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Page 13   1 |  2 |   3 |  4 |   5 |  6 |   7 |  8 |   9 |  10 |   11 |  12 |   13 |  14 |   15 |  
    
No.15: head of bronze buddha in abhayamudra from the Ananda Ok-kyaung
GOTAMA BUDDHA: MUDRA
     The significance of the bhumisparsamudra image, often surrounded or backed by a painted scene of the `Attack and Defeat of Mara', the evil one, has been made mention of. This scene, to a Pagan follower of the Theravada, was perhaps the most important image of the buddha Gotama, representing their lord at the moment of his enlightenment. In certain temples, particularly in the Early Period, the main buddha is depicted standing in abhayamudra (Fearless) or vitarka (Elucidating) or sometimes in a combination of these. A number of the standing mudra are not easily identifiable and appear to be indigenous variations of Indian originals, the most notable examples of which are the Ananda standing images that appear to project some form of compassion gesture. Such standing images were particularly favoured by Kyanzittha, who enshrined them in three of his temples. In the Middle and Late Periods colossal standing images as the principal image of a shrine, in any medium, become extinct.
     Iconic mudra, that is, the gesture used in images, that, by their place in a temple were the objects of people's offerings and supplications, were, with the exception of the standing ones favoured by Kyanzittha, normally Earth Touching ones. Other mudra, such as dharinacakrapravita (Turning of the Wheel of the Law) take their place in subsidiary reliefs or mural paintings, as part of a didactically intended narrative, for example, the dharmacakramudra is always employed to signify the Buddha's first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath. Occasionally the dharmacakramudra was applied to a colossal image, as at the Mye bon-tha-hpaya-hla, but in such cases remained part of the hodawin or 'Life of the Buddha', at Mye-bon-tha in a reduced narrative of four massive scenes about the four sides of the temple's squarely planned, central core, or lei-myet-hna.
     Another mudra that is a significant aspect of Gotama's iconography, yet never used as the main icon of a temple, is the dhyanamudra. In the Naga-yon ambulatory dhyana reliefs alternate with bhumisparsa reliefs as part of a clear, textuallyderived symbolnarrative. As has been mentioned above, a number of monoliths, apparently dating from the reign of Anawrahta, have been found about Pagan in this mudra.
     Finally, there is the pralambanasana posture, that is sometimes described as `Seated in the European Manner'. This type also was well known to the Pyu and Mon, and was commonly stamped onto votive tahIets. The earliest pralambanasana portrayal in stone, at Pagan, is to be seen in the relief series in the Nagayon hall, and another version may be found in the That-byin-nyu ground level ambulatory (north east section). Its greatest manifestation was at Kyasin temple where two nirodha Buddhas, each in pralambanasana, flank the Buddha in a portrayal of the `Miracle at Savatthi'a scene also found at temple No.218 and the Myinkaba Kubyauk-ngL
     There are many iconographic curiosities at Pagan, some of which are comparable with similar Pyu finds, for example the bhumisparsa buddha with his left hand touching the earth. In the Ananda there are several reliefs in which one hand touches the earth, or is folded across the lap, whilst the other is placed, palm inwards, across the chest in a gesture indicative of karuna, compassion. Also of interest are a number of smaller finds in which both hands are raised in a double Moore.
BUDDHA AND BEDOUIN
     The stylistic and iconographic origins of the image of the Buddha or buddhas have been discussed in detail above; what is of further interest is the diffusion of these diverse influences at Pagan and the formation of a distinct Pagan style and type of Buddha-a cross of indigenous tradition and the latest of contemporary North-East Indian developments-and the gradual and corresponding expansion of the Buddha legend, or bodawin as it is called in modern Burmese, as portrayed in sculpture and in wall painting, in response to incoming Pali texts from Ceylon. It has been noted that there was no single Pagan style in sculpture, but rather, three styles that chronologically correspond to the three styles discernible in Pagan's architecture. The process through which the Pagan buddha image, and the portrayal of the associated story, grew through the interaction of the indigenous and alien require some degree of analysis.
     Pyu monoliths and reliefs ,of the Buddha abound, however. no find. from this time, in monolithic forth, depicting the great events of his life have as yet been discovered. The Pyu did, though, have a tradition of portraying the chief events of the ,Buddha's life in the medium of the votive tablets. Many of the Pyu type have been found at Pagan. indicating the source for the legend may have again been indigenous, rather than a direct import. What the Pagan sculptor was to achieve was a removal of these scenes, froth their miniaturised portrayal on votive tablets, to become isolated relief scenes in themselves as part of ambi tious and. in Burma, unprecedented sculptural pro grammes.
     The Pagan votive tablet differs from the Pyu type in that there are eight scenes (atthatthana) instead of nine; in Pyu tablets an additional scene was included, which depicts the Buddha, seated, holding an almsbowl, beneath the central Earth Touching Buddha." Such tablets encapsulated the essential elements of the Buddha story, in an easily portable form. Often these were stamped by hand, and on the reverse side were signed by the reigning monarch, to be carried to the remotest outposts of the empire, not only revealing the geographical limits-to which loyal attempts at propagating the religion extended, but also demarcating, for the historian, the actual limits of the empire itself. Alternatively, tablets were enshrined within a stupa or temple; their presence then being symbolic rather than proselytisive. It was recently revealed that Anawrahta had actually bonded tablets between the bricks of his Shwe-hsan-daw to form a spiritual defence field throughout the fabric of his dedication.
     Numerous tablets of the Pyu type, and often in scribed in the Pyu script, have been uncovered at Pagan, and not always depicting the Buddha. Mettaya, Lokantha and other Pyu cult deities have been found here in votive tablet form and were to be absorbed into the religious life of Pagan as duarapala, or door guardians to the Theravada sancttiaries.
     Replacing the Pyu votive tablet type was the Pala Eight Scene one. Pyu buddhas, -as found in this medium of terracotta, are broad in physique, with rounded heads, whilst the Pala versions have pinched bodies and sharpened facial features, which become commonplace during the reign of Anawrahta. In addition to terracotta finds, a number of small. carvings, named andagu in Burmese, most likely steatite, have been found; these finely carved works have often been claimed as being direct imports from Bengal, however, none of this geological type have as yet been found in Bengal.
****Strat Pic********
The Pyu Votive Tablet: Nine Scenes
Nalagiri Elephant
Deer Park at Sarnath dhaonacakramudra
Parileyyaka Monkey ptalumbanasana
parinibbana
THE BUDDHA
bhumispanamudra
jata's Offering
Pagan Votive Tablets: Eight Scenes
parinibbana
Nalagiri Elephant
Deer Park
at Sarnath
Nativity
Descent from Tavatimsa
Twin Miracles dharmacakrantudra
Nativity
THE BUDDHA bhumisparsamudra
Descent from Tavatimsa
Deer Park
at Sarnath
Parileyyaka Monkey
Crouchant Animals or Mara's Daughters
******End Pic****
The Pala versions tend to be carved from a jet black steatite, whilst the Burmese andagy versions are hewed from a stone that is paler in colour and not found in Bengal From these intricate, though slight, estampages in clay the atthatthana, or Eight Scenes, were to be transferred to the more viewable mediums of stone sculpture and wall painting, as_ part of didactically conceived iconographic programmes at a time when Pagan monarchs were actively purifying and propagating the Theravada faith. Involved in this religious movement were the Ceylonese who provided the necessary texts that were quickly disseminated through artistic portrayal in readily digestible mediums such as stone, wood and paint, at a time when illiteracy was widespread and temple construction proved quicker and less costly than transcription.
     The earliest datable temples at Pagan (from the mid 11th century) do not date from the foundation of the city (c.850). Various portable images, bronze or terra cotta, of Gotama or other 'deities', often inscribed in the script of the Pyu, and in some cases identical to Finds from the Sri Ksetra area. thin predate the great era of temple building to the century and a half, of tile city's pre-imperial existence. The fatter n of sculpture in architecture' is traced in some detail in the descrip tions of the monuments that follow in Part Tw o. I-sere. the general trends will he outlined and tile evolution of the Buddha, image and story, will be briefly traced.
     The Nat-Maung-kyaung is said to he Pagan's oldest surviving temple and is dedicated to Vishnu. Arranged about the exterior, perhaps once enclosed by a leanto corridor, are a set of stone reliefs, their condition now much worn, depicting tile manifestations of Vishu. These seem Gupta in style, stocky figures, plastic, yet never fluid; monumental, yet never overbearing. In the temple's interior are brick and stucco figures of Vishnu, again poor in condition, yet enabling a glimpse of the fine stylisation of the deities apparel and the smooth plasticity of their form. Is this the work of the indigenous Guptan-derived Pyu tradition or the work of immigrant artists? The temple itself was the place of wdrship for the Indian community who traded and guided kings through the complex web of court life. 'File actual temple's architecture and the style of these reliefs is more akin to the indigenous Pyu tradition than prevalent Indian developments. Indeed, it may he said that by the early 11th century, when this temple may be said to have heen built, such a style was well out of fashion in contemporary India and, thus, found here, was a sun ival from Pyu days. The Vaisnaivites. court Brahmins and traders who built the temple must have employed local men.
     Two Buddhist temples at Pagan, said to date from the time of Anawrahta, provide a clue as to the sources for contemporary sculpture: the Nan-hpaya and the min. In these temples, contemporary by the style of their workmanship. stone carving emerges at Pagan with so perfected a finish and sumptuous effect that some scholars have been led to conjecture that this was the work of immigrant sculptors. Indeed, Luce illustrates some Bengali door jambs that are not dissimilar to the Kyaukku ones. How ever; as U Bo Kay emphasises, the Brahma reliefs in the Nanhpaya are, in physiognomy. Mongoloid rather than Aryan, to him an indigenous portrayal of the human, or supra-human, form.Whatever the origins of this fine carving; dating to the middle part of the 11th century, it remains notable that there is a great discrepancy between the style of this essentially decorative and ornamental work, virtuoso in its design, and the contemporary manner of portraying buddha images, which is far cruder in execution, as may be seen on the bodawin reliefs within the Kyaukku itself. Thus, it may be surmised that there were two ateliers working alongside each other at Early Pagan, the one dedicated to architectural ornament, whose legacy of motif and form was inherited by the stucco worker, and the other attempting to portray the principal events of their lord's life. Curiously, at this stage, there seems to have been little connection between the two studios.
     So at Kyauk-ku with neither technical nor stylistic recourse ,to the stone work on the front, and then about two decades later in the Naga-yon, pr ogrammes, in the medium of stone carved in relief form that portrayed the chief events of the life of the Buddha were attempted. These reliefs represent, stylistically and iconographically, an indigenous development that clearly reveals the increasing mastery of the Pagan artisan over the medium of stone that was curiously unaffected by the fine architectural stone work of the Nan-hpaya and Kyauk-ku-ohn-min The surviving scenes at Kyauk-ku are outlined in this monument's description that follows in Chapter Four According to Forchammer's report of 1890 there were once fragments of a number of other reliefs, perhaps shattered by an earthquake, scattered across the cave's floor.Itwould thus be mistaken to suggest that there was a progressive expansion in the quantity of scenes to be depicted from Kyauk-ku to the Naga-yon. What is notable is the increasing adeptness of the sculptor's hand after the Kyauk-ku reliefs, seen firstly in the Naga-yon, and then in the Pa-hto-tha-mya, leading ultimately to the Ananda reliefs, dating to around 1107. With the construction of the Ananda, under the supervision of Kyanzittha, local knowledge of the Buddha story and its sculptural possibilities had considerably expanded: in the cuter ambulatory a total of eighty scenes were executed, in a style directly derived from that of the Naga-yon and evolved to an aesthetic perfection.'' Thus, in the Early Period, a natural progression in the Pagan sculptor's technical ability is evident in the successive construction of three major temples.
     Compared with contemporary Indian works the Kyauk-ku reliefs are crude, almost parochial parodies, they even lack the visual impact of Pynt sculpture. However, here are the architectural backgrounds (tage) found on votive tablets, and no doubt mirroringcontemporary trends in wood. In the Naga-yon hall, the, carver's hand is surer of itself, no doubt in the interveningperiod he had practised much with wood.

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