Model Question and Answers for APSC | Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives, successfully expounds Buddhist ideals. Elucidate
Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives, successfully expounds Buddhist ideals. Elucidate
Ans: Can a heap of stones represent the Buddha, the path to Enlightenment, a mountain and the universe all at the same time?
It can if it is a stupa. In Buddhism, the earliest stupas contained portions of the Buddha’s ashes, and as a result, the stupa began to be associated with the body of the Buddha.
Depiction of folk motifs and narratives:
- Jatakas narratives and associated folk art proved to be a powerful tool in communicating Buddhist tenets and philosophy to a wide public.
- Jatakas are often found in sculptural reliefs or paintings in Buddhist stupas and caves.
- It is no surprise, therefore, that the popularity of several Buddhist sites in India like Bharhut, Sanchi, Amaravati, Ajanta and Nagarjunakonda, also feature brilliantly-produced Jataka depictions.
- Artists developed ingenious and visually effective methods to tell the Jataka stories without losing their essence while making them easily understandable for a wide audience.
Early Buddhist Stupa-art expounds Buddhist ideals:
- Before images of the human Buddha were created, reliefs often depicted practitioners demonstrating devotion to a stupa.
- The domed shape of the stupa came to represent a person seated in meditation much as the Buddha was when he achieved Enlightenment and knowledge of the Four Noble truths.
- The practitioner does not enter the stupa, it is a solid object. Instead, the practitioner walks around it as a meditation practice focusing on the Buddha’s teachings.
- This walking meditation at a stupa enables the practitioner to visualise Enlightenment as the movement from the perimeter of the stupa to the unmoving hub at the centre marked by the yasti (the topmost point of Stupa).
- At the top of the stupa is a yasti, or spire, which symbolises the axis mundi (a line through the earth’s centre around which the universe is thought to revolve). The stupa makes visible something that is so large as to be unimaginable.
- The spinal column is the axis that bisects Mt. Meru (the sacred mountain at the centre of the Buddhist world) and around which the world pivots. The aim of the practitioner is to climb the mountain of one’s own mind, ascending stage by stage through the planes of increasing levels of Enlightenment.
- The Buddha did not want to be revered as a god, but wanted his ashes in the stupas to serve as a reminder of the Four Noble Truths.
While stupas have changed in form over the years, their function remains essentially unchanged. Stupas remind the Buddhist practitioner of the Buddha and his teachings almost 2,500 years after his death.