Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra

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Here, the bounty of cotton textiles attracted Romans and others from afar, and there developed a prosperous, cosmopolitan culture. As everywhere in India then, philosophic thoughts preoccupied people. The search was for that which was beyond the material aims in life, and all permanent structures, art and monuments were dedicated to this eternal quest of the people. This region of the Deccan has a very rich heritage of Buddhist art and architecture. An early cave at Guntupalli has a facade that is directly reminiscent of the Lomas Rishi caves at Barabar in Bihar.

These were made in the 3rd century B.


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The Barabar caves are known to be the earliest in India and perhaps the inspiration for the rock-cut architecture of the Deccan. The site was found in Excavations revealed stupas, a chaitya-griha, temples and sculptures of three phases of Buddhism - the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana - dating from the 2nd century B. The exquisite later reliefs of the Krishna Valley are similar in many ways to the art of the Ajanta paintings in the western Deccan. The reliefs exhibit a supple grace, and the lines and expressions convey a quality of introspection: a preoccupation with that which is beyond the worldly realm.

In the first two centuries A. Enlightenment, the Great Truth beyond the world of forms, was the focus of meditation. The creative forces and the joy of life were represented in the form of divine Yakshas and Yakshis. They were filled with a sense of well-being and the fullness of life.

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Joyous Devotees, Panigiri, 1st century A. There is a sophisticated sense of design and the figures are full of activity. They convey the joy and flourishing culture of the Krishna Valley in that period. Meanwhile, in central India, by the 1st century A. The Enlightenment of the Buddha and the path of dharma were represented by symbols that were universal to all religious streams in India. Yakshas, Yakshis and Lakshmi were presented in the art. On the plains of the Ganga and in Gandhara, in the first two centuries A. The fertile valley of the Krishna river was the cradle of civilisation in the eastern Deccan.

This area became one of the greatest centres of Buddhism, and over early Buddhist sites have been listed in the region. These date back to about the 1st century A. The stone is marvellously carved to convey the softness and pliability of human flesh. Stylistic similarities with the art of Bharhut suggest that the early reliefs found here at stupa sites belong to the 1st century B.

Jaggayapeta, on a tributary of the Krishna , had many stupas. A relief from Jaggayapeta shows a chakravartin, or a universal monarch, and his seven precious possessions. The shallow carving and other stylistic features are similar to Sunga period reliefs at Sanchi, Bodh Gaya and Bharhut.

Other interesting sites

The Buddhist site of Amaravati is on the banks of the Krishna, next to the ancient capital of Dharanikota in present-day Andhra Pradesh. The history of the stupas at this site covers at least 1, years, from the time of Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B. The earliest railing pillars of the stupa are of granite and were installed by Asoka. The stupa at this site has a history of over 1, years, from the time of Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.

There are many fine sculptural panels here of the various periods of the stupa. By the 1st century B. Footsteps and parasols indicate his presence. The shallow relief, broad faces, turbans and heavy earrings are reminiscent of other Sunga period art. In the 2nd century A. Under them, the sculptural relief of the magnificent stupa reached its culminating phase.

The entire stupa was covered with shimmering limestone slabs, with exquisite sculpture. An ornate stone vedika was also added. Today, only a mound remains of the Mahastupa, or Great Stupa, as it is called in inscriptions. In its time, its glory was known throughout the Buddhist world. Sculptures, Panigiri, 1st century A. The graceful compositions of the Krishna Valley reliefs are among the finest in Indic art.

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The flow of lines is mellifluous and conveys the quality of grace that underlies all of creation. Fortunately, we have an idea of what the stupa looked like from depictions of it in the sculptural reliefs. This self-imaging of the monument is a tradition that continues from here onwards in Indian architecture. The Mahastupa was feet The railings were made 15 feet 4. The railings were richly sculpted. Their pillars, about 10 feet 3. The lotus, which rises in its beauty from murky waters, is a pan-Indian symbol of purity and transcendence.

Narrative carvings of the life of the Buddha were made on the inner surfaces of the pillars. The stories are told in greater detail here than was done earlier at Sanchi. Early stupas, Sankaram.

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The vast Buddhist site of Sankaram was discovered in It has numerous stupas, rock-cut caves and sculptural brick temples. The stupas seen here are from the Hinayana period of the site, which also has later monuments of the Mahayana and Vajrayana periods. From the 1st century A. Earlier, symbols had been used to indicate the presence of Buddhas and Jaina tirthankaras. Artists in the western and in the eastern Deccan took more time to break away from earlier conventions of art in which personalities had not been depicted.

It is only in the 2nd century A. A pillar of the vedika depicts the Buddha receiving rice pudding as his first meal after abandoning his austerities. Below, we see the enlightenment of the Buddha, beneath the Bodhi tree. In this sequence, the Buddha is indicated by his footprints. Chaityas and stupas, at Bavikonda, 15 km from Visakhapatnam. The site at Bavikonda, which means a hill of many wells, flourished between the 2nd century B. Another pillar narrative depicts the Great Departure, when Prince Siddhartha rides out of his palace to renounce his worldly life.

Below, the story ends with the First Sermon of the Buddha, at Sarnath. After the Enlightenment, the artist preferred to use the symbol of the chakra instead of the human form of the Buddha. The coping of the railing is fully adorned with eternal themes. Often a thick and luxuriant garland is depicted. It is reminiscent of the vine of the fullness and bounty of nature that was seen in the 2nd century B. It is carried by turbaned youth, who represent the urbane city-dwellers of the prosperous Krishna Valley. Standing Buddha, 3rd century A. Archaeological Survey of India site museum, Amaravati.

The Buddha figures of the Krishna Valley, with their serene expressions and dignified monumentality, were models for the Buddhas made in many Southeast Asian countries.

Buddhism in The Krishna Valley of Andhra

On entering the hallowed enclosure, to circumambulate the Great Stupa, the worshipper saw exquisite carvings on either side. On the right, the drum of the sacred stupa had slabs that were about 6 feet 1. Sculpted dome slabs rose another and-a-half feet 3. A world of Buddhist narratives was created, through which the worshipper moved as he went around the stupa. Sculpted scenes, such as the Birth of the Buddha, would transport the viewer far from everyday concerns.

His soul would be lifted in response to the beauty and grace before him. In the rapt attention and divine contemplation on the faces of the attendant figures, the artists appear to have portrayed the devotion within themselves. It is a realm of gentleness and beauty, which awakens the best within us. Chitrasutra, the ancient treatise on art making, states that the purpose of art is to transform us through the presentation of harmony and grace, to show us a glimpse of the Eternal, which underlies all of creation.

The reliefs of the 2nd century A. The depth of the cutting permits the overlapping of figures on two and even three planes. Each figure is individual and possessed of a life and movement of its own. The variety of poses is infinite. The reliefs reflect a sense of confidence among the artists, who appear to discover new possibilities for the depiction of the human form. There is a vitality and rhythm in the closely grouped compositions. In the early tradition of art, a sense of grace prevails upon all forms. The figures portray a quality of surrender to the harmony of existence.

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