Symbolism In Buddhism Art

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Buddha as represented in Buddhist Art
South and Southeast Asia is a vast geographic area comprising, among others, the nations of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia (fig.1). The art of South and Southeast Asia is equally diverse—and very ancient. The earliest civilization encountered is of Mehrgarh in Baluchistan. The remains of the first cities in the Indus Valley existed. The most important excavated Indus sites are Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. These early, fully developed cities featured streets oriented to compass points and multistoried houses built of carefully formed and precisely laid kiln baked bricks. After the arrival of Arians a religion fully developed by the name of Hinduism.
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The Hinayana is the first stage of Buddhism, roughly dated from the sixth c. to the first century B.C.E., in which no images of the Buddha were made. The memory of the historical Buddha and his teachings was enough to sustain the practitioners. But several symbols became popular for the Buddha. The lotus, as noted above, is one. The lion, which is typically seen on the Asokan pillars, is another. The wheel (chakra) is a symbol of the endless circle of birth and rebirth, and the dharma, the Four Noble Truths (Shelby Karen, 2014).
Symbols in Hinayana art:
A symbol is defined as something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental but not intentional resemblance (Gokhale 1974).
Symbols used for Buddha include Bodhi tree, Empty throne, wooden clogs, Elephant, Bull, Peacock, Horse and Garuda (a large eagle). It is interesting to note that the pillar at Sarnath (fig. 2) is a combination of major Hinayana symbols used to depict Buddha. It is the most celebrated of the Ashokan pillars erected at Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s First Sermon where he shared the Four Noble Truths (the dharma or the law). Currently, the pillar remains where it was originally sunk into the ground, but the capital is now on display at the Sarnath Museum. It is this pillar that was adopted as the national emblem of India. It is depicted on the one rupee note and
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In an important episode from the life of the Buddha, known as Great Renunciation, Buddha is not shown at all. An ornamented horse is shown with a torch bearer. Two attendants and a gateway with Toranas are also shown (fig.16).
The Bull: The image of the bull evokes strength and vitality and the creative fertile powers of nature, it is powerful and masculine. The Ox, Bull and Cows formed a major part of the productive system of agricultural community and Bull is perhaps the commonest of animals referred to in Pali literature. Bull also symbolizes Indra, the goddess of lightning in Vedic literature.
The Buddha was the Bull, most significant among the contemporary teachers and leaders. The Bull is represented at two capitals, a single standing bull at Rampurva (fig. 14) and the quadraptite figure at Salempur.. In an interesting and hybrid way also depicted on a pillar fragment from Bodhgaya, the bull is shown having the hind quarters of a fish (fig. 18). Bharat stupa also has a roundel with pair of bulls and behind them the chakra symbol is also visible due to the fatness of the rest of the relief (fig.
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