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Life of Buddha in Indian Sculptures (Asta-Maha-Pratiharya)

An Iconological Analysis

The life of the Buddha has been a great source of perennial inspiration to scholars, artists and poets since the early times. Many events from the life of the Buddha have inspi below

About This Book

The life of the Buddha has been a great source of perennial inspiration to scholars, artists and poets since the early times. Many events from the life of the Buddha have inspired some of the greatest relief compositions in Indian art, which have been depicted in sculptures and monuments.

Tracing the beginning of narrative compositions in reliefs delineating the life of the Buddha, the book analyzes these sculptural depictions of events in the context of several biographical texts on him. The episodes represent the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, first sermon and miracle at Shravasti, descent from Tushita heaven, subduing of Nalagiri, culminating with mahaparinirvana. The book explores how some of Buddha's basic teachings are linked with certain specific episodes of his life. It highlights the difference between representations of the same events by artists at various periods and places and the differences between the textual description and its sculptural counterpart. It also undertakes a survey of the inspiration provided by the theme of the Buddha's life to devotees and artists in other Asian countries as revealed in their iconography and sculpture.

Supported by over 210 illustrations including drawings and photographs, it reveals the process of symbolization in visual forms and participation of the sculptors in the process. It shows that the sculptural reliefs provide a fascinating insight into the creative mind of the Indian artist: how he invented visual devices and integrated them into the formal structure and the story content and imparted meanings in each sculptural relief. The volume will be essential reading for students and scholars of art history and Buddhist art in particular.

  • Binding: : Hardbound
  • 13 Digit ISBN : 9788124605523
  • 10 Digit ISBN : 8124605521
  • Edition : 1st edition
  • Year : 2010
  • Pages : xvii, 381p.
  • Size : 25
  • Weight (approx.) : 1200
  • Bibliographic Details : 2 Maps; 184 b/w photographs; 26 col. plates; Bibliography; Glossary

Foreword by C. Sivaramamurti

Preface to Enlarged Edition

Preface to the First Edition


1. Sacred Biography and Buddhist Hagiographical Texts


Co-relation between Buddha's Life Events and Major Teachings


A Further Note on the Buddhist Texts

Relic Worship, Hagiography and the Role of Social Agencies: The Case of Bharhut Stupa

2. Four Main Events



Dharmacakra-pravartana (First Sermon)


Digression on Buddha Image

3. On the Origin of Buddha Image: The Indian Perspective

Early Textual References to the Buddha's Human Image

Mathura Text Version

Propositions from Epigraphic Records

Mathura, Kausambi, Sarnath

Buddha image on Coins

Kaya concept

The Exaggerated Notion of Greco-Roman Influence

Foucher's Fallacious Theory

Coomaraswamy's Thesis

Stella Kramrisch's Conceptualization on Mahapurusha Lakshanas

Griswold's Manifestation of the Monk's Garment


4. Secondary Group of Events

Miracle at Shravasti

Descent from Tushita Heaven

Subduing of Nalagiri

Monkey offering Honey Bowl to the Buddha

5. Sequences and Grouping of Events

Narrative reliefs from Sannati (Karnataka)

6. Pala Stelae

Pala Stelae of Bhumisparsa Buddha

Ashta-maha-pratiharya, Bronze, Pala, Tenth Century, National Museum Pala Stelae of Bhumisparsha (Akshyobhya)

7. Mahabhinishkramana

8. Buddha's Teachings Linked with Episodes of Enlightenment, First Sermon and Miracle at Shravasti

Concepts Associated with the Event of Buddha's Enlightenment (Sambodhi): Paticcasamuppada

The Concept Associated with the First Sermon Dharmacakra Pravartana, at Sarnath Four Noble Truths

Exposition of Abhidhamma in Tushita Heaven with Reference to Miracle at Shravasti

Classes of the Types of Consciousness

Yogavacara (Yogi)

9. Aftermaths/Continuity in Neighbouring Countries

Bhumisparsha Buddha in Nepal/Tibet in metal

Bhumisparsha Buddha in Tibetan Thankas

Life of Buddha in Tibet

Tibetan depiction of Pratityasamutpada Dependent Origination, Bhava Cakra

Ancient Pagan

10. Epilogue

Narrativity in the Arts

Narrativity and Theory of Time

Artists as Human Personalities and Skandhas Theory


Glossary of Buddhist Terms

List of Illustrations




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