Asian Art and Architecture: Art & Design 382/582

Lecture 7

Later Andhra Period India

Lee 93-99; R&J 79-81

A Consideration of the Later Andhra Period brings a third stage of stylistic development as the flat figure style of the Shunga Period, that has been inflated to a fuller rounded style in Early Andhra, is now given an even fuller and more massive form.

B Even more interesting and certainly more significant, the aniconic Buddhism that we have been following since the Maurya period now finally offers us iconic images of the Buddha itself. These may exist as early as the first century BCE, but it is not till the first century of the common era that we get them as a standard part of the repertoire.

 

Later Andhra Period, Central and South India c 50 - 320 CE

Kushan Period, North India c 50 - 320 CE

Design List

121 Chaitya griha facade Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

122 Chaitya griha plan Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

123 Chaitya griha interior Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

124 Couple Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

Plato’s Cave Stupa casing slab Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

125 Stupa casing slab Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

126 Cushioned throne

& Assault of Mara Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

127 Chakravartin Jaggayapetta Shunga 185 - 72 BCE

128 Taming of Nalagiri Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

The Later Andhra Period is not suggested by a new reign, but to grasp a major shift in style and in imagery that takes place in the first century. It does not indicate an important social or political shift of the moment, but rather the culmination of a shift going on over the previous period. What it does is give us a designation for South Indian art during the period in which most of North India is controlled by the Kushan Dynasty. Despite the significant differences that exist between north and the south and the sizable regional differences even within each of these categories, there is also a significant amount of stylistic and even iconographic sharing.

As the Kushan dynasty conquered much of North India during the first and second centuries, they pushed the Satavahana (or Andhra) dynasty south of the Vindhyas, where they flourished for many more years, particularly in the east coast of the Deccan, which is to this day called Andhra.

First we look at Later Andhra art in Maharashtra, and then we’ll look south.

 

121 Chaitya griha facade Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

Karli is a rock cut sangharama across the valley from Bhaja, that is, flanking the same major trade route, running from the Arabian sea eastward, into the Deccan. Karli lies in Maharashtra, a region along the division between northern India and the south. The Marathi language spoken there today, and the Mahrarshtri Prakrit from which it has descended, have the largest mixtures of Indo-European and Dravidian features of any major Indian languages. Essentially northern in structure and vocabulary, they have the highest number of loan words and loan structures from the Dravidian region. Inscriptions, and Carbon-14 dating, and esthetic style all agree on the early second century date for the excavation, c. 120 CE.

From the outside we see a fairly chaotic facade, due to both some stone breakage as well as the disintegration over the years of a number of elements, finished in wood originally. What we can see has two major aspects in common with Bhaja’s chaitya. Its details are all imitation fine wood carpentry and its central motif is once again a great horseshoe arch. What is different, besides the modern Brahmanical temple on one side, is the presence of a lion column out front, a closed facade in stone, and a (partially ruined) torana in between. You will remember that Bhaja’s facade was closed by a structural wooden facade. Now, two centuries later, planning ahead allowed the artisans at Karli to leave its facade wall intact.

This facade does more or less what we would have expected of the wood facade at Bhaja. It closes off the opening to allow three doors down below, one at each end of the side aisle that circles the nave, and one for the central nave itself. At the top of this facade we find a great arch, which seems to be the identifying mark of a great palace hall.. In this case, the design preserves some of the original wood has joinery, that the style is modeled on. The rest is covered in bas reliefs of railing and arch motifs.

An element that confuses the eye here is the great torana that once stood before the facade, two of its octagonal, support pillars and most of the great crossbar remains, with a few of the inner struts connecting to the upper bar. They are pockmarked by the mortise holes into which a wooden gallery or decoration was once pegged.

In front of the facade, to the right stands a great octagonal pillar topped by a stylistically updated version of a lion capital. Here, as at Sarnath, the wheel was a separate element, and has been lost. It is mainly the conventional repetition of wheels over addorsed lion quartets in many relief depictions that assures us of its intention. The lions here are squatter and the quality of the stone much less fine. The lotus-bell base of the capital is also less squatter and less refined.

The result is an updating and combining of traditional forms in a new style. To whatever extent the addorsed-lion Dharma chakra columns of the Maurya period were possibly royal, they have by now become distinctly Buddhist insignia.

 

122 Chaitya griha plan Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

The plan and section show the standard elongated chaityagriha plan ending in an apsidal semi-circle capped by a quarter dome. There have been stylistic developments since Bhaja’s chaitya. The pillars now stand straight, without inward cant. The outer aisle is now roofed by a flat rather than an arched ceiling. At 124 feet in length and 46 feet in height, and width, Karli’s hall is the largest of any chaitya and so any interior in ancient India. .

Lee’s statement that "Unquestionably the Indian genius is primarily sculptural, and a sculptural quality extends as well to Indian architecture." Is one that no analyst of a later generation would likely make today. Though most would agree with it in the sense that Indians have created a vast archive of magnificent sculptural form and that their architecture is marked by much of the same sensibility, we recognize today, as earlier in the century few seemed to have, that what we see is cultural not natural. Natural, genetic, genius. What we see is the result of Indian cultural developments, not a peculiar vision they produced unthinkingly or automatically. And, despite their great successes in sculptural form, they have produced some of the most interesting spatial forms of any society, as we shall see.

"Indians do not conceive of architecture primarily as an enclosure of space. They conceive of it as a mass to be modeled, to be formed, and to be looked at and sensed as sculpture." Of all places to make such a suggestion about not conceiving of architecture as a spatial container, this is certainly the worst possible example. For what we see in the apsidal chaityagriha is one of the world of architecture’s most handsome interior spaces!

As he points our the form here is created in order to set encourage the circumambulation of the stupa that was to take place here. Why he tells you that their are no chapels on the outside is that he is measuring what he sees by the medieval Christian church architecture.

123 Chaitya griha interior Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

The column here is much more elaborate than the plain octagonal ones of Bhaja. These octagons rise from vase formed bases and are capitaled by bell forms and sets of elephant riding couples. Though those behind the stupa are simple octagonal ones, to set of the stupa.

The stupa itself shows a two storied base, each capped by a railing motif. The dome above is semicircular, and this is topped by a harmika, a series of expanding platforms and then the normal parasol—the mark of royalty.

The parasol here is the original teak one, as are the beams of the ceiling and a number of arches in the half-round, chandrasala, arch of the screen wall.

 

124 Couple Karli Later Andhra c 50 - 320

The great couples of the entrance porch screen are a further step along the course from flatter and more conceptual toward more volumetric forms that we have been following since the Maurya period. Calling them a couple fits them into their textual identity. Mithuna, couples, are thought to be auspicious at a site. They are large, massive, and depicted with an aim of emphasizing flesh and expanding convex form. The relief is high, the figures are sixty percent free of the wall behind. They stand out from it, casting shadows against it. In the gross-grained trap rock [not a granite] they show few details. Instead they show inflated masses: smooth bodies and ribbed belts, swags and folds. They show none of the "archaic" angularity of the Sanchi salabhanjika. They represent a more fully plastic ideal. We look at the great swags of "cloth" and beaded belts hanging around their waists, or the earrings swinging from their ears, or the continually curving flesh of their bellies and see a new level of naturalism. A step beyond the Early Andhra Sanchi and two beyond Shunga Bharhut.

Andhra If we move south to the Krishna River Valley to the site of Amaravati we see something different and yet related. Here are the remains of a good number of monastic complexes going back to the first century BCE. The style here, as carved in a very fine-grained limestone (marble) is more fluid and detailed than what was possible in the trap rock of the western Dekkan, and less crystalline or geometric than the Kushan monuments of the north.

 

Plato’s Cave Casing slab (Mad. Govt. Mus.) Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

The Mahachaitya, the great stupa, at Amaravati is lost, but for a good number of its casing slabs. But it is our good fortune that these slabs featured depictions of the stupa itself, so we can reconstruct it fairly well. It was different from the simpler, plainer stupas of the north. Its railings were more elaborate, featuring free standing lions and elaborate reliefs. The real difference came with the body of the stupas, instead of the relatively plain surfaces found at Sanchi or Karli, the Krishna River Valley stupas were covered with narrative reliefs below and elaborate garlands above. And they are recorded in elegant detail on the actual slabs themselves. So that the stupa was itself the depiction of a macrocosmic stupa surrounded by miniature microcosms of itself. At 160 feet in diameter and around 90 feet in height it was wider than Sanchi, but a good deal flatter in profile.

Another difference from the northern stupa was the lack of torana on the four sides. Instead the southern stupa has a platform extended out on each of the four sides, carrying five tall pillars, the meaning of which has not yet been deciphered. The view looks directly in through the opening in the railing to an empty throne beneath a wheel symbolizing the turning of the wheel of the law (preaching).

The casing slab shows the stupa with heavenly beings coming to worship it, flying through the air. In this one from the Madras government Museum you can also see the depiction of great dharmacakra pillars on either side that were placed between each slab.

 

125 Casing slab (British Mus.) Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

On another version of the design, shown on a different slab from the stupa in Sherman Lee’s book, we see the same architectural form, but one major difference in the iconography. Here too we see railings with a relief of Yakshas (or some other beings) bearing a garland and lions at the entrances. And here too we are shown reliefs depicting Jatakas and tales of Shakyamuni on the stupa’s casements. But here in the middle of the entrance we see the Buddha itself. We have now, for the first time in our survey come upon an image of the Buddha.

As if to point to the ambivalence that has led earlier depictions to omit image of the Buddha from depictions, this one is seen on some slabs and in some depictions and not in others. What the original prescription was we have not yet learned. It seems most likely that it had something to do with the philosophical argument as to whether or not there was any trace left of Shakyamuni after its parinirvana, and a general conviction that since he was now totally gone that there should be no attempt to recall his image, but only to mark that fact that he was once here. The fact now, in the second century of the Common Era it was felt acceptable to depict his body may indicate an important theological development. We are not yet sure. The fact is, the on the same set of slabs he is shown some times and other times his presence is only symbolized.

In this image, small though it is, we can make out the Buddha as standing figure in robe that reaches to his feet, showing the inner garment at its hem. The left hand holds up the robe from below. The right arm is free and held up in a gesture with an open palm called abhya mudra, indicating that he is preaching. It is a relatively elongated figure and the folds fall in gentle ripples. He is shown surrounded by worshippers.

 

126 Cushioned throne

& Assault of Mara Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

Here on another casing slab we see an aniconic depiction of the Assault of Mara, the event that preceded the Buddha’s enlightenment, when the demon rose up to distract the Buddha from its meditation by sending his demon armies to assail him. The demon army is seen in figures riding on elephants and wielding swords converging on the throne. To one side sits Mara himself. On the other we see the remains of two of his three daughters, whom he sent to distract the Buddha as a last resort when the warriors were of no avail. This is an allegory of the difficulties of maintaining the meditator’s discipline.

But it is also a depiction of the Buddha and once again it is an aniconic one, in which the Buddha itself is not seen. Instead we get the empty throne, this time with a tree rising up behind it to indicate the bodhi tree under which the Buddha sat at his enlightenment. Taken with the Buddhas footprints on the stool before the throne and the flexing legs of the throne, the missing figure in this case is mimicked by combination of symbols. In some we are given here, as in the stupa itself a reminder of the Buddha’s former existence that at the same time also speaks to his disappearance in the triumph of nirvana.

 

127 Chakravartin Jaggayapetta Shunga 185 - 72 BCE

This item is misdated in the canon of your syllabus. Correct it now.

The Chakravartin slab from the stupa at Jaggayapetta shows the sculpture of the Krishna Valley in earlier period more or less the Shunga age. The relief is as we would expect it, from what we have seen in north India. It is much flatter and more conceptual in style. The subject is the imperial king, the Chakravartin or ruler of the full wheel. This is what Siddhartha’s father wanted him to become.

We see a man in a turban surrounded by the seven jewels that every great king must possess: the wheel representing his rulership, his queen, a battle horse and elephant, his prince and heir, his minister, a drum and a parasol. Unlike Lee I see eight objects and I identify them a bit differently. The truth is, different texts number and list the items differently. From the sky we see a rain of coins symbolizing the good fortune that comes to a kingdom that has a good and successful monarch.

What has such a depiction of material wealth and power got to do with a stupa, a mound symbolizing the Buddha whose essential goal is bound up in a rejection of the value of such material wealth and power? This is a mark of the tension that Buddhists always had between the mundane world they were trying to overcome and the ideal path they used to overcome it. Since kings were desirable as lay devotees they were themselves recognized on the monuments they sponsored. If the ultimate goal was to overcome the material world, the path toward that goal began in moral action in that world. And as the Monkey Jataka showed how the Buddha acted with morality in a previous existence as a guide to how a king should act, so the stupa depicting the reward of total abstention from material interaction could depict the proper action of the monarch that was a step in the path toward this abstention.

You will notice how each of the images is shown not as if perched on some other object. We saw this at Bharhut with Chulakoka devata standing upon an elephant. Here we see the King and the other figures standing upon cushions and other symbols raised as if on pillars. The convention is familiar; its meaning is not known.

 

128 Taming of Nalagiri Amaravati Later Andhra c 50 - 320

One last piece of imagery remains in this discussion, one of the roundels from the Amaravati stupa’s railing. At almost exactly a yard diameter it illustrates one of the eight great events in the life of the Buddha Shakyamuni, the taming of the mad elephant Nalagiri at Rajagriha. The story is that as the Buddha was out on his morning rounds begging for food with other monks, his evil cousin Devadatta—the same one who in an earlier existence as a member of his band of monkeys reached back to break his back as they fled the King of Varanasi—sent an wine maddened elephant to crush him. We see the elephant twice, first as he burst in through the city gate, throwing his mahout from his back and casting a man away with his trunk, and then we see him bowing down in respect when he reaches the Buddha. Behind we see a wealthy woman an her retinue fleeing in fear. Above in balcony’s people look down upon the scene. Coming down the right edge of the roundel we see the monks accompanying the Buddha. They are dressed as the Buddha was shown in the casing slab, in the samghati robe that covers the left arm and leaves the right arm free. Their hair too is shaved close. Their hands are held before them. The Buddha itself is not seen. A detail of the panel reveals that it is symbolized by a pillar of flame along the now-broken edge.

Even when it was permitted to show the Buddha as a material being it was not necessary, and it was still satisfying or even preferable on occasion to indicate his presence by a symbol. He was after all the tathagata, that one who had gone this way.