Stupas in Orissa (Study)

by Meenakshi Chauley | 2013 | 109,845 words

This study examines the Stupas and Votive Stupas in Odisha or Orissa (Eastern India).—In this thesis an attempt has been made to trace the historicity of Buddhism in Odisha on the basis of the architectural development of the Stupa architecture. Archaeological evidence obtained from excavated sites dates such structures as early as third-second cen...

Buddhist Icons as depicted on the Stupas (Introduction)

The terms icon (derived from Greek eikon) signifies an object of worship or something that is associated with the rituals relating to the cults of different divinities and “graphy” means study. So the word iconography is the study of image. The English word “image”, derived from old French and Latin “imago”, on the other hands, has got the basic connation of “likeness” from it came to be used in the sense underlying the Greek world mentioned above. Image in its primary sense has its close parallel in such Indian words as Pratikriti, Partima, Vimbha, etc.

All the three great religion of India had well-developed numerous pantheons and at times it becomes difficult to decide as in which of these three systems a particular image should be assigned. The problem is further aggravated due to free and frequent interchange of deities among the three religion. Hindu deities Parvati and Indra are to be found among the Jainas; the latter, as well as Ganapati and Saraswati are found in the Buddhist pantheons. Brahmanical Hinduism has borrowed from the Buddhists gods like Mahacintara, Janguli and Vajrayogini under the names of Tara, Manasa and Chinnamasta respectively. In Mahakala, Nilkantha and others are famous in the earlier phase the Jainas and Buddhist borrowed Brahmanical Hindu gods but in the Tantric age, the Buddhist gods were commonly exploited

We get to know about the Buddhist iconography from some ancient texts like the Sadhanamala, Sadhanasamuccaya, Dharmakasasangraha (Pandit Amritananda), Nispannayagambara tantra (Pandit Abhayakara Gupta). Heruka, Hevajra Tantra, Candamaha rosana tantra, Vajra varahi tantra, Vajravati Tantra, Yoginijata Tantra, ect.

The first people who were pioneers in the study of Buddhist iconography were professor Waddel, Grunwedel, Foucher, Burgess, Miss Getty and others.

In the earlier phase of Buddhist art we have no representations of the god. The scenes from Buddha’s life and the Jatakas were depicted; sculptures and railing at Barhut and Sanchi are example of it. Here the presence of Buddha was indicated by symbols like empty throne, parasol, bodhi tree, foot prints etc. According to Foucher, the first image of Buddha was fashioned in Gandhara School of art (Bhattacharyya 1958: 5). Amaravati School is contemporaneous with the Gandhara School. The image of Buddha most probably came up during the Kushana Period with Gandhara and Mathura as contemporary art centres. The Gandhara art has foreign influence whereas Mathura art is more indigenous in nature.

The Mathura School flourished from the first Century CE to the early Gupta period, for we do not meet here with any of the later Buddhist gods, i.e. Avalokitesvara, Tara, Manjusri and other deities (Bhattacharyya 1958: 35). Sarnath School covers the period from the time of Asoka down to the reign of Palas, and the Orissan, Javanese; Nepalese school is contemporaneous to the Palas.

The great majority of Buddhist deities are believed to have emanated from one or the other of the five Dhyani Buddha’s. So the Buddhist deities are scientifically classified on the basis of their parental Dhyani Buddha’s

There were a large number of gods and goddesses in the Buddhist pantheons, which developed inordinately in the Vajrayana phase of the Buddhism. The process of deification, which started hesitatingly with the change in the change in the doctrine of early Buddhism leading to the rise of Mahayana and ushered in a number of elementary Bodhisattvas in the early centuries of the Christian era, gained momentum when the Yogachara philosophy was fully developed and got inculcated in the Gupta period. This process accelerated beyond all bounds with further doctrinal changes heading to be full-fledged development of Tantric Buddhism during the Pala period. Vajrayana enunciated a deep esoteric system of sadhanas with emphasis on Krtyas, Mantras and Mandalas.

The primitive pantheon was, consequently, enlarged into a highly elaborated one with AdiBuddha, Dhyani-B uddha (Tathagath) and the latter emanations in the form of a host of divine Bodhisattvas and female divinities each of them was given a scared bija-mantra, or rather they were conceived as the concrete manifestation of the transformation of these germ syllables. The Vajrayanists did not stop with this. They went on extending the pantheons with increasing vigour. Even the individual syllable of a mantra was deified. Not resting satisfied with the deification of Nakshatras, Rasis, Kalas, Paramitas, Vasitas, Pujapakaranas (Like flowers, incense, lamp, gandha, etc) and ayudhas, the Vajrayanists went to the extent of imparting divine concepts and iconographical features to all kinds of human desires, both sublime and low (e.g. Bhojaneccha, Gandheccha etc). Furthermore, they resorted to the proliferation of the forms of the individual divinities already incorporated into the pantheon. Thus, Avalokitesvara came to be represented in as many as one hundred and eight forms with distinct features and name.

This increase in the number of deities of the Buddhist pantheons is not merely due to the growth and development of the doctrine and ideological concepts. There are other factors accounting for this, chief among these are the keen competition faced by the Buddhist to maintain their hold over the laity and missionary zeal to bring people of various creeds within their fold in view of the formidable strength of other religious systems, particularly of all-persuasive Brahmanism. To en-roll the followers of Brahmanical religion, the Buddhists did not hesitate to make compromises of various kinds and degrees. For instance, they evolved divinities having the essence of some of the principal deities of the Brahmanical sects with which the laity was familiar, deities were also evolved to disgrace Brahmanical god and goddesses (e.g. Hariharihari vahana Lokesvara (Bhattacharyya 1958: 394) with Vishnu as a mount of Avalokitesvara, Trilokyavijaya trampling on Mahesvara and Gauri, Aprajita trampling on Ganesa and having Brahma as her parasol-bearer and prasanna-Tara with Indra, Upendra, Rudra and Brahma below her feet).

They went even to the extent of incorporating bodily a good number of Brahmanical gods and goddesses as subordinate divinities within the Mandalas. Buddhism in Tibet gave rise to a new type of Buddhism called Lamaism, where the local demonical deities (Bon religion) of the Tibetans were incorporated in to Buddhism to make it acceptable to the locals. The close interaction between India and Tibet since then resulted in the introduction of several adventitious concepts and deities in Indian Buddhist Pantheons. Some of the terrible forms conceived in the Sadhanas are presumably, due to the influence of Tibetan Lamaism. These representations are engraved on stone, metals and terracotta. Some of these representations that are seen on the votive stupas at Ratnagari are discussed below briefly.

It may be stated here that most of the sculptures in Orissa are dated to the Gupta period on stylistic basis or the Gupta art tradition, which was wide spread at that time, was also exercising its influence in Orissa in a provincial manner and the flourishing Buddhist school of sculptures in the Jaipur hills connect Gupta sculptures with the late Kalinga school of Orissa.

After the fall of the imperial Guptas the Orissan School as represented at Lalitgiri, Udaygiri, Ratnagiri and at the surrounding sites is a true heir to the classical Gupta tradition. With this background, shall be described the iconography of Buddhist divinities as seen on the stupas in Orissa. Individual stupa in detail has been discussed in the previous Chapter.

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