About the Book
The present book on the Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa utilizes the author's expertise of Orissan Brahmanical Art to develop a similar consistent and reliable iconographic and stylistic evolution for the Buddhist Arts of Orissa and its adherence to, or deviation from, surviving textual iconographic peculiarities. There is little doubt that Orissa played a major role in the creation, development and dissemination of Buddhist doctrines and concepts throughout India and the Buddhist world, particularly in respect to Vajrayana Buddhism and the iconography of sculptural mandalas. Particular emphasis in this book is placed on the reciprocal influence between Brahmanical and Buddhist Art in Orissa, both religions expanding at the same time in regard to the proliferation of deities and their variant forms, and each apparently competing with the other for patronage and converts.
About the Author
Prof. Thomas Donaldson received his B.F.A., and M.A., from Wayne State University in Detroit and his Ph.D., from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He taught Asian Art History for three years at the University of North Dakota and, for the last thirty years, at Cleveland State University, Ohio. Most of his scholarly research has focused on the Art of Orissa, with special emphasis on the stylistic development and iconographical peculiarities of Hindu Temple Art. In addition to several chapters in major works on the art and culture of Orissa and some forty articles on the Brahmanical Art of Orissa published in scholarly Art History Journals, his major publications include Kamadeva's Pleasure Garden - Orissa; a monumental three volume book on the Hindu Temple Art of Orissa; and a co-authored book Masterpieces of Orissan Sculpture: Style and Iconography. Another co-authored book Ornaments of Orissa is in press. Other books at publishers for future publication include The Iconography of Vaisnava Images in Orissa and a two volume book on Sakta/Tantra Art of Orissa.
With the recent publication of the excavations carried out at Ratnagiri some twenty years earlier by the Archaeological Survey of India and the ongoing work at Udayagiri and Lalitagiri, it is hoped that more attention will be focused on the Buddhist art of Orissa. For the most part scholars, including myself, have concentrated on the Brahmanical art of Orissa, partially due to its greater visibility and accessibility in the form of extant temples which dot the countryside. Thus, very little attention has been paid to Buddhist sites, as noted by Debala Mitra, "which also stand in need of scientific excavations. To judge, however, by the numerous Buddhist images and mounds, Buddhist remains in the State are indeed extensive and would form, when unearthed, a substantial part of the Buddhist heritage of India." Although Orissa nourished the faith long after the Muslim conquest of India, even being a refuge for Buddhists fleeing from the Muslim onslaught in the adjacent of India, even being a refuge for Buddhists fleeing from the Muslim onslaught in the adjacent areas such as Bihar/Bengal, patronage was especially strong during the Bhauma-kata period (A.D. 736-931) at which time her contribution towards Vajrayana, according to D. Mitra, was overwhelming. The construction of temples and monasteries continued even as late as the reign of Mukundadeva (A.D. 1558-68), as recorded by Taranatha, though patronage obviously was sporadic as it is stated that this king had revived the religion after it had suffered reverses at the hands of king prataparudradeva (A.D. 1497-1540).
In addition to the excavations at Ratnagiri, Lalitagiri and Udayagiri, smaller excavations have been carried out by the Orissa State Archaeology at Kuruma (near Konarak) and at Brahmavana (near Kalanapur) on the Citrotpala river while chance discoveries have unearthed a hoard of bronzed at Acutrajpur (near Banpur) and a monastery complex at Langudi hillock (near Salipur). Other recent finds include stone images retrieved from rivers or canals as at Nagaspur and Tarapur. Excavations supposedly will begin at Aragarh in the near future while other promising sites, such as Vajragiri and Solampur, are patiently waiting their turn. It is thus obvious that the study of the Buddhist art of Orissa is still in its infancy. Although there are numerous sites scattered throughout the countryside, unfortunately many of them have been plundered, the surface images being removed to various villages, private collections and museums, so that their original find spot is often unknown. Due to the veritable lack of dated inscriptions, dating has to be based primarily on stylistic analysis and thus must be considered tentative until more excavations can be undertaken and the results of those already conducted are more fully published. Due to the paucity of architectural remains, this study will concentrate on the sculptural finds.
Except for the early phase at Lalitagiri, only recently excavated and as yet unpublished, the overwhelming majority of the Buddhist images from Orissa correspond in date to a similar intense period of Brahmanical activity and there is little doubt that there must have been keen competition and rivalry between these two religions for patronage as well as for converts. It is also a period dominated by Sakta/Tantra concepts and incessant experimentation with new and esoteric forms of deities created to meet the changing needs of society. As noted by one scholar:
She further states that the Mahayanists and afterwards the Vajrayanists, in order to make their religion attractive and acceptable to the maximum number of people from all ethnic groups, including aboriginal and tribal, "introduced the Buddhist counterparts of the Brahmanical and folk deities who would bestow on the votaries what the latter so long got or expected from the Brahmanical gods and goddesses and folk divinities." Thus, M. Ghosh continues,
This process, of course, was reciprocal as the Hindus likewise borrowed or adopted Buddhist iconographical concepts and deities to similarly make their pantheon as comprehensive and attractive as possible. This reciprocal influence is thus a major underlying thread running through this manuscript in respect to iconographic peculiarities of individual deities. In that both religions, expanding at eh same time, are responding to, and drawing from, a common Indian heritage, similarities in respect to concept and purpose are to be expected. In some cases each is incorporating into its pantheon Pan-Indian concepts, such as river-, serpent and fertility deities, while in other cases the evolving deities represent parallel developments where it is not always possible to determine who is influencing whom, as in the case of Tara and Durga.
Unfortunately very little in the way of early textual iconographic source material has survived in India so that the identification of specific images in many cases has to remain tentative. Where possible identification is based upon descriptions found in available texts, such as the Nispannayogavali and the Sadhanamala, though quite obviously these are incomplete compendiums, which may be more regional in scope than comprehensive. Although later in date than most of the images, these texts to preserve earlier descriptions culled from various sources and thus are invaluable in the study of Buddhist iconography. Other source material, used primarily for comparative study rather than positive identification, include lost texts, which were translated and preserved or elaborated upon in Tibet, China and Japan. In that some of the most popular iconographic forms of Buddhist deities appearing in Orissan sculpture do not find mention in these texts, or differ still from even later Sanskrit texts or inscribed images, it is obvious that other iconographical source material or local traditions, whether textual, oral or visual, must have been operative at specific locales but have not survived. The study of regional contributions in the form of surviving concrete images is thus essential in constructing a more comprehensive picture of Buddhist iconographic traditions throughout India and the Buddhist world. Indeed, the images themselves may have served an incipient sources for the texts. Hopefully this modest study on the surviving Buddhist sculpture of Orissa will help in this construction and increase our overall knowledge of Buddhist iconography.
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