[Solved] Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives successfully expounds Buddhist ideals, Elucidate
In Buddhism, the earliest stupas contained portions of the Buddha’s ashes, and as a result, the stupa
began to be associated with the body of the Buddha.
• Buddha had asked pupils to place the relics “where four roads meet”. This is probably to indicate
the openness and universality of the Buddhist teaching, which invites all to come and try its path,
and also to radiate loving-kindness to beings in all four directions.
• Stupas contain intricate lotus designs which symbolises the potential for spiritual growth latent in
all beings, and the complete non-attachment of the enlightened mind, which stands beyond all
• Stupa is an image of the creation of the universe (the archetype of regeneration), with the stupa
axis founded on the waters and rising through the earth, atmosphere and heavens so as to unite
them and form a communicating link between them.
• The shape of the stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and sitting in meditation posture on a lion
• While stupas have changed in form over the years, their function remains essentially unchanged.
Stupas remind the Buddhist practitioner of the Buddha and his teachings almost 2,500 years after
• The most elaborate stupa in Java contained Buddha images symbolizing Arûpajhâna, the sphere of
formlessness. The main stupa itself is empty, symbolizing complete perfection of enlightenment.
• Thus the art and architecture associated with Buddhism symbolized the Buddhist ideals.
After the death of the Buddha, Stupas were raised in his honor. The relics of the Buddha were distributed to different kingdoms and Stupas were erected over them. The Buddhist Stupa transcends its predecessor, the burial mound, by shifting the emphasis from a particular relic to a higher transcendental actuality as realized by the Buddha, i.e. the Buddha’s enlightenment.
- The Jataka stories were depicted on the torans of Stupas. The Jataka stories are a method of teaching Buddhists the lessons of karma, samsara and dharma. The overall structure of the Jataka Tales is about the cycle of samsara that the Buddha had to experience before reaching enlightenment.
- The main structure of the Great Stupa consisted of a flattened hemispherical dome, called an anda, placed atop a cylindrical base. Anda, literally an egg, alluded not only to the shape, but to its deeper significance as a symbol of latent creative power.
- The anda was also intended as an architectural replica of the infinite dome of heaven, representing the cycle of death and rebirth.
- The harmika, located at the summit of the anda, symbolized the zenith beyond life and death (nirvana). Its resemblance to a sacrificial altar was of particular significance for the attainment of nirvana required the sacrifice of the self and the world (what was below needed to be sacrificed to reach the top).
- The parasol was always a distinguishing feature that implied royalty and dignity; it symbolized the sacred Tree of Life or enlightenment.
- The three elements of the chattra at Sanchi represented the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (the Law), and the Sangha (the community of monks).
- Vedikas were repeated around the stupa and on the terrace on which the anda rested (medhi level). They served to demarcate the boundary of the sacred precinct with the secular world.
Buddhist philosophy depicted on stupas
Anda is the spherical dome that encloses the mortal remains of Buddhist monks preserved for worship by followers. The anda represents the world mountain, which rises through the center of the Buddhist universe.
The yasti, which rises through the top of the anda, symbolizes the axis mundi, the point at the center of the universe that connects heaven and Earth.
The yasti is surrounded by a small fence called the harmika. In Buddhist tradition, fences are used to gate off sacred areas.
The toranas provide the main instructional areas, because they are covered with carvings of religious scenes and tales of the Buddha./Buddhist Stupa/
The three stone disks on the yasti, called chatras for short, represent the three jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), the Dharma (the Law) and the Sangha (the monastic community). They’re sometimes also called the Teacher, the Teaching and the Taught.
Thus, stupas can be considered as teachings of Buddha depicted in structural form, which not only acts as religious place of worship but helps in propagating message of Buddhism.
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