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Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India

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Item Code: HAG969
Author: John Guy
Publisher: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
ISBN: 9789394501164
Pages: 344 (With Color Illustrations)
Other Details 12.50 X 11.50 inch
Weight 2.55 kg
Book Description

About The Book

A pioneering study of the emergence of Buddhist art in southern India, featuring vibrant photography of rare works, many published here for the first time.

Named for two primary motifs in Buddhist art, the sacred bodhi tree and the protective snake. Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India is the first publication to foreground devotional works produced in the Deccan from 200 BCE to 400 CE. Unlike traditional narratives, which focus on northern India (where the Buddha was born, taught, and died), this groundbreaking book presents Buddhist art from monastic sites in the south. Long neglected, this is among the earliest surviving bodies of Buddhist art, and among the most sublimely beautiful. An international team of researchers contributes new scholarship on the sculptural and devotional art associated with Buddhism, and masterpieces from recently excavated Buddhist sites are published here for the first time including Kanaganahalli and Phanigiri, the most important new discoveries in a generation. With its exploration of Buddhism's emergence in southern India, as well as of India's deep commercial and cultural engagement with the Hellenized and Roman worlds, this definitive study expands our understanding of the origins of Buddhist art itself.

About the Author

John Guy is Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia in the Department of Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India presents the story of the origins of Buddhist art in India. In so doing. it examines these sources through a less familiar lens, that of the art of the Satavahana and Iksvaku dynasties of southern India, who variously ruled the region from the first century BCE to the early fourth century CE. To better understand the processes by which the Buddhist faith and culture were disseminated, the focus is shifted away from the heartland of Buddhism, the greater Magadha region of northern India where the Buddha was born, taught, and died, to the territories of the Daksinapatha, the regions of the south, and the roads that led there. The southern region, the Deccan, was home to some of the greatest early monasteries of Buddhist India. Today, we turn to Bharhut, Sanchi, and Amaravati when we seek to understand the majesty of this architecture and its adornment. The enclo sure railing at Bharhut, the ceremonial gateways at Sanchi, and the first copings at Amaravati are the earliest and best preserved of their kind from the early Buddhist world. They are rich in visual narrative, using their surfaces as tableaux for the storytelling that made Buddhism accessible to a wide community of believers.


With Tree and Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India. 200 BCE-400 CE, The Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates the extraordinary artistry of this early period in India and continues its commitment to presenting exhibitions that open new frontiers on the past for our visitors, both in terms of popular awareness and new scholarship. The message that the Buddha taught in the fourth century BCE, and was memorialized in rock-cut edicts by the Mauryan emperor Asoka in the midthird century BCE, remains starkly relevant to us today. His call to not slaughter the animals of the forests nor burn their habitats addresses contemporary agendas of environmental awareness and care for the planet under our stewardship. One of the Buddhist jataka stories from this time tells of a king of Varanasi who put the forest at Sarnath under his protection so that the deer could roam free of the fear of hunters, thus creating perhaps the first national park. Above all else, the Buddha's message was compassion for all living creatures. The serenely beautiful art that was produced in service of Buddhism, and is presented in this exhibition and book, celebrates the outstanding artistic achievements of this time and addresses universal concerns principally through storytelling, a simple and accessible pathway that the disciples of the Buddha and their lineage descendants developed, following the Buddha's example.

This exhibition and publication featuring the arts associated with the earliest Buddhist stupas represent a monumental undertaking on the part of the Museum and an expression of trust and goodwill on the part of our lenders. This assembly of rare early Buddhist works of art includes a number of objects that have recently been excavated from monastic sites in India, and have never before been publicly exhibited. It is our privilege to present these outside India for the first time.

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