Art And Culture

NCERT Notes: Buddhist And Jain Architecture In India: Facts and Details l


Buddhism and Jainism introduced the art of rock-cut caves such as the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Other than these well-known examples, It also produced other works of art that are still famous world over.

This article will highlight some of them by NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC civil services exam preparation. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state public services exams and so on.

Facts about Buddhist Architecture in India

Brief facts about Buddhist architecture are highlighted below:

Buddhist architecture

  • Along with Hindu art and architecture, Buddhist temple building and artwork also went on along with other religions.
  • Ellora has Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monuments.
  • Bodh Gaya (or Bodhgaya)
    • Most important Buddhist site because Prince Siddhartha achieved enlightenment here to become Gautama Buddha.
    • The Bodhi Tree is important.
    • The Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya:
      • The first shrine situated at the base of the Bodhi tree was probably built by Emperor Ashoka.
      • The vedika around the shrine is post-Mauryan built during 100 BC.
      • Many sculptures in the niches in the temple belong to the Pala Period (8th century CE).
      • The temple itself was constructed during the colonial period.
      • It is a 7th-century design. It is neither nagara or Dravida in style.
  • Nalanda University
    • It was a monastic university.
    • It is a Mahavihara since it is a complex of many monasteries.
    • Only a small portion of the place has been studied as most of it lies buried under present civilisation and impossible to excavate.
    • The records of the Chinese traveller Xuan Zang (Hsuan-Tsang) gives a huge amount of information about Nalanda.
    • As per the records, the foundation of the learning centre was laid down by Kumaragupta I, the Gupta king in the 5th century CE. Later kings added to the original centre.
    • Evidence for all three Buddhist doctrines of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana taught here.
    • Monks came from China, Tibet and Central Asia in the north; and from Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and other countries in Southeast Asia.
    • Nalanda was a centre for art production and Buddhist sculptures and manuscripts were taken from here by monks to their countries. So, art in Nalanda had a profound impact on art in all the Buddhist countries.
    • The Nalanda School of sculpture was influenced by Buddhist Gupta art of Sarnath, the local Bihar tradition and Central India. This synthesis emerged during the 9th century.
    • Features of Nalanda School of sculpture:
      • Sculptures have an ordered appearance with little effect of crowding.
      • They are depicted in three-dimensional forms.
      • Delicate ornamentations.
      • Back slabs of the sculptures are detailed.
      • Nalanda bronzes: dating from the 7th and 8th centuries to the 12th century; outnumber the metal images from entire eastern India.
      • Initially depict Mahayana Buddhist deities like standing Buddhas, bodhisattvas like Manjusri Kumara, Naga-Nagarjuna and Avalokiteshvara seated on a lotus.
      • In the late 11th and 12th centuries, Nalanda became an important tantric centre. Then, Vajrayana deities dominated such Vajrasharada (a form of Saraswati), Avalokiteshvara, Khasarpana, etc.
      • Many Brahmanical images have also been found at Nalanda. Many such images are still worshipped at nearby villages.
  • Buddhist sites: Sirpur in Chhattisgarh (550 – 800 CE); Lalitagiri, Vajragiri and Ratnagiri in Odisha.
  • Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu was also a Buddhist centre until the Chola Period. A reason could be that it was a port-town and there were trade activities with Sri Lanka which was and continues to be predominantly Buddhist.

Jain Architecture in India

Brief facts about Jain architecture with notable examples are highlighted below:

Jain architecture

    • Jain temples are found all over India except in the hills.
    • Oldest Jain pilgrimage sites are in Bihar.
    • In the Deccan: Ellora and Aihole.
    • In central India: Khajuraho, Deogarh, Chanderi and Gwalior.
    • Karnataka has many Jain shrines.
      • Statue of Gomateshwara: Granite statue of Lord Bahubali commissioned by Camundaraya, the prime minister of the Ganga kings; located at Shravanabelagola; 18m or 57 feet high; world’s tallest monolithic free-standing structure.
    • Gujarat and Rajasthan have a rich Jain heritage continuing to this day.
    • Jain bronze images found from Akola (near Baroda) belong to the late 5th – late 7th century CE; made using the lost-wax process; the images have been inlaid with silver and copper for embellishments.
    • Jain bronze sculptures are also found from Chausa (Bihar), Hansi (Haryana) and many places in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
    • Jain Temples at Mount Abu, Rajasthan
      • Constructed by Vimal Shah.
      • Also called Dilwara temples. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries.
      • Every ceiling has unique patterns. Richly sculptured on white marble. The exteriors are simple but the interiors are finely carved and exquisitely decorated

Temple Architecture in India-Part IV (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

In case you have missed out on our previous articles on Temple Architecture and Sculptures of India, click on the links given in the table below

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