|Snippets of Information |
Architecture / Sculptures
* Jul 2021
Monasteries (gompas /gumphas)
Structures which serve as retirement dwelling place for monks, a place for self-reflection and self-exploration.
For a Buddhist tourist visiting India, monasteries or gompas are the
prime attraction. A number of Buddhist monasteries or gompas spread
across the length and breadth of India and speak volume about the
Buddhist heritage of the country.
Many of these monasteries were built centuries back and have withstood
the test of time. Still many others were destroyed or damaged in past
and had to undergo tremendous reconstruction work. The architecture,
murals, statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas inside make for an
interesting visit. Moreover, many of these monasteries are located at
stunning sites - clinging at the the top of hill, near streams, amidst
greenery or barren landscape - which enhance their attractiveness
multifold. The presence of monks inside gives a splendid opportunity to
interact and accrue a whole lot of new knowledge about Buddhism in
general and the monastery in particular.
Buddhist Monasteries in Bihar - Japanese Monastery, Thai Monastery,
Tibetan Monastery, The Chinese Temple and Monastery and the Buddhist
Temple of Bhutan.
Monasteries in Jammu & Kashmir - Hemis Monastery, Alchi Monastery,
Thiksey Monastery, Cave Monastery, Stakna Monastery, Takthok Monastery,
Matho Monastery, Spituk Monastery, Phyang monastery, Likir Monastery,
Rizong Monastery, Lamayuru monastery, Bardan Monastery, Karsha
Monastery, Phuktal Monastery, Rangdum Monastery, Sani Monastery, Tonde
Monastery, Zangla Monastery, Chemrey Gompa, Diskit & Hundur
Monastery, Shey Monastery, Stongdey Monastery -
Buddhist Monasteries in Sikkim - Rumtek Monastery, Pemayangtse
Monastery, Phensang Monastery, Phodang Monastery, Ralang Monastery,
Enchey Monastery, Tashiding Monastery, Yoksum Monastery.
Buddhist Monasteries in Himachal Pradesh - Tabo Monastery, Kye
Monastery, Namgyal Monastery, Rewalsar Monastery, Dhankar Monastery,
Guru Ghantal Monastery, Shashur Monastery, Kardang Monastery, Tayul
Monastery, Thang Yug Monastery, Kungri Monastery, Nako Monastery,
Tashiganj Monastery, Lippa Monastery -
Buddhist Monasteries in Arunachal Pradesh - Tawang Monastery, Bomdila Monastery,d Urgelling Monastery -
* Jul 2021
Chaityas are the halls enclosing the stupas. Ashoka constructed
eight rock-cut halls in the Barabar and Nagarjuni hills and the one
near Rajgir dedicated to Jaina monks. The Lomas Rishi, the Sudama (both
in the Barabar hills) and the Sita Marhi (Nagarjuni hills) caves are
fine examples of the Chaityas which resembled the wooden buildings of
More sophisticated rock-cut chaityas developed later. The final form of
rock-cut architecture that developed from these early forms can be seen
all over India in Andhra Pradesh, Kathiawar in Gujarat and in Ajanta and
Ellora. The rock formation in all these areas were most suited for
these rock cut structures. Alternating layers of hard and soft rock
prevents moisture from seeping inside.
They began the work from the top and continued downward. The Buddhists
were the main contributors to these rock-cut monuments and best
monuments are those found in Ajanta and Ellora (vishwakarma cave- cave
No.10). Fine sculptures adorn the walls. Figures of Buddha in various
poses were cut out.
* Jul 2021
Metal sculptures became popular throughout India during the
post-Gupta period. In South India, they mastered the art of making huge
exquisite sculptures with great stress on designs and details. The art
achieved its zenith in the Chola period. The Cholas were Saivites and
hence they mostly cast idols of Siva ( Nataraja ), other Saiva Gods such
as Muruga, Sakthi, Ganesha, Saivite Saints. They also erected and
renovated Vaishnavite shrines. Idols of Vishnu, Lakshmi in various
aspects were also cast. The utsava murthis (idols) of temples, which are
taken out in procession during temple festivals were made of bronze and
All of these idols were cast based on rules, proportions and methods
laid down in the ancient texts based on scientific principles. The
artisans who were involved in this art are called the Sthapathis.
Basically, the metal sculptures were cast using wax models. Two methods
are followed, one yielding solid figures and the other hollow images.
* Jul 2021
- The caves of Ajanta
- Hindu & Jain rock-cut architecture can be seen mainly at Badami,
Aihole, Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, Aurangabad & Mamallapuram.
- The Rashtrakutas produced the Brahmanical Kailasa temple at Ellora.
- Badami has four cave temples executed at various levels of the sand
stone hill. Cave 1 is dedicated to Siva, 2 & 3 to Vishnu & cave
no.4 is a Jaina structure.
- Aihole has two rock-cut temples, one Jaina & the other Brahmanical.
- At Ellora there are 17 Brahmanical caves & 6 Jaina caves.
- The Pallavas of Kanchi initiated rock-cut architecture in the South.
They used the available hard granite to cave out their structures.
Because of the hardness of the granite rock, there was a limitation on
the size of the caves as well as the details on the sculptures.
- Mahendra Varman ( Vichitrachithan) was responsible for the
Laksitayatna Trimurti cave temple at Mandagapattu dedicated to Brahma,
Vishnu & Iswaran. At least 9 more temples were carved out during his
- Other Pallava kings also followed his style, with a few differences.
Narasimha Pallava built the coastal town of Mamallapuram (Chennai). The
Mamalla style cave temples were more elaborate. Monolithic rathas &
vimanas belong to Narasimha's period.
* Jul 2021
Stambhas (pillars) were set up in the Buddhist sacred places
and along the highways. Emperor Ashoka made a major contribution,
setting up atleast thirty such pillars.
- A stambha consists of a circular column or shaft slightly tapering
towards the summit (monolithic). On top of this shaft is the
Persepolitan bell or the inverted lotus shaped base. Above this is the
abacus on top of which rests the crowning sculpture. These three
portions were carved out of a single stone (monolithic).
- The stambhas erected during various periods have shown a development
in style and structure. Some fine examles are the Basarh Bakhira (with
lion capital), Laurya Nandangarh in Champaran district of Nepal (with a
seated lion capital on an inverted lotus and carved abacus).
- The Saranath stambha with its four lions seated back to back as its
crowning sculpture is a fine specimen. Following the Buddhists, the
Hindus and the Jains also had columns. (Garuda pillar at Besnagar).
- The famous iron pillar from the Gupta period is a fine specimen,
withstanding exposure to rain and storm, yet remaining smooth and
unrusted bearing testimony to the mastery of Indian metal-casting.
* Jul 2021
Stupas are basically funeral mounds - low circular mounds
ringed by boulders. It was mostly a Buddhist art, though Jains also
seemed to have built stupas.
- Emperor Ashoka had built a great number of stupas. A stupa was to
enshrine body relics in the form of small pieces of calcinated bone of
the Buddhist monks and teachers.
- A stupa consists of a solid hemispherical dome on which stands a kind
of kiosk. A railing surrounds this (vedika) and even when the
construction was of stone, it continued to rsemble wooden railings of
the past in design.
- The Sanchi stupa in Madhya Pradesh is the best specimen of stupa art.
The finest of Buddhist stupas in South India is that in Amaravathi,
Andhra Pradesh. Stupas were also erected in Nagarjunakonda, Jaggayapetta
and Ghantasala in South India.
- Smaller miniature stupas were also placed around the main, as is the
case in Bodh Gaya, Gandhara and Nepal, where the pilgrims placed the
stone replicas, sometimes with a Buddha statue within. The Gandhara
stupas show great development in decorative sculptural elegance with a
* Jul 2021
Viharas are the dwelling places donated to the normally
wandering Buddhist monks. The earlier structures were made of wood and
soon developed from the primitive thatched huts into large sangharamas.
Pali texts indicate the structure of the viharas. In course of time the
sangharamas developed into educational institutions and centres of
Buddhist learning, such as those at Nalanda, Vikramasila, Somapura.
Hinayana viharas are seen in Ajanta, Ellora and in the Orissan hills in
the east coast and at Nasik, Bedsa, Kondane and Pitalkhora in the
Western Ghats. The development of Mahayana vihara can be traced only at