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Buddhist Art

Buddhist Art is popularly used to denote specifically those monuments and paintings that existed as a means of the edification or popularization of Buddhism. The theme of the art and architecture focuses on amplifying the transcendental nature of Buddha. Buddhist religious architecture, that finds its roots in South Asia, primarily developed in the 3rd century B.C. The three types of structures associated with early Buddhism, include monasteries (viharas), stupas, and temples (Chaitya Grihas). Viharas were originally temporary shelters for wandering monks during the rainy seasons that later evolved to accommodate an increasingly formalized Buddhist monasticism. Stupas are large hemispherical mounds within which cremated relics of the Buddha were placed. These relics were divided into several portions and placed in relic caskets. Such stupas constitute the central monument of Buddhist monastic complexes. Pagodas, found in Burma/Myanmar are an evolution of the Indian stupa. Along with changes in religious practice, stupas were then incorporated into chaitya-grihas (temple halls) that were exemplified in the 1st Century B.C with the cave complexes of Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra. An important development around this period was the depiction of Buddha in a human form. The Gandharan style combined artistic elements of Greco-Roman sculptures with symbolism to create a unique image. This style featured images of a youthful Buddha with wavy curls, adorned in a monastic robe that covered both shoulders arranged in heavy classical folds. Meanwhile, the Kushana period artists in Mathura, India produced a different image of Buddha wherein his body was extended by a single breath (prana) complemented with distended earlobes.


Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal.