Bodhgaya is one of the four important relious sites ( Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kusinagar) of Pilgrimage for the Buddhists. Of the four sites connected with the life of Buddha, Bodhgaya occupies a place of pre-eminence for it was here that Sakyamuni Gautama attained enlightenment and became ‘Buddha’ – the awakened one. The event of Buddha’s enlightenment at Bodhgaya inspired artistic creative urge among the artist for generations throughout the eastern world and to create art, architecture, frescoes as also literary compositions of unsurpassed quality and rich variety.
An archaeological site museum was established here in the year 9156 to house the antiquarian wealth that were found and excavated from around the vicinity of the temple complex. The museum has a collection of Buddhist sculptures ranging from Ist century BCE to 11th century CE. The book has been divided into two major sections; the introductory section deals with the geography of the region and its significance, the antiquity of the sites, the temples and architectural remains, the antiquities and their artistic merits in Indian context. The next part of the book includes an illustrated descriptive catalogue of all the art objects (Acc. No. 1-1575) belonging to the site museum of the Archaeological Survey of India.
The present volume is for the first time provides a panorama of historical evolution of Indian Art at Bodhgaya and also brings together all the art objects preserved in the archaeological site museum in the form of a comprehensive illustrated catalogue. Hope, the scholars, researchers as well as general readers will find the volume a useful one.
Dr. S.S. Biswas, former Directior General of the National Museum, New Delhi and also Vice-Chancellor of the National Museum Institute of History of Art Conservation and Museology, is a well known scholar in the studies of Art, Archaeology, Conservation, Museology and Heritage preservation. He held the position of the Superintending Archaeologist (Head, Museums Branch) and was responsible for organizing re-organising 21 sites museums all over the country. He was the Director of Indian Museum, Kolkata and concurrently held the position of the Curator/Secretary of the Victoria Memorial Museum, Kolkata. He was the Chairman of the Indian National Committee for the International Council of Museums (INC-ICOM), ICOM-Asia-Pacific Organisation (ASPAC), Vice-President of ICOMOS General Assembly and also President of ICOMOS-INDIA for many years.
Dr. Biswas is presently the Advisor (Museums) Central Board of Excise and Customs, Ministery of Finance, Govt, of India, New Delhi and Chairman, Evalution Committee, Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. He is the Academic Director of the Archaeological Society o India, New Delhi. He is the author of number of books on Art and Heritage such as Terracotta Art of Bengal, Terracotta Temples of Bengal, Protecting the Cultural Heritage – National Legislation and International Conventins, Bishnupur a guide book in English, Bengali and Hindi. Sibsagar, a guide book in English and Assamese, both are published by the Archaeological Survey of India. There are several volumes edited by him such as, Rupanjali, Dineshchandrica: Essence of Art and Culture, Rock Art, Conservation of Brick Architecture: Sree Govinda Jee Temple – A Case Study, etc. He has more than hundred scholarly articles published in reputed journals.
Bodhgaya is a place I will always regard with reverence. As a young monk studying Buddhism in Tibet, I longed to make a pilgrimage there. Like every Tibetan, I regarded India as a holy land, the source of the Buddhist culture and wisdom brought to Tibet centuries ago by Indian saints and seers. And w en I thought of Bodhgaya, I thought of the Buddha's attainment of perfect enlightenment.
I was first able to fulfill my dream and make a visit there in 1956, when I was invited to India to participate in celebrations of the 2500 Buddha Jayanti. Finally gazing at the seat of enlightenment, beneath the Bodhi Tree, I was profoundly moved. I recalled Shakyamuni Buddha's great accomplishment in this place and reflected on his overwhelming kindness to all sentient beings. Not only had he achieved perfection himself, but he also revealed that each of us has the potential to do the same. What's more, it seemed to me that the teachings of the Buddha could lead not only to inner peace in the lives of individuals, but also to peace between nations.
I am delighted to know that Dr S.S. Biswas has prepared this book about the art of Bodhgaya, focusing particularly on the statuary displayed in the Archaeological Site Museum there. This is perhaps the first such catalogue to be prepared and I am sure it will be appreciated by scholars and interested pilgrims alike. I congratulate Dr Biswas for his efforts.
Bodhgaya (District Gaya, Bihar) the holiest of the holy places of Buddhism in India, has attracted global attention as a centre of pilgrimage. Stray publications focusing on the different aspects of the site like religion, art, architecture, conservation, tourism etc are readily available. However, no attempt has yet been made to bring these different aspects in one single volume. Moreover, there is no ambiguity that all these varied aspects are closely inter-linked with each other. It is essentially to fill this void that the present endeavour is being undertaken to provide a comprehensive volume encompassing the different aspects of this significant place. Bodhgaya's claim to a position of pre-eminence as a world heritage centre is undisputable as it is here that approximately two and a half millennium ago one of the most important men in history attained supreme wisdom and showed mankind a path leading to spiritual freedom from worldly sufferings.
Bodhgaya is one of the four important religious sites (Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kusinagar) of pilgrimage for the Buddhists. Of the four sites connected with the life of Buddha, Bodhgaya occupies a place of pre-eminence for it was here that Sakyamuni Gautama attained enlightenment and became 'Buddha' - the awakened one. According to Buddhist literature after renouncing his princely abode Siddhartha travelled in search of 'Truth'. He wandered for six years and subjected himself to great austerities. He was determined to attain the supreme peace by practicing self - mortification. At last he arrived in the village of Uruvela and after eating 'payasam'from a village girl Sujata, Gautama sat in meditation under a pipal tree (Ficusreligiosa). He plunged himself into deep meditation (Samadhi). He was tempted by Mara in many ways, but withstood all temptations. He did not yield to Mara's allurements and temptations and ultimately came out victorious with supreme enlightenment. He became a savior, deliverer and redeemer - the Buddha. It was after this that the tree under which he attained the enlightenment came to be known as Bodhi tree, the day of Buddha's enlightenment came to be known as Buddhapurnima [full moon day of Biasakh (April- May)] and the place as Sambodhi. Sambodhi later on became Mahabodhi and subsequently Buddha - Gaya to Bodhgaya. The name Bodhgaya did not come into use until the 18th century. The history of Bodhgaya is documented in many inscriptions and pilgrimage accounts. Foremost among these are the accounts of the Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hien in the 5th Century CE and Hiuen - Tsang in the 7th Century CE. The place remains at the heart of Buddhism for centuries.
The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka visited Bodhgaya around 250 BCE to commemorate the place Buddha's enlightenment by providing stone railing and erecting commemorative pillar with an elephant (now missing) capital. He also built the diamond throne (the Vajransana), to mark the exact spot of the Buddha's enlightenment. Stone railing was put up around the perimeter in the 1st century BCE/ CE, the originals are now displayed in the archaeological site museum. Some historians believe that the temple was constructed or renovated during the Kushana period. The present temple, however, dates from 5th - 6th century CE. Mahabodhi Temple is constructed of brick and is one of the oldest brick structures to have survived in eastern India. The temple was refurbished in the Pala - Sena period (750- 1200 CE), but after that is was deserted and fell into ruin. Mahabodhi Temple was heavily restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham in the second half of the 19th century and finally restored to its present form by the Buddhist from Burma in 1882. Cunningham along with Beglar and Dr. Rajendralal Mitra painstakingly excavated the site in 1883 and restored it to its pristine glory.
The event of Buddha's enlightenment at Bodhgaya inspired artistic creative urge among the artists for generations throughout the eastern world to create art, architecture, frescoes as also literary compositions of unsurpassed quality and rich variety. An archaeological site museum was established here in the year 1956 to house the antiquarian wealth that were found and excavated from around the vicinity of the temple complex. The museum has a collection of Buddhist and Brahmanical sculptures ranging from 1st century BCE to 11th century CE. One can also see the collection of the relics of the old temple and the remains of railings of the Temple datable from 2nd -1st century BCE. Of the notable sculptures housed in the museum mention may be made of Yaks hi figures, crowned Buddha in Bhumisparsamudra. Maiterya images of Buddha in different postures, standing image of Manjusri, terracotta plaque depicting Buddha in Bbumisparsamudra, railing pillars depicting Surya and Jataka stories etc. The Panel shows Sahasra- Buddha, Sapta-matrika, Dikpalas, Dasavatara of Vishnu, bronze sculptures of the Pala period.
In 2002, UNESCO declared the Mahabodhi Temple a World Heritage Site and recommended "the Indian authorities to develop and overall management plan to protect the values of the World Heritage site. Such a plan should include a provision for regular monitoring of conditions at the site, including the impact that tourism may have on the religious and spiritual significance of the place."
Buddhism was founded upon the elimination of ignorance, promotion of non-violence, harmony and co-existence with nature and humankind. At the one end of the current spectrum of human civilization people wary of incessant hatred and conflict, flock to places like Bodhgaya in search of lasting peace and principles of sustainable development based upon the vestiges of past cultural heritage. It is this phenomenon, which has given rise to religious tourism at Bodhgaya, an international pilgrim centre for the last one and a half millennium.
The present volume is for the first time not only providing a panorama of historical evolution of Indian Art at Bodhgaya but also brings together all the art objects preserved in the archaeological site museum in the form of a comprehensive descriptive catalogue. Hope, the scholars, researchers as well as general readers will find the volume a useful one.
The modern village/town of Bodhgaya (24 41' 42" N., 84 59' 29" E. district Gaya, Bihar) is situated on the bank of river Lilajana (ancient Niranjana) and has grown up around the Holy peepal tree (Ficus religiosa) (the Bodhi Druma) where the Sakyamuni attained the Buddhahood i.e., the supreme enlightenment. The ancient village of Uruvela (modern Urel) lies within a kilometer of this hallowed spot.
Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese traveler of the 7th century CE, ascribed this place as Mahabodhi and the temple at the foot of Bodhi tree as the Mahabodhi Vihara. A. Cunningham found this place as continued to known by the same name till the year 1877. During the time of Asoka in the 3rd century BCE Mahabodhi was known as Sambodhi or simply by Bodhi according to the labels of Bharhut (District Satna, Madhya Pradesh) of the 2nd century BCE.
Over two and a half millennium years ago, while roaming in the forest near Gaya as an ascetic in search of true knowledge, one night, Siddhartha heard a voice in his dream directing him to sit on the Vajrasana buried below the ground in the shade of a peepal tree (Ficus religiosa), for meditation.
Siddhartha acted according to those directions, meditated for several weeks at a stretch and finally attained the supreme wisdom and he became the Buddha. As the message of his teaching spread throughout the east during the following centuries, its birth place near Gaya became known as Buddha Gaya and later Bodhgaya.
Barua (1934) concluded on the basis of travel accounts left behind by the Chinese travelers Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsang who visited India during early 5th century CE and early 7th century CE respectively, that the original Bodhi temple was built between the visits of these two pilgrims to the holy place.
According to Hiuen Tsang, emperor Asoka (273-232 BCE) built the original Bodhi shrine at Bodhgaya, that might have consisted of a small area containing the Bodhi tree and an Asokan pillar enclosed by wooden balustrades. Further, it appeared from his notes that the Bodhi temple essentially but not wholly in its present shape- existed in the 7th century CE when it was visited by the great traveler (Saraswati, 1956). Barua (1981) noted on the basis of Hiuen Tsang's records and Alexander Cunningham's observations that King Purnaverma (600-620 CE) rebuilt the Mahabodhi Temple immediately after the death of the Shaiva king Shashanka (590-625 CE), who had badly damaged both the Mahabodhi Temple and the Bodhi tree.
During the following centuries, the holy spot in Bodhgaya was visited not only by Indian bhikkhus (Buddhist monks) but also by those from Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, China and many other eastern countries, where Buddhism was spread and took its deep roots. For some time during the 13th century CE only Sri Lankan monks were permitted to sleep at night in the courtyard of the sacred temple. Francis Buchanan visited Bodhgaya on 9th December, 1811 and found: (Buchana 1894).
"The principal building (the temple) is a large square, with towers at the four corners like a castle, and very few windows outwards. It contains several courts and many apartments totally destitute of neatness, elegance or convenience.
However, in 1876, extensive repair works of the temple were initiated at the instance of the then Burmese King Mindoon Min who generously funded for the work. Later, this phase of repair was completed under the directions of Alexander Cunningham, Rajendralal Mitra and others.
In this way up to the late 19th century, the original structure was repaired several times by the monks under the patronage of different kings ruling in India, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka and other countries influenced by Buddhism and finally by the then archaeologists of that time. (Bapat 1956; Barua 1981, p. 70; TPO, Govt. of Bihar 1966, pp. 5-9).
Further, some pilgrim centres and monasteries at Bodhgaya were built by foreign kings in order to facilitate the stay of the Buddhist pilgrims of their respective countries. The first Sri Lankan pilgrim centre, for example, was built by Sri Meghavarna between 301 and 328 CE (Barua, 1981, pp. 20-21).
Bodhgaya has been an international Buddhist pilgrim centre for the last one and a half millennium or more. The cultural and religious significance of Bodhgaya has contributed to its being inscribed in the World Heritage Site list in 2002.
Perhaps as a practical recourse for the lay pilgrims who were unlikely to be able to visit Bodhgaya in India, Bodhi temples were built in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, Tibet and Sri Lanka. Though close observation of the Bodhi temples in the different countries reveal minute differences in their architecture, their general architectural style confirm to that of the one at Bodhgaya.
During Buddha's life time a large number of individuals including kings, brahmans and lay persons embraced his way of thinking. Buddha's disciples avowed to preach Buddhism even after the death of their master, thus, during the following centuries Buddhism spread up to Kandahar, Afghanistan in the west and up to Horyuji, Japan in the east. In the process Buddhism evolved into several sects, each adapting some of the local spiritual beliefs and put forward by contemporary spiritual leaders. For example, in Japan, by the 17th century thirteen forms of Buddhism existed (Takasaki, 1956).
Events, episodes and legends centered on the Buddha's life got recorded numerous times, in terms of sophisticated literary interpretations of his philosophy, poetry, prose, paintings, relief plaques and sculptures in shrines, temples and monasteries in India and abroad. It became evident during the excavations around the Mahabodhi temple during 1870s onwards that in the past, such art forms, especially sculptures were produced in large numbers from Bodhgaya itself (Leoshko, 1988), some of them are now preserved in the archaeological site-museum at Bodhgaya. It is reasonable to believe that as long as civilization exists on the face of earth, Buddhism and its relics will continue to remind the posterity of the capacity of human intellect exemplified by the Buddha.
Bodhgaya's importance as a world heritage centre is thus unquestionable as in this place, about six hundred years before Christ, one of the holiest of holy man in history attained supreme wisdom and showed mankind a path leading to spiritual freedom from worldly woes. The event of Buddha's attainment of supreme wisdom at Bodhgaya also inspired creative artists for generations, throughout the eastern world to create frescoes, sculptures and literary compositions of unsurpassed quality and rich variety. Inspirations from the original teachings of Buddha enabled many countries in the eastern world to evolve their own ways towards progress, development and emancipation. Currently one in every five citizens in the world is a Buddhist and Bodhgaya is the birth place of a religion that is founded upon the elimination of ignorance, promotion of non-violence, tolerance and co-existence.
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