Birth of Buddhist art

Although Buddha preached in the 6th century BC, Buddhism first took a firm root in India only in the 3rd BC when the Mauryan king Asoka embraced Buddha’s doctrine after he witnessed human misery as result of his war with adjacent Kalinga state. Prior to Buddha the predominant religion in South East Asia and neighboring countries was Brahminism or Hinduism. Buddha himself was probably a reactionary to the practice of Vedas by the Brahmins who were ritualistic and sacrificial, in contrast to his philosophy which practiced compassion to man as well as other animals. Tantrism is a fusion of the Vedas, Upanishads with sexuality, art, sculpture, theology, mythology, philosophy and cosmology. Tantric Buddhism appeared in Tibet in the 6th century AD following the introduction of Vajrayana Buddhism with the appearance of female (Taras), and male (Avaloketsvara) Bodisattvas (Buddhas to be). When Buddhism arrived at Khmer state in the 13th century, the preexisting Hindu gods such as Vishnu, Linga (Shiva), Uma and Bramah fused with the worship of Buddha giving rise to another form of Buddhist Tantrism as we would observe from the bronze and sculpture from this period. As Buddha himself did not sanction personal worship and the early images of Buddhism for veneration were confined to Buddha’s foot marks and stupas.

Gandhara in the present Pakistan is credited with the first representation of the Buddha in human form; the portrayal of Buddha in his human shape, rather than shown as a symbol. As Buddhist art developed and spread outside India, the Gandhara style spread to most eastern regions of the world. The adjacent Swat Valley, the land of romance and beauty, is celebrated as the holy land of Buddhist learning and piety. It is said that the Swat was filled with fourteen hundred imposing and beautiful stupas and monasteries, which housed as many as 6,000 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education. There are now more than 400 Buddhist sites covering and area of 160 Km in Swat valley alone.The earliest discovered statue at Gandhara is that of the seated Buddha from 2nd or 3rd century AD. Other Buddha images from this period too are of Greco-Roman style. They seem to have flourished during the adjacent Kushan reign of Mathura (Uttar Pradesh). Gandharan’s role in the evolution of the Buddha image has been a point of considerable disagreement among scholars. It now seems clear that the schools of Gandhara and Mathura each independently evolved its own characteristic depiction of the Buddha about the 1st century CE. The Gandhara school mostly drew from the traditions of Rome and Greece and represented the Buddha with a youthful Apollo face, dressed in royal garments. The ancient Gandharan artisans in their composition of Buddha’s images and his experiences have transformed the religion into Buddhist Art.

JAINISM & aRT

Jainism one of the oldest religions in the world is traditionally traced through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankaras, Rishabha being the first of them, and Mahavira the last.

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma was founded in the 5th century BC. Followers of Jainism are called “Jains”, a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) and connoting the path of victory in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths through an ethical and spiritual life. Jains trace their history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviors and teachers known as Tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who is believed to have lived millions of years ago, and twenty-fourth being the Mahavira around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the Tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology.

The main religious premises of Jainism are ahimsa (“non-violence”), anekantavada (“many-sidedness”), aparigraha (“non-attachment”) and asceticism. Jain monastics renunciants and devout householders take five main vows known as vratas, outlined in their oldest surviving text, the Acaranga Sutra: ahimsa (“non-violence”), satya (“truth”), asteya (“not stealing”), brahmacharya (“celibacy or chastity”), and aparigraha(“non-attachment”). These principles have impacted Jain culture in many ways, such as leading to a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle that avoids harm to animals and their life cycles. Parasparopagraho Jivanam (“the function of souls is to help one another”) is the motto of Jainism. Namokar Mantra is the most common and basic prayer in Jainism.[5]

Jainism has two major ancient sub-Traditions, Digambaras and Svetambaras; and several smaller sub-traditions that emerged in the 2nd millennium CE. The Digambaras and Svetambaras have different views on ascetic practices, gender and which Jain texts can be considered canonical. Jain mendicants are found in all Jain sub-traditions, with laypersons (śrāvakas) supporting the mendicants’ spiritual pursuits with resources.

SHIVA & PARVATI, PRIMORDIAL POWERS OF GENDER

Shiva and Parvathi are the most portrayed and celebrated male an female couple in Hindu pantheon. Shiva presents the male cosmic power while Parvati (reincarnation of Shakti) constitutes the female cosmic power. Often Shiva takes the form of half Parvati and the other half himself (Ardhanari) symbolising the harmony and synonymity between the two gender-powers.

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

Nandi as a vahana or vehicle of Shiva and Parvati is more a Dravidian Hindu concept whereas the horse as vehicle of the two deities is an Aryan depiction of their superiority. South Indian art and sculpture of Shiva & Parvati include Nandi as their vehicle whereas that of the northern India incorporate the the less traditional vehicle the horse.

 Shiva and Parvati remain the primordial powers of the world in Hinduism demonstrating gender as the basics of human life. The Lingam representing male force, and Yoni, the female power are both the concept of love and procreation taking their roots in Indus culture of the proto-Dravidians or the Pre-Aryans. The power of both the female and male  force is represented in the image of Ardharnishwara, an androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. This concept of unified power of the male (Shiva) and the female (Parvati) takes its origin in the 9th and 10th centuries during the Chola period. One of the earliest images of Ardharnishwara from the 9th century AD was found in Sri Lanka and is displayed at the Colombo Museum demonstrating the Hindu influence on the adjacent island during the reign of the Raja Raja Cholan when Hindu culture reigned supreme in southern India . Incidentally the Hindu images unearthed at Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka constitute strong evidence for the Hindu influence in the island off the tip of south India.

The current Hinduism is a fusion of nature gods of the Aryans and the personified tribal gods of the Dravidians looking at the religion in a broader perspective. The Hinduism of southern India is more representative or mother or female guardian culture with innumerable female deities such as Shakti, Parvati, Meenakshi, Kali, Durga, Valli and scores of others. In the same tone the family aspect Hinduism is reflected in Shiva and Parvati, their son Ganesha, and the couple Vishnu and Lakshmi. While the latter predominate in Vaishnavism, dual Shiva and Parvati iconography is the hall mark of Shaivism, second only to Tandava (dance) of Shiva as Nataraja. The mythologies of these deities have provided the playing field for the artisans through their display of their art and skill in gifting us with Hindu Art and sculpture from the glorious past.

The Hindu iconographies such as Durga slaying Maheshasuramardini, Krishna stealing cheese, Kaliya serpent submitting to Krishna, Shiva courting Parvati, Vishnu holding Lakshmi and the Tandava dance of Shiva are not only awe inspiring for the Hindu devotees, but also an immeasurable pleasure for the eyes and souls for the connoisseurs of Hindu Art: to them the magic of Hindu art itself has become a religion.  

Hindu Art and ReligionExotic and authentic, rare and antique religious figurines and sculptures of Shiva and Parvati from Anton Sebastian Private Collection presented for sale by Antiques International

Buddhism and Buddha Image

Although Buddha preached in the 6th century BC, Buddhism first took a firm root in India only in the 3rd BC when Mauryan king Asoka embraced Buddha’s doctrine after he witnessed human misery as result of his war with Kalinga. Prior to Buddha the predominant religion in South East Asia and neighboring countries was Brahminism or Hinduism. Buddha himself was probably a reactionary to the practice of Vedas by the Brahmins who were ritualistic and sacrificial, in contrast to Buddhism which practiced compassion to man as well as other animals.Tantrism is a fusion of the Vedas, Upanishads with sexuality, art, sculpture, theology, mythology, philosophy and cosmology. Tantric Buddhism appeared in Tibet in the 6th century AD following the introduction of Vajrayana Buddhism with the appearance of female (Taras), and male (Avaloketsvara) Bodisattvas (Buddhas to be). When Buddhism arrived at Khmer state in the 13th century, the preexisting Hindu gods such as Vishnu, Linga (Shiva), Uma and Bramah fused with the worship of Buddha giving rise to another form of Buddhist Tantrism as we would observe from the bronze and sculpture from this period. As Buddha himself did not sanction personal worship the early images of Buddhism for veneration were confined to Buddha’s foot marks and stupas.

Buddha secretly leaving his royal life on his horse with Channa

Gandhara in the present Pakistan is credited with the first representation of the Buddha in human form; the portrayal of Buddha in his human shape, rather than shown as a symbol. As Buddhist art developed and spread outside India, the Gandhara style spread to most eastern regions of the world. The adjacent Swat Valley, the land of romance and beauty, is celebrated as the holy land of Buddhist learning and piety. It is said that the Swat was filled with fourteen hundred imposing and beautiful stupas and monasteries, which housed as many as 6,000 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education. There are now more than 400 Buddhist sites covering and area of 160 Km in Swat valley alone.The earliest discovered statue at Gandhara is that of the seated Buddha from 2nd or 3rd century AD. Other Buddha images from this period too are of Greco-Roman style. They seem to have flourished during the adjacent Kushan reign of Mathura (Uttar Pradesh). Gandharan’s role in the evolution of the Buddha image has been a point of considerable disagreement among scholars. It now seems clear that the schools of Gandhara and Mathura each independently evolved its own characteristic depiction of the Buddha about the 1st century CE. The Gandhara school mostly drew from the traditions of Rome and Greece and represented the Buddha with a youthful Apollo face, dressed in royal garments. The ancient Gandharan artisans in their composition of Buddha’s images and his experiences have transformed the religion into Buddhist Art.

Ancient states of india

The Mahājanapadas (Sanskrit: महाजनपद, lit. ‘great realm’, from maha, “great”, and janapada “foothold of a tribe, country”) were sixteen kingdoms or oligarchicrepublics that existed in ancient India from the sixth to fourth centuries BCE. Two of them were most probably ganatantras (republics) and others had forms of monarchy. Ancient Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya make frequent reference to sixteen great kingdoms and republics which had evolved and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Anga in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and included parts of the trans-Vindhyan region,[ prior to the rise of Buddhism in India.

PUNCH-MARKED COIN, VIDARBHA JANAPADA, SILVER 1/4 VIMSHATIKA, OBV: FOUR SYMBOLS INCLUDING ELEPHANT, 500-400 BC,

HINDUISM, JAINISM and birth of buddhism

Nandi, most venerated zoomorphic deity of Hindus next to Ganesha

Hinduism and Jainism are two of the oldest religions in the world lost in time due to their antiquity. The religious sculptures and art from their past reveal a complex, exotic and mythical aspects of these religions. A thousand gods generating ten thousand mythologies have been inspiration for Hindu Art for over a thousand years. These gods became personal deities in various names and forms all over India thus multiplying the myths. The Hindu Art that we are endowed with today is culmination of the imagination of Hindu devotees and artisans over millennia. The main portrayal of Shiva as Nataraja (Natyam; dance, raja; king) came from the Chola Period (ca 800 – 1100 AD) to become the most iconic sculpture in religious art. In more remote parts of India Shiva was a powerful tribal God offering protection to the Hindus with names such as Khadoban, Bhairava, Rudra and hundred more. Amongst the female Hindu deities Durga for protection from evil, Parvati for compassion, Sarasvati for prosperity and wealth are more popular. The mesogenic representation of Shiva and Parvati as one (Ardhanarishwara) is the ultimate not only in art but also in philosophy. Hindu Art, a heritage from Hindu faith has now become an art, sans religious borders across the world.

Jainism one of the oldest religions in the world is traditionally traced through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankaras, Rishabha being the first of them, and Mahavira the last.

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma was founded in the 5th century BC. Followers of Jainism are called “Jains”, a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) and connoting the path of victory in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths through an ethical and spiritual life. Jains trace their history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviors and teachers known as Tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who is believed to have lived millions of years ago, and twenty-fourth being the Mahavira around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the Tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology.

The main religious premises of Jainism are ahimsa (“non-violence”), anekantavada (“many-sidedness”), aparigraha (“non-attachment”) and asceticism. Jain monastics renunciants and devout householders take five main vows known as vratas, outlined in their oldest surviving text, the Acaranga Sutra: ahimsa (“non-violence”), satya (“truth”), asteya (“not stealing”), brahmacharya (“celibacy or chastity”), and aparigraha(“non-attachment”). These principles have impacted Jain culture in many ways, such as leading to a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle that avoids harm to animals and their life cycles. Parasparopagraho Jivanam (“the function of souls is to help one another”) is the motto of Jainism. Namokar Mantra is the most common and basic prayer in Jainism.[5]

Jainism has two major ancient sub traditions, Digambaras and Svetambaras; and several smaller sub-traditions that emerged in the 2nd millennium CE. The Digambaras and Svetambaras have different views on ascetic practices, gender and which Jain texts can be considered canonical. Jain mendicants are found in all Jain sub-traditions, with laypersons (śrāvakas) supporting the mendicants’ spiritual pursuits with resources.

First bodily depiction of Budda on a Kushan Coin

As the preachers of ancient Hindu scripts who held title to the unwritten Vedas or incantations became king makers propagating the ritual of animal sacrifices and indulgences, a spiritual rebellion was born. Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as “The Buddha,” was born into a wealthy family as a prince in present-day Nepal in 5th century BC. Gautama was later moved by suffering in the world and then existing practice of Brahmins of the day decided to give up his lavish lifestyle and endure poverty, proposing happiness within one’s own mind.

However of all the ancient religions Jainism has best stayed close it’s roots of spiritual philosophy while Buddhism spread across the world mainly due to the efforts of King Asoka in 3rd century BC. Much later in the 4th to 8th century the Khmer kings being originally Hindus embraced Buddhism by a process of inclusion into Hinduism while still honoring the Hindu deities.

Hindu Art & Religion