Buddhist Stupas in South Asia

Item Code: IDL187
Author: Jason HawkesAkira Shimada
Publisher: Oxford
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9780195698862
Pages: 360 (39 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.7"
Weight 612 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket

Buddhist Stupas found throughout the Indian subcontinent are significant attractions in the pilgrimage, tourist, attractions in the pilgrimage, tourist, and cultural Landscape of south Asia. Once symbols of the religious and cultural prominence of Buddhism Stupas subsequently also became a part of local or Hindu worship patterns.

Thematically organized this volume present an engaging yet detailed account of Stupas. it examines their discovery in colonial India by travellers archaelogists, Indologists and ethnographers. Specific case studies on sanchi, Bharhut and Amararvati are supplemented by wider discussions on their religious symbolism, urban context, temporal and socio-economic basis commercial ethos, and cultural and literary production.

Employing interdisciplinary approaches integrating archaeological architectural art-historical and historical analyses Buddhist Stupas in south Asia utilizes a wide range of source material. This volume is richly illustrated with photographs of panels railings and pillars as well as ground plans and maps that provide stimulating visual substantiation.

In the introduction, Jason Hawkes and Akira Shimada highlight the multiple perspectives and also provide a historical overview for the study of Buddhist Stupas. this book will be indispensable for scholars researchers and students of history archaeology religion and epigraphy particularly those interested in the growth and development of Buddhism.

Jason Hawkes is finds Supervisor at the department of archaeology, university of Cambridge.

Akira Shimada is assistant professor at the department of history state university of New York, New Paltz


Buddhist Stupas the often massive hemispherical mounds built for the veneration of the Buddha and his disciples were the most magnificent religious monument that appeared in the Indian subcontinent during the early historic period. The origins of the Stupas are not entirely clear but in Buddhist contexts they would seem to have appeared at some point around 400-300 BCE. Their construction become prevalent throughout South Asia between c. 200 BCE 300 CE and soon spread to other parts of Asia. Although the Indian Buddhist tradition does not survive today a considerable number of early Stupas are still visible in many places and their remains testify to the nature and widespread presence of Buddhism in early India.

As is widely known Buddhist Stupas in India were largely abandoned after the demise of Buddhist monastic practice and were re-discovered by European colonial officials in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The subsequent study of these monuments and their associated remains has been central to many aspects of the study of south Asia’s ancient past providing as they do some of the earliest examples of religious architecture stone sculpture and inscriptions in south Asia. Despite this however our understanding of this important class of monument and the ancient past to which they belonged remains seriously limited. In many respects this is due to the ways they have been studied. At the time of their re-discovery knowledge of the ancient Buddhism to which these monuments pertained was only hazy, and there was neither the archaeological expertise nor academic knowledge to facilitate their effective study. Over the course of the next two centuries the study of Buddhist Stupas has been defined by the evolution and development of various academic disciplines including archaeology art history, history and religious studies. The development of these disciplines has defined the ways that Stupas are studied and still influences many of our current views of the monuments.

The study of Stupas is closely connected to the evolution of the European understanding of Buddhist itself. As early as the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE, fragmentary accounts of Buddhism in Asia began to reach Europe through the records and personal accounts of travellers and explores. One example is a fairly detailed summary of the life of the Buddha that was recorded by Marco Polo the celebrated Venetian traveler who stayed in China between 1275 and 1291 CE (Benedetto tarns, 1994: 319-20) from the sixteenth century, European encounters with contemporary Buddhist worship throughout Asia greatly increased with the direct contacts established by merchants and missionaries. Over the next two centuries a considerable amount of ethnographic material was written about the beliefs and practices of Buddhism in various Asian context.

These various (and invariably unsystematic) encounters with Buddhist practices however did not immediately results in the identification of the existence of Buddhism in ancient India. At first glance this would seem a bit odd, especially when we consider that early European travellers has also visited a number of ancient Buddhist sites in India. The rock-cut caves at Kanheri for example, received much attention (Mitter, 1977: 34-40; Chakrabarti, 1988: 3-11). At the same time however these early travellers seem to have had little idea as to the nature of these monuments. One of the main reason for this may have been that in India, unlike other countries in Asia, Buddhism was no larger visible as a living religion. Buddhism in India has largely disappeared before the Islamic conquest of the lower Gangetic valley in the early thirteenth century. By the eighteenth century many of the Buddhist monuments were either dilapidated or has been turned into shrines devoted to Hindu Brahmins, the main informants of Indian culture for the Europeans understood any form of religious practice associated with Buddha as a part of Buddha as a part of Hindu worship. It would therefore have been difficult to recognize the monuments as the remains of the ancient Buddhist religion as distinct form contemporary Vaisnavite practice. Moreover practices in different countries throughout Asia without having a comprehensive understanding of Buddhism in each part of Asia the Buddhist monasteries and of the same religion let alone connected to the dilapidated ruins encountered in a largely Hindu India.

Around the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries however this situation began to change. During this time coinciding with an increasing colonial interest in India’s ancient past (through which contemporary Indian culture could be better understood and thus more effectively ruled), the reconstruction of the religious of ancient India become available of ancient India become a major academic issue. Central to this endeavour was the study of the ancient texts in Sanskrit and to a lesser extent Pali, which started to become available for European scholars. In many respects and as is widely recongnized the primary attached to the study of these texts was rooted in the influence of the European classical tradition for which written texts were the established and indeed the only objects of study in scholarly approaches to ancient history religion and philosophy.

Textual studies of ancient Indian religious led to a significant development in the understanding of Buddhism. Combined with various ethnographic accounts of the beliefs of Futo, Hotake, Bodo, Booddhu or Bauddha observed in the same larger part of Asia, studies of the ancient texts revealed that these seemingly diverse styles of worship were in fact manifestations of the same religion that had its origins in ancient India (almond 1988; 10-11) based on this larger historical canvas, Eugene Burnouf wrote the first comprehensive study of ancient Houghton Hodgson in Kathmandu, Nepal (Burnouf, 1844). Through the gradual accumulation of textual knowledge, western scholars were able to sketch to broad historical framework of Buddhism and in doing authorized the study of the texts as a means of enquiry into ancient India Buddhism and the history of the period to which it belonged as a serious academic pursuit (almond 1988:25) this discovery of Buddhism also enabled the identification of the ancient discovery of Buddhism in India which has not always been so clearly remains of Buddhism in India which had not always been so clearly differentiated from Brahmanical or Jain monuments (Erskine 1823: 494-537).

It was in precisely this context that the remains of Buddhist Stupas were first encountered. The first recorded discovery and study of a Buddhist stupa was in 1798 when Colin Mackenzie found the remains of the Amaraati stupa and made a brief survey of the site (Mackenzie 1807). Shortly thereafter in 1800, a local doctor excavted the stupa at Vaisali (Stephenson 1835: 1301). The Stupas at sanchi were discovered by a British officer named General Taylor in 1806 and subsequently explored by captain Edward fell in 1817(Fell 1834: 490-4; Burgees, 1902; 29-450. in the northwest, Ranjit Singh excavated the stupa at Manikyala in 1830 (Prinsep 1834; 315-20), and throughout the 1830s, Alexander Burnes and Charles masson opened a large number of stupas throughout the Gandharan region.

It should be noted however that these explorations of stupa monments were in no sense professional archaeological surveys as we have come to understand them today. At best they may be described as antiquarian endeavours, at worst they were the result of blatant treasure hunting. Because the early surveyors of the stupas were largely government officals or else private individuals with an amateur interest in old ruins their understanding of what was being surveyed of excavated varied considerably of what was being surveyed at Amaravati (1816-17), for example were carried out in their to obtain sculptures for the embellishment of another monument that had been built by a local British officer elsewhere (Howes, 2002: 59-65). Mackenzie did not fully understand the nature of the Amaravati stupa, but knew enough to surmise that it was used for religious worship by a different sect from the Hindus (Machenzie, 1823: 469). Similarly while fell was able to note the presence of Buddha images at the Sanchi Stupas in 1819, he also misidentified many of the Buddhist figures as Jain Jinas and Hindu deities (Fell, 1834: 490-4) Burnes and Masson even assumed the stupas they excavated to be the royal tombs of Greek kings due to the large number of Greek coins and other precious objects that they also found (Burnes, 1833, 310; Gerard, 1834: 321). In many cases the casual style of the excavations of these monuments resulted in the inadvertent yet serious destruction of the stupa is perhaps the best known example of the poor and unprofessional nature of the early surveys of Buddhist stupas (cf. Singh 2001; Howes 2002; shimada, 2006). As a result of such practices many of the objects yielded by stupa monuments were permanently separated from their original archarological context becoming mere antiquities to be exhibited in museums.

The Emergence of Academic Disciplines :

The Mid- Nineteenth-Early Twentieth Centuries

From around the Mid-nineteenth century however this unsophisticated approach to the study of Buddhist stupas began to change, as they increasingly that laid the foundation for this change. First throughout the Mid-Nineteenth century the study of ancient Buddhism become a growing colonial and Indological concern. As has been well documented elsewhere through the study of Buddhism increasingly defined in opposition to the Hindu practice encountered in the present day colonial rule was further legitimized (cf. Chakrabarti 1988, 1999; almond, 1988; Leoshko, 2003). The study of ancient Buddhism was thus seen as an important endeavour. Second between 1834and 1837, James Prinsep an Assay-master of the east India Company had deciphered the Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts which has been found on an increasing number of coins and inscriptions from Buddhism sites throughout the Indian subcontinent. This discovery paved the way for the rapid translation of a vast amount of numismatic and epigraphic material which in turn facilitated the first chronological paved the way for the rapid translation of a vast amount of numismatic and epigraphic material, which in turn facilitated the first chronological understanding of many of the early Buddhist sites.

It was in this contexts that Alexander Cunningham invigorated the archaeological examination of Buddhism stupas and in doing so pushed them to the forefront of academic study for the first time.

Cunningham’s main focus was fixating the locations of the main ancient sites by following (primarily) the accounts of the journeys of two Buddhist pilgrims in India-Faxian (Fa-Hien) and Xuanzang (Hiuen-Tsang)which has recently been translated into French and had been published earlier in the 1830s. Of primary interest to Cunningham (informed as he was by the main scholastic focus on ancient Buddhism) were the ancient Buddhist sites and as such he explored a number of stupa sites. One of the earliest of these was his exploration in 1851a). after the foundation of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1861, this was followed by a number of others –most notable among which was the discovery and excavation of the Buddhist stupa site of Bharhut in 1873-76 (cf. Cunningham 1879a, 1879b). under the direction reflected in the published report of the work at sanchi (Chunningham, 1854a, which marks a significant departure from earlier writings on Buddhist stupas including as it did reasonably remains and their associated carvings as well as extensive written on Buddhist stupas including as it did reasonably detailed site plans, descriptions and illustrations of architectural remains detailed and their associated carvings as well as extensive written account of the excavation. In this work much of the stupa material was understood with reference to the written sources. The stupas for instance were dated and the relics identified with reference to written sources. The stupas for instance were dated and the relics identified with reference to recent translations of the Sri Lankan Buddhist chrinuicles, Dipavamsa and mahavamsa. Concrete archaeological data was in turn then used to verify textual accounts of ancients Buddhist history.

Cunningham’s work was of profound important to the establishment of archaeology as a valid pursuit in general at the forefront which was the study of Buddhist stupas. a significant number of stupas continued to be explored and excavated after Cunningham’s retirement in 1885. Importantly all of these were carried out from within the institutional framework provided by the ASI meaning that a greater degree of professionalism and more systematic methods of survey and excavation during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included amarvati which was repeatedly excavated in 1882-9, and 1905-6 (Burgess, 1882, 1887; Rea, 1909, 1912), Bhattiprolu in 1892 (Rea 1892) Mitpur khas in 1990-10 (Cousens, 1914), Sanchi in 1912-19 (Marshall, 1940) and many others in Gandhara such as Thakht-I Bahi in 1907-8, and 1911-12(Spooner 1914; Hargreaves, 1914a) Sahri-bahlol in 1909-10 (Spooner 1914; Strin 1915) and Shaji-ki Dheri in 19078 (Hargreaves, 1914b). the institutional framework governing the archaeological examination of Buddhist stupas also brought with it an effective means of disseminating research. The results of the explorations and excavations were published in the various Annual Reports of the Archarological survey of India. These, which had originally begun with Cunningham’s annual reports of his survey continued with the Annual report of the Archeological survey of India New Imperial Series (1904-) and the Memoirs of the Archeological Survey of India (1904-). Though this system of government publication (which survives even today), archarological work and systematized and authorized for the first time.

The material that resulted from the discovery and excavation of these sites soon became firmly imprinted on many different aspects of the study ancient India. Coins found in association with stupas for examples continued to be relied upon by the immediate successors of Prisep (after untimely death in the 1840). In addition to Cunningham himself (whose additional contributions to the fields of numismatics and epigraphy should not be underrated), these scholars such as Edward James Rapson and John Allen. For these scholars the study of this material was important in order to identify the rules who issued the coins and to fix their chronology in support of the historical aim of the establishment of the political history of India. Similarly the large number of inscriptions found at stupa sites across India soon came to occury a central place in the growing field of epigraphy. On the one hand the texts of these inscriptions were studied by scholars such as John Fleet, Eugen Hultzch, Heinrich Luders, and Sten konow in the hopes that they would provide important information on the ancient dynastic history of India in general and Buddhist stupas in particular. At the same time the epigraphic material form Buddhist stupas was also incorporated into the emergent field of palaeography by scholars such as George Buhler, for whom they provided evidence of some of the earliest scripts in India. The growth and increasing specialization of this field is reflected by the establishment of two main publication series, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum (1877) and Epipgraphia indica (1888) which dealt exclusively with epigraphic material.

The remains of Buddhist also assumed a prominent position in the merging studies of art and architecture. Important to all such studies were the sculptural scenes that adorned the architectural remains of Buddhist stupas which were defined according to their iconographic identification. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries we can identify two main thrusts in this research. On the one hand there was a large tradition of scholarship that viewed the main goal of studying carved architectural and sculptural remains to determine a chronology of stylistic analysis of stupa art and architecture was provided some of the earliest stylistic analysis of stupa art and architecture was provided by James Fergusson who dated the Amaravati sculptures by comparison with sculptures at Kanheri and Nasik (Fergusson 1873). This was then followed by a number of other surveys of Buddhist stupas. In this regard one can mention the works of Albert Grunwedel (1893), Vincent Smith (1911), Alfred Foucher(1905-51, 1917), William Cohn (1926), John Marshall (1922)and Kenneth Codrington (1926). Other scholars approached the architectural and sculptural remain of Buddhist stupas in the light of psychology and meaning of art as expressed in the philosophical and aesthetic traditions that gave birth to them. The works of Edward B. Havell (1908, 1911, 1913, 1920)and the early writings of Ananda Kentish Coomararswamy (1908, 1909), held that as Indian art was intimately bound up with the social and religious life of the people, it was only through an understanding of Indian thought and the Indian sculpture could be arrived at (Havell, 1908), for these works the sculptures that adorned many of the early Buddhist stupas such as Bharhut and Sanchi, were lauded as some of the earliest examples of the Indian art tradition. Ultimately these two approaches to the study of art architecture were synthesized in the 1920s by Coomaraswamy (1927) and Ludwig Bachhofer (1920) both of whom produced comprehensive treatments of the architectural and sculptural of a remains of a number of stupas and tighter helped define the field of the history of India art as we know it today.

In addition the remain of Buddhist stupas were also relied upon by a number of textual studies texts-was further elaborated throughout the later nineteenth century in the basis of an increasing number of available Sanskrit and especially, Pali texts. A central concern for such studies was the reconstruction of what was perceived as the authentic Buddhism as it existed during the time of Buddha and his direct disciples. This was to be differentiated form the later forms of Buddhist worship which were deemed corruptions of an originally philosophically pure religion. Fixing the chronology of the various Buddhist texts was integral to this project. Buddhist stupa remains were instantly seized upon in this endeavour, because the sculptures at a number of stupas depicted narrative scenes that appeared to correspond with episodes visual evidence of the particular texts. Sculptures at a number of stupas depicted narrative scenes that appeared to correspond with episodes found in particular texts. Sculptural representations provided visual evidence of the popularity of certain stories at the time the sculptures were carved and thus proof of the existence of the corresponding texts (S. Oldenburg 1893). Scholars such as Ivan P. Minayeff (1894), Sergey F. Oldenbuurg (1893, 1895, 1897), and Thomas W. Rhys-Davids (1903) devoted much attention to the identification of the sculptural scenes.

In a similar way certain sculptures from Buddhist stupas were also used by textual historians to provide visual proof of wider social and economic practices identified in the texts (cf. Fick, 1897, 1920; C. Rhys-Davids, 1901). Because for instance various narrative episodes appeared to represent certain social hierarchies or commodities of production and trade they proved the historical existence of those things. That the sculptures and to lesser degree inscriptions were recognized as production and trade they proved the historical realities very quickly become an important aspect of the study of the carved remains and is reflected in the works of early historians as well as those concerned with the study of art and architecture (cf. smith 1911; Rapson 1922; C Rhys-Davids 1922, Thomas, 1922). As mentioned above such work aided by the contemporary developments in epigraphy.


List of Figures viii
Approaches to the study of Buddhist Stupas xiii
An Introduction
Jason Hawkes and Akira shimada
Section I
The Discovery of Buddhist Stupas in Colonial India
1The Archaeology of Stupas: Constructing Buddhist Identity in the Colonial Period3
2The Colonial History of Sculptures from the Amaravati Stupa 20
Jennifer Howes
Section II
The Stupa And Its Religious Meanings
3Relics of the Buddha; Body Essence taxt Michael Willis 41
4The Power of proximity Creating and venerating shrines in Indian Buddhist Narratives Andy Rotman 51
5Nature as Utopian Space o the Eealy Stupas of India Robert L. Brown 63
Section III
The Stupa in Context
6Narrative Sequences in the Buddhist Reliefs from Gandhara83
7shedding skins: Naga Imagery and layers of meaning in south Asian Buddhist Context Robert DeCaroli94
8Stupas Monasteries and Relics in the Landscape: Typological Spatial and Temporal Patterns in the sanchi Area 114
9The wider Archarological Context of the Buddhist Stupa site of Bharhut Jason Hawkes146
Section IV
Wider Social Political And economic dimensions
10Buddhist Ideology and the commercial Ethos in Kusana India Xinru Liu117
11The Urban Context of early Buddhist Monument in south Asia James Heitzman 192
12Amaravati and Dhanyakataka; Topology of Monastic spaces in ancient Indian Cities Akira Shimada 216
13Stupa, Story and Empire: Constructions of the Buddha Biography in Early Post-Asokan India Jonathan S. Walters 235
Section V
The Revival of a Tradition
14Remembering the Amaravati Stupa: The Revival of a Ruin Catherine Becker267
15What Makes a Stupa Quotations, Fragments, and the Reinvention of Buddhist Stupas in Contemporary India Jinah Kim
Bibliography 310
List of Contributions 347
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