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When West Met East Gandharan Art Revisited (Set of 2 Volumes)

When West Met East Gandharan Art Revisited (Set of 2 Volumes)
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Item Code: NAZ327
Author: Osmund Bopearachchi
Publisher: MANOHAR PUBLISHERS & DISTRIBUTORS
Language: English
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 9788194496243
Pages: 454 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: HARDCOVER
Other Details: 11.50 X 9.00 inch
weight of the book: 2.24 kg
Foreword

The arts of North India/Pakistan, notably the Gandhara region in the early period of Buddhism, have attracted the attention of a wide range of scholars over the last 100 years, much of the activity motivated by attempts to trace and identify Greco-Roman sources for the iconography and individual figures, and stimulated by Marshall's excavations at Taxila which revealed much that was Buddhist and much that seemed purely ‘classical’ Greco-Roman. In fact the subject is far more complicated and demanding, since it requires a thorough knowledge of early Buddhist history and iconography. and a command of sources in Sanskrit and Pali rather than anything classical for identification of figures and scenes.

At the same time the region has proved and continues to prove a ready source for a variety of classicising objects, which reflect on its history.

after the conquests of Alexander the Great, and on the presence of influential Greek kingdoms south of the River Oxus, although they had expired before much of ‘Gandharan art’ was produced, while the arts and interests of the Parthians are easily overlooked. Our author can meet this challenge better than most, through long experience in museums and on the ground, and his authoritative account of a wide range of objects which reflect on the history and religion of the times, with his scrupulous scholarship, should prove a corrective and valuable supplement to the attempts of other scholars - often classicists - to decipher Buddhist iconography in Greco-Roman terms. We must hope that his work will inaugurate a new period of Gandharan studies, supported and controlled by a thorough command of the rich and often unpublished evidence now becoming available, and by further publication of crucial material from sites and in museums.

Preface

Initially trained as a field archaeologist and having taken part in archaeological excavations in France and Greece, and then in Sri Lanka, I have always felt the necessity to understand art history as a part of history itself. Having obtained my PhD degree from the Paris 1 - Sorbonne University in June 1987, I spent most of my time in India and Pakistan carrying out research on pre-Sasanian coins kept in the museums there.

The early 1990s was the time when, ravaged by the unending wars and the cynical game of realpolitik of world powers in Afghanistan, hundreds of manuscripts and thousands of coins flooded the Pakistani bazaars. I then started to document these coin hoards and publish them from time to time. I also immediately realized that not only coins and manuscripts, but also a large number of Gandharan sculptures had inundated the antiquity markets. In spite of the inadequate funds and the limited number of film rolls I had at my disposal, I started photographing them. Alongside my passion for coins, these sculptures aroused my curiosity. With hundreds of photographs taken during each field-trip in Pakistan, I went to see my spiritual mother, Francine Tissot asking her to explain to me their meaning. Her invaluable advice made me to develop a keen interest in the subject. This exercise then became an obsession. I used to meet Francine every Friday evening whenever I was in France and ask her many questions to assuage my doubts. I owe so much to her for teaching me to understand Gandharan art. Encouraged by her, 1 began to publish short articles on special sculptures related to coin iconography. A major breakthrough in my life was the year that I spent in the Yale University as visiting professor.

am most thankful to Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara, professors at the Yale University, who in many ways helped me to understand the enigmatic questions of Buddhism and Hinduism in India. The various questions of Yale graduate students stimulated my curiosity on many hidden aspects of Gandharan studies. My article on ‘The Buddha Sakyamuni and the Courtesan Utpalavarna in Gandharan Buddhist Art’ was the result of such interactions. The past five years I have spent teaching Buddhist art at the University of California, Berkeley, first as the Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies during the spring Semester, 2015 and then as Adjunct Professor of Central and South Asian art, archaeology and numismatics, which enabled me to interact with my colleagues and students and to learn more and more not only of Gandharan art, but also of Asian art in general and of the importance of texts. The present volume and the pending publications are humble tributes to those who helped me in my career.

Having said that, I have to emphasize that I do not harbour any pretentions to present this volume as an original work, because the themes discussed here, were treated to a certain extent in my previous studies published as articles in journals, proceedings of colloquia and festschrifts. The already published works which are not easily accessible are revisited in the light of unpublished or partly published works of art. A large number of hitherto unknown sculptures are taken into account, very particularly the complete stiipa presumably from Buner.

The catalogue is the base of our study. Thanks to the unfailing collaboration of museum curators and private collectors, 190 items to total are catalogued. Since, Gandharan art cannot be treated in isolation without examining other schools of Indian art, we have taken the liberty to catalogue sculptures, paintings and jewellery of contemporary as well as later art schools of India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. All the items discussed in the catalogue were examined personally by us. and we are able to guarantee their authenticity.

The ‘introduction’ presents the historical background which provided new grounds for the innovative artistic expressions which characterize the singularity of Gandhara art born as a result of various cultural and political interactions. The first chapter examines looking at the cross-fertilized nature of Gandharan art and how the western artistic inspirations were transformed into new forms of art to narrate stories of Indian origin. The second chapter attempts to demonstrate that the Gandharan artists, commissioned by the donors and supervised by the erudite monks, have created their art works following the chronological sequence established in the Sanskrit Lalitavistara or pre-existing texts which may have inspired this sacred book when depicting the scenes of the life of the Blessed One beginning from the descent of the future Buddha Gautama from the Tusita Heaven up to the first sermon in the deer park. The question one may then ask is if the narratives of the Buddha’s life in the Lalitavistara come to an end with the first sermon, what were the literary sources that inspired the Gandharan artist to depict the stories that follow the first sermon? The third chapter, by taking into account one important episode in the Buddha’s life, the descent from the Trayastrimsa Heaven to Samkasya, examines the literary sources which inspired Gandharan artists. We have suggested that before the Sanskritisation, there were certainly texts in Gandharl, Magadht and many other vernacular languages in India accessible to the Buddhist monks, donors and artists. The fourth chapter examines, in the light of many hitherto unpublished sculptures, the question of the first depictions of the Bodhisattvas Maitreya and Avalokitesvara in Gandharan art. We have attempted elucidate the misunderstanding created by some art historians when interpreting the sculptures depicting Bodhisattvas of the transitional period in Gandharan art. The fifth chapter looks at the symbolism behind the presence of Hindu gods in Gandharan art. We have argued that a deliberate attempt is made by the Gandharan artists and their mentors, to demonstrate the superiority of the Buddha above Brahma, the creator god and Indra, the god of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains and war. We have also attempted to demonstrate that the emergence of Vaisnava imagery in Gandhara goes back to the third century sce and these gods co-existed in the contemporary Indian Buddhist society.

The present volume, based on hitherto unpublished or partly published sculptures and artefacts from Gandhara and Greater Gandhara, is the first part of the two volumes. Both the present study and the impending publications are based on research in museums in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and the United States of America and fieldwork in ancient sites in India, Pakistan Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. This would not have been possible without the generous support of the Trung Lam Research Fund for Central Asian Art and Archaeology (2010-15) established by Richard Beleson and Kim Lam Beleson at the Center for Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley.

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