Amaravati Art in the Context of Andhra Archaeology

by Sreyashi Ray chowdhuri | 2018 | 90,477 words

This page relates ‘Dhamma Wheel’ of the study on Amaravati Art in the Context of Andhra Archaeology, including museum exhibitions of the major archeological antiquities. These pages show how the Buddhist establishment of Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh) survived from 4th century BCE to 14th century CE. It includes references and translations of episodes of Buddha’s life drawn from the Avadanas and Jatakas which are illustrated in Amaravati art.

[Full title: Different symbols visible in the Amarāvatī Art: The Dhamma Wheel]


The Dhamma Wheel surmounted by a parasol is the Indian emblem of sovereignty. The Dhamma-wheel is considered as a major Buddhist symbol since early times. The wheel of Chakravartīn was associated with Buddha whose spiritual dominance over princes and peasants alike was symbolically represented by the turning of the Wheel of Law though not of sovereignty[1].

Buddha’s first sermon is mentioned as “The Setting in Motion of the Dhamma-Wheel” (damma cakka-pavattana sutta). Here the notion of the “Dhamma wheel” is rooted. In the first sermon the Dhamma wheel does not roll until the first member of the Buddha’s audience gains insight into his teachings. Thus the Dhamma-wheel in Buddhism refers not only to the Buddha’s act of giving dhamma in the sense of “teachings” but also transmitting it in the sense of spiritual experience and realization. By this act Buddha inaugurated the ‘rule’ or influence of Dhamma-the teachings, the spiritual path and their realizations which will culminate in nirvāṇa. Buddhaghosa considers the spokes of Dhamma-wheel to the Sun’s rays and the hub of full Moon[2]. Thus the radiating spokes of Dhammawheel suggests that like the Sun, Buddha shed the warmth of his compassion and the light of his wisdom to his people.


In a drum pilaster from Amarāvatī preserved in the British Museum one can see the Dharma cakra. The Dharma cakra above the pillar is placed above the empty throne and foot prints at its base. The Dharma cakra symbolizes the first sermon. At the foot of the throne, seated on either side are two deer symbolizing the Deer park at Sārnath[3].

On another drum pilaster from Amarāvatī housed in the British Museum one can see a finely carved Dharma cakra. The cakra is mounted on the summit of an elaborately decorated pillar above an empty throne with cushions. Below the throne is a pair of Buddhapāda and at the sides are a pair of seated deer symbolizing the Deer park where the sermon was preached. Two worshippers flank the throne both carrying fly whisks over their shoulders[4].

Another representation of a cakra from Amarāvatī is found. It is preserved in the Madras Government Museum. The shaft of the cakra pillar is composed of alternating cylindrical and bulbous parts supported at intervals by dwarfs and lions. The cylindrical parts are ornamented with decorative patterns and the topmost bulbous parts is fluted. On the abacus above it is the many spoked wheel. Deva couples are present in the attitude of adoration all along the shaft. The pillar is above the empty throne with two seated worshippers on both side and similar number of standing figures with flywhisks in their hands[5].

Another beautiful depiction of the Dharma cakra is seen in the Archaeological Museum, Amarāvatī[6]. (Pl 27b).

Depiction of Dharma cakra is found in several art centres of the Amarāvatī repertoire.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid, pp 57-58.


Harvey Peter, 1991, Op.cit, p 78.


Knox Robert, Op.cit, p 156, fig 82.


Ibid, p 156, fig 81.


Sivaramamurti C, Op.cit, pl LXIII, fig 3.


Acc No. 56 (old 61), limestone, Measurement 232 x 83 x 17 cm, Archaeological Museum, Amaravati, Archeological Survey of Indian.

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