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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

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

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....

Article

I. Kruglikova

[Dal’verzin; Dil’berdz̆in.]

Site in northern Afghanistan, 40 km north-west of Balkh, which flourished from the Achaemenid period (c. 6th century bc) to the Hephthalite invasion (c. 5th century ad). It was excavated by a Soviet-Afghan team in 1970–77; all finds are in the Kabul Museum.

The fortified town (383×393 m) is enclosed by mud-brick walls with rectangular bastions. There was a circular citadel in the centre, and at the north-east corner of the town a 2nd-century bc temple, perhaps to the Dioscuri, was excavated, which shows several phases of rebuilding. Only a fragment of a wall painting from the earliest period is extant, depicting two nude youths painted red leading white horses by the bridle. Above this are the fragmentary red legs of athletes. To the latest period belongs a polychrome wall painting depicting Shiva and Parvarti on a bull, flanked by two men with four worshippers below. In the main part of the temple a throne ornamented with sculpture was found....

Article

A. P. Jamkhedkar

[Gharapuri]

Island 10 km from Bombay, India, renowned for its rock-cut temples and sculptures. The name Elephanta is derived from a stone elephant, removed (with other sculptures) to Bombay. The locally popular name Gharapuri is a corruption of agrahārapurī (Skt: rent-free village in the possession of brahmins). The names of localities near the present jetty such as Shet Bandar, More Bandar and Raj Bandar indicate the island was used as a port.

The coasts and both of the hills dominating Elephanta were once scattered with antiquities. An image of a horse, reported in the vicinity of the elephant, is no longer extant. Datable finds include large numbers of coins of the 6th-century Kalachuri king Krishnaraja. The style of the characters of an inscription on the base of a Brahma image suggests a date around the 9th century; and an inscribed copper vessel (dated ad 1086) was recovered during the clearance of a cistern. Perhaps the earliest remains (undated) are those of a stupa built of bricks (380×230×64 mm). Located on the eastern hill of the island, the stupa has cisterns and undecorated caves near by, which may have formed a Buddhist monastery....

Article

Ellora  

M. Soar

[Elura, Marathi Verul; anc. Elāpura.]

Site of outstanding cave temples, datable between c. ad 575 and the end of the 9th century, 20 km north of Aurangabad in the Sahyadri Hills, Maharashtra, India. The caves were excavated into volcanic rock along a 2-km stretch of west-facing embankment; there are 34 major caves, numbered consecutively rather than chronologically, starting with the Buddhist group (Caves 1–12) in the south. Other groups are dedicated to the Brahmanical pantheon (Caves 14–29) and to Jainism (Caves 30–34). The most notable monument is Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple.

The caves contain some of the best examples of large-scale sculptured reliefs in India. The earliest caves, which are Hindu, were excavated between c. 575 and 600, when the Kalachuris of Maharashtra family and Chalukya §1 were struggling for supremacy of the Deccan. Cave 29 is largely modelled on Cave 1 at Elephanta but without the three-faced relief of Mahadeva and the central positioning of the four-doored ...

Article

Maurizio Taddei

Buddhist sanctuary on a hill in the Ghorband Valley, Parvan Province, Afghanistan. The site was surveyed in 1936 and excavated in 1937 by the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan. The finds were divided between the Kabul Museum (sculptures and wall paintings) and the Musée Guimet, Paris (sculptures).

The sanctuary comprises a courtyard with a central stupa built of schist, surrounded by 12 niches of mud-brick and rammed earth, decorated with painted clay sculptures and wall paintings. The unbaked clay sculptures from Fondukistan were developed from Indian Gupta models and show only traces of the Hellenistic tradition of the north-west Indian subcontinent. The sculptures are quite similar to those of the late period from Tepe Sardar and a few other sites in Afghanistan and the north-west, such as Ushkar in Kashmir, and possibly inspired some later developments in eastern Central Asia. The formal characteristics of the sculptures from Fondukistan have even led some scholars to recognize in them a peculiarly moving formula of refined religious expression, in the manner of Late Gothic art. Whatever the aesthetic evaluation, it is clear that Fondukistan and the other cognate sites were able to synthetize Indian and Gandharan models with the same Sasanian formulae and patterns that later also influenced European medieval art....

Article

Ancient region of the north-west Indian subcontinent centred between the Indus and Kabul rivers north-east of Peshawar, Pakistan. It is first recorded in the late 6th century bc as an Achaemenid province in a rock inscription at Bisitun in Iran. The term is also applied to the Buddhist art and architecture of c. 1st–5th century ad from the north-west region and eastern Afghanistan. Gandharan art shows a combination of Indian, Hellenistic and Iranian influences and comprises reliefs, primarily of schist, illustrating stories on the life or previous incarnations (jātakas) of the Buddha (see fig.), and schist, stucco or clay images of the Buddha (see fig.), bodhisattvas and subsidiary deities (see Indian subcontinent, §V, 5, (ii)). Sites include Butkara, Jamalgarhi, Loriyan Tangai, Panr, Ranigat, Sahri Bahlol, Saidu Sharif, Shah-ji-ki-Dheri, Takht-i-Bahi and Taxila in Pakistan; and Bamiyan, Fondukistan, Guldara, Hadda, Sardar, Tepe and ...

Article

Guldara  

E. Errington

[Guldarra; Musa-i Logar]

Gandharan Buddhist site in Afghanistan, in a defile adjoining the Logar Valley, 22 km south-east of Kabul. Located on a rocky spur, the site has massive revetment walls, with a stairway to a levelled platform containing a main stupa courtyard and a monastery. On the lower slopes to the south there is a smaller stupa, perhaps another monastery and other unidentified remains. In 1833 Martin Honigberger tunnelled into the podium of the main stupa in an unsuccessful search for relics. The following year Charles Masson discovered the central relic chamber at the junction between the stupa dome and the podium. In the 1960s UNESCO provided funding for conservation and a survey of the site by Lézine, while the monastery was excavated by the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan. A second programme of conservation was carried out by the British Institute of Afghan Studies in 1977–9.

The main stupa has a socle and high, square podium supporting two drums and the dome. The upper drum has a blind arcade of pilasters alternating with ogee and trapezoidal arches. The lower drum, podium and socle are decorated with pilasters. The centre of the north-east face of the podium contains a large niche, probably for a cult image. A flight of steps on the south-east side leads to the top of the podium. The relic deposit contained ashes, bones, 96 gold buttons (London, BM) and Kushana gold coins (London, BM) of Vima Kadphises and Huvishka, which date the foundation of the stupa to ...