1-20 of 58 results  for:

  • Buddhist Art x
  • 300 BCE–CE 500 x
Clear all

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

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

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

Henrik H. Sørensen

[Teng-feng.]

County in Henan Province, China, east of the city of Luoyang. The presence of Mt Song (also called Mt Xiaoshi, Mt Songyue or Mt Songgao) means that the county is primarily known as a centre of Buddhism. Mt Song was a Buddhist sanctuary as early as the Three Kingdoms period (ad 220–80). When Emperor Xiaowendi (reg ad 471–99) of the Northern Wei (386–534) moved the dynastic capital from Datong in north-western Shanxi Province to Luoyang, the mountain was selected as an ideal place to establish Buddhist temples.

The Fawang Temple (Fawang si) is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary on Mt Song, supposedly dating to ad 234. It features a large, square, brick pagoda of the mid-8th century ad, 15 storeys and 40 m high, built in the same style as the Xiaoyan ta (Small Wild Goose Pagoda) in Xi’an. Other buildings in the Fawang Temple, including the Precious Hall of the Great Hero (the main hall), the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings and the Ksitigarbha Hall, date from the Qing period (...

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

Dorothy C. Wang

[Tun-huang.]

Site of Buddhist cave sanctuaries located 25 km south-east of the county town of Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China. In the wider definition Dunhuang also includes the Yulin caves at Anxi and the Xi qianfo dong (Western Cave of the Thousand Buddhas). From the 4th century to the 14th, Buddhist cave sanctuaries were continuously carved out in four or five tiers on the cliff face of an alluvial hill that faces east over the Dang River. At its height as a Buddhist complex in the 8th century ad, the complex is believed to have comprised more than 1000 caves. A total of 492 caves with wall paintings and sculptures survive, the earliest of which date to the early 5th century ad. A hoard of old and rare manuscripts was also found at Dunhuang, including the world’s oldest complete printed book (see China, People’s Republic of, §XIV, 3).

Dunhuang was first established as a garrison town in the ...

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

Molly Siuping Ho

[Kung hsien]

Site in Henan Province, China, east of the city of Luoyang. A complex of five Buddhist caves, dating from the Northern Wei period (ad 386–534), is located on the south side of Mt Mang on the northern bank of the Yiluo River. The ground level along the river is higher than the ground level inside the caves by over a metre because of dirt accumulated from flooding. The construction of the caves, sponsored by the Northern Wei imperial family, took place between c. ad 505 and 526, starting with Cave 1. In addition, many small niches and inscriptions sponsored by other devotees were carved later on the outside of the caves and bear dates ranging from ad 531 to 1735.

Cave 1, on the far west, measures 6×6 m; caves 3, 4 and 5 are successively smaller in size, and Cave 2 is unfinished. All are square in layout and, except for Cave 5, have internal central pillars. The once coherent sculpted façade between caves 1 and 2 is now in a fragmentary state. Inside the caves, all surfaces are fully sculpted. The main Buddhist images occur in configurations of three or five, in niches occupying the centre portions of the west, north and east walls and the central pillars. The ceilings of caves 1, 3 and 4 are divided into squares by crossbeams, and each square is decorated with an ...

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 ...

Article

Hadda  

E. Errington

[Haḍḍa; Hilo]

Site of numerous Buddhist monasteries, 8 km south-west of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. It flourished from the 1st century bc to the 8th century ad. The ancient site, known as Hilo to Chinese pilgrims of the 5th–8th century, is partially covered by a modern village. The earliest archaeological reports were compiled by Claude-Auguste Court (1827), Charles Masson (1834) and William Simpson (1878–9). Masson excavated 14 stupas, primarily at Gundi Kabul (also known as Tepe Kabul and Tepe Safed). He also uncovered the stupa at Tepe Kalan (also known as Tapa-é-Top-é-Kalan, Tope Kelan and Bordji-i Kafariha). A French delegation excavated most of the remaining ruins, including Tepe Kafariha and Bagh Gai, between 1926 and 1928. In 1965 a Japanese mission investigated Lalma, 3 km south-west of Hadda. Tepe Shotor (also known as Tapa-é-Shotor) and Tepe Kalan were excavated by the Afghan Institute of Archaeology between 1965 and ...