, some with riders. At the rear of most of the sanctuaries is an image shrine housing a stupa, not a Buddha figure as in the Ajanta shrines. Buddha images are, however, carved elsewhere in the Bagh sanctuaries, for example in the antechamber of several of the caves. The most famous are those of Cave 2, where larger-than-life-size standing Buddha figures flanked by bodhisattvas are depicted on two of the side walls. These figures bear a close resemblance to contemporary figural sculpture of Ajanta....

Article

Bamiyan  

Mary S. Lawton

Site in north-central Afghanistan. Located at the western end of the silk route, Bamiyan flourished as a trading and religious centre until the 13th century. It is the site of a rock-cut Buddhist monastery, the most distinctive feature of which were two monumental rock-cut standing Buddhas that bracket the religious complex. Confined in mandorla-shaped niches, they represented the first appearance of the colossal cult image in Buddhist art. Their size not only encouraged approaching pilgrims but exemplified the esoteric Mahayana doctrine of the Universal Buddha (see also Buddhism, §I). Faces and folds in the robes were modelled in mud mixed with chopped straw. This was supported by dowels and ropes pegged into the rock; a final coating of lime plaster was applied before gilding. The smaller Buddha (h. c. 38.5 m) probably dated to the 2nd–3rd century ad and its somewhat fluid drapery folds suggested Gandharan traditions. The frescoes and accompanying minor sculptures of donor figures were provincial Sasanian in technique and imagery. The larger Buddha (h. 55 m) was related to the style of Mathura during the ...

Article

Bedsa  

Gary Michael Tartakov

[Bedsā]

Buddhist monastic and pilgrimage site in Maharashtra, western India, that flourished c. 50 bcad 50. Situated in the hills a few kilometres east of the rock-cut shrines of Bhaja and Karle, Bedsa overlooks the trade route linking the ancient seaport of Kalyan with the interior (see Indian subcontinent, §I, 6, (i)). The site contains two important rock-cut excavations, a vihāra (monastic dwelling) and a chaitya (hall of worship). The vihāra is of the early type, the façades of which (destr.) were made of perishable materials. Its rock-cut interior, with a vaulted ceiling and an apsidal plan, is unique among vihāras which are generally flat-roofed and quadrangular.

In the nearby chaitya, the vertical cliff-face was carved to form an elaborate façade simulating wooden railings, lattices and arches in four storeys on either side of a large, arched opening. It is an outstanding example of the pan-Indian style of the 2nd–1st centuries ...

Article

Bhaja  

A. P. Jamkhedkar

[Bhājā]

Site of Buddhist rock-cut temples and other buildings in Pune District, Maharashtra, India. Bhaja is one of a series of cave-temple sites that developed in western India during the last two centuries bc in proximity to important trade routes. The caves were probably created by followers of Hinayana Buddhism, though paintings of Buddhas and bodhisattvas indicate that Bhaja came under the sway of Mahayana doctrine. The number of known excavations at Bhaja has been increased by archaeological discoveries to some 26. These consist of monasteries for Buddhist monks (Skt vihāra), prayer-halls (caitya gṛha), water-cisterns and an assemblage of memorial stupas. The largest monument is the main prayer-hall, an apsidal excavation 17.08 m long and 8.13 m broad. The roof is barrel-shaped and the hall has 27 octagonal pillars (3.45 m high), which are slightly tapered and have an inward rake. On either side of the pillars are aisles that meet behind a stone stupa, thus forming a circumambulatory. The roof-ribs are wooden. An inscription (...

Article

Bharhut  

Kurt Behrendt

[Bhārhut]

Site of a Buddhist stupa of the 2nd century bc in Satna District, Madhya Pradesh, India. The fragmentary remains of the Bharhut Stupa (see Stupa, §1) were discovered near the village of Bhaironpur by Alexander Cunningham in 1873. The stupa itself was largely destroyed, having been pillaged by local villagers for building material. Only the eastern gateway (Skt toraṇa) and a portion of the railing (vedikā) with crossbars (sūci) and coping stones (uṣṇiṣa) were recovered. These are now in the Indian Museum, Calcutta. Individual uprights and coping fragments are in the Allahabad Museum, while smaller pieces have found their way to museums around the world.

The stupa (diam. 20 m) was made of large flat bricks (305 × 305 × 59 mm) and was originally surrounded by a railing (diam. 25 m) with four gates. Reliefs on the surviving gate suggest the stupa had a cylindrical base with a hemispherical dome ornamented with floral designs. The summit was crowned by parasols. There is further evidence that a smaller railing either encircled the main railing or edged a raised circumambulatory platform, as at ...

Article

Frederick M. Asher

and Gaya [Bodhgayā and Gayā]

Pilgrimage centres and towns located on the Phalagu (Niranjana) River in Bihar, India. From an early date Gaya has been a site for the performance of śrāddha, rites for recently deceased parents. This ancient tradition and the general sanctity of Gaya in the 5th century bc probably drew Siddhartha Gautama to its outskirts, to the place now known as Bodhgaya, where, following profound meditation, he became a Buddha (Enlightened One). The tree under which he meditated (the bodhi tree) became an object of veneration; initially it was surrounded by a hypaethral temple (Pali bodhighara), the general form of which is known from relief sculptures of the 2nd–1st centuries bc at Bodhgaya and other sites (see also Indian subcontinent, §III, 3). A stone slab (Skt vajrāsana) at the site, dating to the 3rd century bc, carries motifs similar to those found on contemporary Mauryan pillars (see...

Article

Erberto F. Lo Bue

[Skt Bodhnāthā; Newari Khāstī; Tib. Bya-rung-kha-shor]

Stupa site 7 km east of Kathmandu, Nepal. The stupa (h. 45 m, diam. 90 m) is the largest of its kind in the Kathmandu Valley. Its great plinth consists of three broad terraces of intersected squares and rectangles forming a platform of 20 angles (Skt viṃśatikona), one of the canonical forms prescribed by the Kriyāsaṃgraha. The dome has a hemispherical shape; its base is decorated by a series of stone images framed in small niches.

Newar chronicles ascribe the construction of the stupa at Bodhnath to the Lichchhavi king Manadeva I (reg c. ad 464–505). The original mound subsequently fell into a state of neglect and, according to later Tibetan tradition, the site became a cemetery. The stupa is mentioned again in the 14th-century Tibetan religious epic Padma thang-yig in connection with events taking place in the second half of the 8th century ad. It was excavated and entirely rebuilt by the Tibetan master ...

Article

Eleanor Heartney

(b Bangkok, Feb 25, 1953; d Bangkok, Aug 25, 2000).

Thai sculptor and installation artist. Boonma studied at the Poh Chang Arts and Crafts School, Bangkok (1971–3) and went on to study painting at Silpakorn University, Bangkok (1974–8). He became a Buddhist monk in 1986 and his work explores a distinctively Buddhist art language. His early work dealt with environmental issues that came out of his concerns about the effects of industrialization on rural Thailand. Increasingly his work became involved with issues of illness and death as his own health faltered. He subtly melded natural forms, Buddhist architecture and ritual objects with a minimalist sense of structure inspired by his study of Western art. He fashioned sculptural objects based on Buddhist alms bowls, ‘painted’ with healing herbs and created walls and enclosures from stacks of hundreds of ceramic temple bells.

From 1991 Boonma’s wife struggled with breast cancer, until she succumbed in 1994. During this period the pair turned to both Western and Eastern tools to battle her disease, alternating chemotherapy with visits to shrines and offerings to propitious spirits. In ...

Article

R. Soekmono

[Barabudur]

Indonesian monumental site, located in central Java, c. 40 km north-west of Yogyakarta. Indonesia’s largest religious monument, Candi Borobudur was erected c. ad 800 to glorify the founder of the ruling Buddhist dynasty of the Shailendras. In addition to demonstrating high esteem for the ancestors, it was also intended to express in visual form the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. This dual purpose accounts for its unique plan. The stepped pyramid surmounted by a stupa symbolizes the merit accumulated by the dynasty along the way shown by the Buddha. Candi Borobudur was constructed on a natural hill some 15 m above the extensive Kedu Plain. The construction required about two million blocks of volcanic stone. Rising from a redented square base 107×107×3.7 m, the monument is set back 6 m from its edge, so that a broad platform is created. Each of the five succeeding square terraces is set back just 2 m from the one below, forming narrow galleries that have balustrades on their outer sides. The superstructure, set on the uppermost square terrace, is composed of three circular platforms, each of which supports a ring of latticed stupas or dagobs (72 in total). Surmounting the whole edifice is an unlatticed central stupa, the top of which is more than 30 m above ground-level. Access to the upper part of the monument is by stairways on the axes that bisect the sides of the pyramid. They lead through a series of gates directly to the circular platforms, intersecting the corridors of the square terraces....

Article

Arvind Sharma, Henrik H. Sørensen, Sally Mellick, Khoo Joo Ee, Charles Hallisey, Erberto F. Lo Bue, Deborah E. Klimburg-Salter, Zara Fleming, Jonathan W. Best and Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis

A religious tradition that emerged in India around the 6th to 5th century bc and spread throughout Asia. The term ‘Buddhism’ is a creation of Western scholarship, in which it is sometimes defined as a philosophy, civilization or culture rather than (or as well as) a religion. The tradition’s name is derived from its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, who, on attaining spiritual enlightenment, was known as the Buddha or ‘Awakened One’. The art of Buddhism reflects the tradition’s ideals and the sophisticated aesthetics of the varied regions and cultures in which it flourished. Its central symbol is the Buddha image, serving as a focus for meditation, devotion or ritual and expressing the peace, harmony and power of enlightenment. Central to Buddhism is the concept of the cycle of rebirth. Three main movements developed within Buddhism: Theravada (‘Doctrine of the elders’), Mahayana (‘Great vehicle’) and Vajrayana (‘Thunderbolt vehicle’). Though nearly extinct in India by the ...

Article

Butkara  

E. Errington

[from Pers. butkada, ‘house of images’]

Group of three sites east of Saidu Sharif, Swat, Pakistan. The sacred precinct of the great Buddhist stupa at Butkara I (3rd century bc–10th century ad) and the graveyard known as Butkara II (c. 4th century bc) were excavated by the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Extremo Oriente; Butkara III, a smaller Buddhist site (c. 1st–4th century ad), was excavated by the Department of Archaeology, Peshawar University. Finds are in the Swat Museum, Saidu Sharif, the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Rome, and the Department of Archaeology Museum at Peshawar University.

Butkara II, a necropolis of 48 tombs, pre-dates the arrival of Buddhism in the area. The burials were of two types: inhumation, with funeral vases, some jewellery and, occasionally, weapons or working utensils; and cremation, the burnt bones being placed in a large closed jar encircled by funerary vases. The red or grey wheelmade pottery was glazed and polished, with some incised decoration. Only one painted fragment and two terracotta figurines (one animal, one human) were found. The graves were identified by ...

Article

E. Errington

[Chārsada; anc. Pushkalavati]

Town at the confluence of the Kabul and Swat rivers, some 27 km north-east of Peshawar, Pakistan. Pushkalavati, a capital of the ancient region of Gandhara, is mentioned in the Rāmāyaṇa epic as having been founded at the same time as Taxila. In 327 bc the city surrendered after a short siege to part of Alexander the Great’s army under Hephaistion and was garrisoned by Macedonian troops. The site associated with these events is Bala Hisar, a large settlement mound (about 241×201×17.5 m) of the 6th–1st century bc, to the north-west of Charsadda. The Indo-Greek city at Shaikhan Dheri, north of Bala Hisar, flourished c. 150 bcad 150. Flooding forced a move eastwards across the Swat River to Shahr-i-napursan. This extensive, largely unexcavated site is the probable location of the city visited by the Chinese pilgrims Songyun (ad 519–20) and Xuanzang (632), for superficial investigations suggest that occupation continued until the 10th century....

Article

Raja de Silva

[Jambukola; Pali: Chāta-pabbata]

A large rocky outcrop in central Sri Lanka noted for its cave shrines and paintings, which flourished from the 2nd century bc. On the upper slopes of the outcrop of gneiss 600 m long and 150 m above the surrounding plain is a series of five caves, aligned east–west and more or less contiguous, which have been occupied from the 2nd century bc and which form the nucleus of a modern Buddhist temple. At the base of the rock there are additional caves, a stupa (Sinh. dāgaba) and other remains of an ancient Buddhist monastery. This monastery was patronized by kings of the 2nd–1st centuries bc, as is evident from numerous inscriptions. The main Dambulla cave shrines were restored in the 12th and 18th centuries ad. The statuary belongs largely to the 12th century and consists of Buddha figures, images of bodhisattvas, the Hindu god Vishnu, the local god Saman and royal benefactors. While stone was used in some cases, the figures were generally modelled in clay with wooden armatures, then lightly plastered and painted. Four of the Dambulla caves have paintings on the walls and ceilings that are attributable to the 18th century....