Asian art

Dvaravati and old Burma

bagan

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By: Professor Gordon H. Luce

The so-called Burmese Era, dating from 638 A.D., should rather be called thePyu Era, for it is pretty certain that it was used, and first used, by the Pyu of Sri Ksetra (modern Hmawza, 4 miles S.E. of Prome ). Indeed, I suspect that it is the date of the founding of that city, the first capital of Burma in any large sense. Megaliths found in the neighborhood may well be older than that date; but I doubt if anything Buddhist antedates it.

pagan temples

Old Mon inscriptions and late Burmese Chronicles lay great stress on the founding; but the dates they give are far too early. In the great Shwezigon inscription (c. 1100 A.D.) the Buddha foretells that the Rishi Vishnu (the future king of Pagan, Kyanzittha), "together with my son Gavampati, and King Indra, and the (celestial architect) Visvakarman, and Katakarma king of the Nagas, shall build the city called Sisit" i.e. Sri Ksetra. The Chronicles add that the Buddha himself flew over and stood on Mt Po-u, north of the site, in order to make his prophecy. Earth-convulsions, he said, would mark the founding. The sea would retreat from its foundations (it is now 200 miles from the sea); and Mt. Popa, the 5000 ft. volcano in the heart of Burma, would "arise like a cone out of the earth". Gavampati, the Rishi (Vishnu), Indra, the Naga king, Garuda, Candi (Di1rga) and Paramesvara (Shiva), all were present at the founding. Indra stood in the centre. The Naga king swished his head round, describing the perimeter. The area enclosed by the walls, said to be 18 square miles, is far larger than that of Pagan, whose walls, even allowing for river-erosion, are barely 1 mile square. The difference lies in the presence or absence of rice fields. At Pagan there are none. At Sri Ksetra, the northern half of the city, and much of the southern, is rice field.

All this fuss about the founding points, I suspect, to the fact that it was the first strongly Buddhist capital in Burma. I used to think that there was an earlier Buddhist capital. Chinese authors tell of plans made (but cancelled on his death) by Fan Shih Wan (Sri Mara.), the great king of Fu-nan, to conquer the thriving port of CHIN-LIN (or CHIN-CHEN). This was near the beginning of the 3rd century A.D. Chin-lin was situated on a big bay over 2,000 li. west of Fu-nan. It was a populous kingdom, rich in silver and ivory. Chill, the first syllable, means Gold, Suvanna. Two thousand li. inland beyond it, in a wide plain, was the kingdom of LIN-YANG (Liem-yang), with an ardent Buddhist population of over 100,000 families, including several thousand Buddhist monks: "one goes there (from Chin-lin) by carriage or on horseback. There is no route by water. All the people worship the Buddha". Two thousand li. beyond Lin-yang, was NUHOU kingdom of "the descendants of slaves", over 20,000 families, conterminous with Yung-chang ( Pao-shan ). There are some discrepancies in the texts, throwing doubt on whether .the ''great bay" was the Gulf of Siam or the Gulf of Martaban. I used to think the latter: but now, in view of what we know about the antiquity of Dvaravati, and perhaps Haripunjaya, I incline to place Lin-yang in North Siam, rather than in Central Burma. Lying equidistant between the sea and Nu-hou Yung-chang, it might be in either country.

buddha statue

Another reason that inclines me to place it in Siam is the recent work of U Aung Thaw, the energetic head of our present Burma Archaeological Department. He has been excavating, 'Peikthanomyo', a large walled ruin at Kokkogwa, a hundred miles north of Sri Ksetra. It is certainly older than Sri Ksetra. U Aung Thaw has revealed a number of large buildings and many interesting objects; but, in spite of the name ("Vishnu City" ), hardly any Indian writing, and little evidence of Indian workmanship, and none whatever of Buddhism. Nor, I think, has he found megaliths. At Sri Ksetra, on the other hand, almost everything dug up (apart from megaliths) how’s the influence of India-whether Buddhist (Hinayana or Mahayana) or Brahmanic(Vaishnavaite). The southern half of the city is dotted with large cylindrical stupas, bell-like encased stupas, and mall vaulted temples with great variety of plan and shape. There are also cemeteries with pots of ashes ranged in terraces. The Pyu kings still clung to megalithic customs: their ashes arc found in huge stone urns, engraved with Pyu inscriptions, but otherwise 1ike those of the Plaine des Jarres in Laos.

Mr. Chairman, this is my first visit to Thailand. Let me admit that I am appalled at my temerity in addressing Thailand's eminent scholars about their antiquities. But with your permission, Sir, I propose to try and compare the arts of Mon Dvuravati, as shown especially in Dupont's book, with those of Burma: namely the Pyu of Sri Ksetra (7th-8th cent.), the coastal Burma Mon (Ramannadesa), and the inland Man/Burmese of Pagan (11th--13th cent.).

My first feeling, I confess, is how different they all arc-even Dvaravati Mon and Burma Mon. There was little or no difference between these Mons, either in language or race. The difference lay, I suppose, in the different influences from India which informed them. Dupont sees in Dvaravati Mon especially the influence of Amaravati and Ceylon. In Burma Mon, both architecture and sculpture, I see little Andhra influence except in the south. I only wish there were more, for the Andhras were great sculptors.

I see hardly any Singhalese influence before the 11th century. I see, on the other hand, the clear dominance of North Indian models, at any rate at Pagan. Your ancient Buddhism was simpler and purer than ours. It seems to date from before the wide diffusion of Shaivism in Upper India. Our Buddhism, especially in the north (North Arakari, Pagan and even Prome) had close contact with the Mahayanist, Tantric, and Brahmanic schools of Pala and post-Pala Bengal. It was only, I think, after 1070 A.D., with the obtaining of the full Pali Tipitaka from Ceylon, that the great change to Theravada was finally possible at Pagan. The chief agent in that change was King Kyanzittha, who reigned from 1084 to 1113 A.D. Round about 1090, near the beginning of his reign, he was building a Theravada temple, the Nagayon, on one side of the road at Pagan, while his chief queen, (perhaps a lady from East Bengal) was building a Tantric Mahayanist temple, the Abeyadana, on the opposite side of the road. Kyanzittha's final temple, the Ananda, which dates (I think) about 1105 or later, 7 marks the final triumph of Singhalese Theravada in Burma.

LATERITE

buddha statue

Dupont says little about laterite architecture or sculpture. At P'ong Tuk-one of your oldest site-Coedes noted plenty of it: buildings of brick and laterite, which foundations, round and square, of laterite blocks, neatly arranged; high basement platforms faced with laterite, with simple fine plinth-mouldings. My colleague, Col. Ba Shin, who had the great privilege, last year of visiting your old sites under your guidance, thinks you may have here just as much laterite-work as we have in coastal Burma. At P'ong Tuk, he noted "huge laterite pillars and carved blocks for the waist and recesses of the stupa". At the base of the Phra Fathom, "a life size torso-image, a ten-spoke Wheel of the Law, 3 small stupas, a carved pedestal, a large vase on a pedestal, and (perhaps) a linga-all in laterite. Near Ratburi, "The Wat Mahathat built of laterite, together with its enclosure-walls; also a seated Buddha image". At Lopburi, the Phra Prang San Yot, "built entirely of laterite. With pediments and spires beautifully carved"; and within the round-about across the railway-line, 'a ruin which looks like a hillock of laterite blocks, with two stone, images of' Vishnu" (he thought). Finally, near Prachinburi to the cast, “a huge laterite block, shaped like the anda of a stupa ".

Was not Laterite the first native material in the coastal regions of both our countries, to be used for Buddhist and pre-Buddhist art? As for Burnt Brick, though hallowed by Ashoka's use of it, it is a foreign Indian word (itthaka) in nearly all our languages -Thai, Shan, Mon, Khmer, Burmese, etc. Laterite was certainly the old building and art-stone in Ramannadesa. It was used for drains, gargoyles, square wells, ramps, pillars and pedestals, casings of relic-caskets; for animal sculptures, platforms, city-walls and all the oldest Buddhas and pagodas; for colossal monolith such as the Htamal6n seated Buddha, 17 ft. 9 in. high. Such images soon lose their surface features, but the beauty of their colouring (if not buried in paint unci plaster) remains for centuries.

At Zokthok near our Kelasa, where some of the Rakshas turned Buddhist and offered their "ropes of hair'' (Mon juk sok), they assembled huge beams of laterite, artfully piled, to construct the pagoda. All around there is a glorious congregation---all native monoliths or reel iron claystone, skillfully carved: umbrellas with bead and tassel fringes resting on octagonal posts, altars hour-glass shaped with double lotus mouldings, knobbed pillars with table-tops, ends or ramps with volutes, 'buds' for corner-posts with little niches for candles, four-sided stupas, pinnacled, with four shrines for seated Buddhas, and all manner of carved stands with leaf-patterns. All are in laterite. They outblaze the noonday sun in April, yet keep their porous calm and coolness. For sheer workaday beauty, what stone in the world can beat it!

REREDOS

There is one great difference in iconology between Mon and Pyu. The earliest Mon images, both in Burma and (I think) Siam, were always in the round. With the Pyu, and usually the Burmans, they must be backed with a reredos ('tage'). It is a relic, I suspect, from megalithic religion. The oldest images at Sri Ksetra are massive stone reliefs, Buddhist or Brahmanic. But what is massive is not the figure but the stone 'tage '. Right down to Pagan times, even when both are made of brick, the 'tage‘ often plain, seems almost as prominent as the image. It has even recurred to me that one could measure the decay of one religion and the advance of the other by the relative thickness of 'tage' and image!

VAULTING

pyu temple

In the temples, the greatest difference between Siam and Burma lies in the vaulting. From Pyu times (7th-8th century), right through our Pagan and Pinya periods, and (rarely) beyond, the Radiating Pointed Arch has been the main, preserving feature of Burma's architecture. No two Pyu temples are alike in plan; but all employ the radiating arch. The graining of the four pendentives at Sri Ksetra is sometimes crude and two-dimensional (e.g. the Bebe shrine), but it can be perfect (e.g. the East Z6gu temple). This neglected temple, as M. Henri Marchal realized, is a small masterpiece, the prototype of Pagan.

Radiating arches have also been found in Old Pegu, but not yet at Thaton. The Mons, even at Pagan, did not entirely trust the radiating arch. At the centre of the arch way they usually insert a lintel of carved or fossil wood. The original 'Mon' type of temple appears to have been a square shrine, with elaborate plinth-mouldings on the outer side, tall niches richly embossed above them, perforated stone windows with pediments, dado, and Kirtimukha frieze and cornice. A lean-to corridor was later added, with perforated windows on three sides, and a broad entrance-hall on the fourth. This lean-to corridor had only a half -vault, which could not bear the shock of earthquake, as full keystone vaulting could. That is why the corridor roofs of so many of the' Mon' type of temples at Pagan, have fallen in. The Old Burmans, taught by Mon experience, and avoided this mistake: their fully vaulted temples have stood the shocks of centuries.

Dupont is wrong in saying (on p. 125) that vaulting was not used in Burma monasteries, partly because the spans were too broad.

There is great variety in plan of the brick monasteries of Pagan; but all are vaulted. One monastery, 13 dated 1223 A.D. N.E. of Lemyethna temple, Minnanthu, has two large vaulted halls (44 x 20ft., and 40x 15 ft.), set at right angles to each other, with a mezzanine corridor crossing between the spandrels. Sad to say, nearly all these daring monasteries are in ruin, because the walls were too thin, quite vertical, and not buttressed; no allowance was made for the outward thrust of the vaulting.

Where did the Pyu learn the art of vaulting?-Not, I think, from the Chinese Later Han dynasty tombs in Tongking, as M. Henri Marchal suggested;14 for there the style of bricklaying is quite different: the brick's broad face being at right angles to the plane of the arch. In Burma, as at Nalanda and in Central Asia, the brick's broad face is always parallel to the arch-face. No radiating arches survive in Eastern India, so far as I am aware, as old as those of Sri Ksetra.

But I expect the Pyu learnt their fine technique from North Indian architects, whether from Bihar, Orissa or Bengal. Heavy rainfall and earthquake may account for the disappearance of such vaulting, both in Eastern India and at That6n.

MON PEDIMENT (clec, clac)

pagoda

For architectural ornament the Pagan Burman was deeply indebted to the Mon. The Mon pediment is the most conspicuous detail of Pagan architecture, crowning or enclosing almost every arch and window. Sri, Goddess of Luck and wife of Vishnu, is often seen in the top centre. This goes back to the carved stone jambs and architraves of Buddhist toranas at Sanci, or to the entrance of the Jain Ananta Gumpha Khandagiri, in Orissa. But the two elephants with trunks bathing her have passed at Pagan into floral arabesques. At the lower corners of the pediment, there are spouting makaras. Sri and Makara are, properly speaking, Vaishnava figures. King Kyanzittha, who declared himself an Avatar of Vishnu, popularized the Mon clec at Pagan, though it occurs earlier on the Nan-paya and the Nat-hlaung-gyaung (a Vishnu temple). The wordclaco, a pure Mon word, occurs in one of the Vat Kukut inscriptions at Haripunjaya; and the pediment itself crowns every tiered niche in that magnificent monument. Judging from photographs, I guess that the makaras are shown, but not the SRI. I do not know if the clacoccurs in Dvaravati art. The two Mon words, K.yax Sri, ''Goddess Sri", have passed into Burmese 'kyesthye' as an abstract noun meaning "splendor".

VOTIVE TABLETS

wall plaque

Burma's art here comes nearest to that of Dvaravati. For the origin of Votive Tablets-often shown by the Buddhist Credo (ye dharma hetuprabhava etc.) stamped in Sanskrit Nagari, usually on the obverse-is clearly from N.E. India, especially Bodhgaya. After comparison, not only with Dupont's book (where few tablets are shown), but also with Coedes' admirable article, "Siamese Votive Tablets", published in the Siam Society's Journal, also with notes made by Col. Ba Shin on his visits to the Bangkok and other museums, we have found 8 or 9 types of plaques in Burma which arc exact, or close, copies of yours in Thailand.

  1. Coedes' Plate I (top) illustrates the First Sermon: the Buddha seated between stupas in pralambanasana, dharmachkra mudra, with a Deer on either side of his footstool, and the Wheel of the Law below it. Your plaque comes from P'ong Tuk. Several variants, never (I think) quite the same as yours but very similar, have been found at Pagan, Sri Ksetra and Twante near Rangoon. A bronze mould for such tablets has been found at Myinkaba, and is now in Rangoon University Library.
  2. A rare variety, from Nyaungbingan in Meiktila district, shows the Buddha seated in the same attitude between two Bodhisattvas, seated on the same throne in lalitasana. I do not know if this variety is found in Thailand. But a third variety, oblong with arching top, is shown in Coedes' Plate II, top, right and left corners. Here the Bodhisattvas are standing, and three 'Dhyani' Buddhas are added at the top or the plaque. The plaques come from Badalung and P'ra Pathom. Coedes already notes "an identical tablet" from Burma, "pictured by R.C. Temple. This comes from Kawgun Cave, 30 miles above Moulmein. There is a duplicate in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, said to come from Sri Ksetra. We have a similar oval plaque, also from Sri Ksetra.
  3. Coedcs' plate III (centre) shows an oval plaque with the Buddha seated in the centre preaching to 8 ( Coedes says 12) persons, seated in ecstatic attitudes around him. It comes from Tharri Guha Svarga. A good specimen of the same plaque, from Sri Kshetra, is in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, and a worn specimen from the same place is also shown by U Mya.
  4. On the same plate (bottom right), coming from the same cave, is a round Mahayanist plaque showing the Green Tara (Syama or Khadiravani) sitting in lalitasana, right hand on knee in varada mudra. This also is in the Indian Museum, found at Sri Ksetra.
  5. Coedes Plate V (centre) shows a high triangular plaque with the Earth-touching Buddha, royally adorned, mounted on three elephant- heads, with many other Buddhas beside and above him. This type was found at Bejraburi. Specimens have also been found at Rangoon Tadagale.
  6. Col. Ba Shin has a photograph of an oval plaque, showing the Earth-touching Buddha seated between stupas within an arch crowned with an umbrella. It is said to come from a cave in Khao Ngu hill near Ratburi. The strong tall-torsoed figure with long arm falling vertically is found in East Bengal; but it is so characteristic of Aniruddha's work at Pagan that I have ventured to call it 'the Aniruddha type'. Aniruddha's own plaques have 2 full lines of Sanskrit/Nagari below the double lotus, containing the Icing's signature. Others like yours have 3 full lines, containing the Buddhist Credo. The former come from the Icing's pagoda, Pagan Shwehsanda w; the latter from other sites at Pagan. A terracotta mould has also been found.
  7. Col. Ba Shin has 3 photographs of a plaque, squared at the base, pointed at the top, which shows the same type of Earth-touching Buddha, seated between stupas on a high recessed throne, under an arch crowned with sikhara and stupa. They come, I think, from Kancanaburi.-This type, in Burma, we associate with Aniruddha's son and successor, 'Sawlu', whose title, stamped on some of these plaques in Sanskrit/Nagari, is Sri Bajrabharana. These have only I line of writing below the throne, while yours have two. Our Sawlu plaques have been found so far only in the north, at Mandalay, Tagaung, and Kanthida in Katha Township.
  8. Col. Ba Shin has also photographs of plaques, squared below, arching to a point above, showing a similar Earth-touching Buddha seated on double lotus, with 3 stupas below the lotus, as well as 2 faint lines of what looks like Mon writing. They come from Tham Rsi, Khao Ngu hill, Ratburi-Mr. David Steinberg of the Asia Foundation found the lower half of a suntar plaque at Mokti pagoda, at the mouth of Tavoy river. It is now with the Burma Historical Commission. Several other plaques from the same site had Mon writings on the back, showing that they were made by governors ( samben) of Tavoy ( Daway ), under king Kyanzittha (Sri Tribhovartaditya).
  9. Finally, Col. Ba Shin has a photograph of a thick-rimmed plaque from Uthong, Suphanburi, showing the Earth-touching Buddha under an arch crowned with an umbrella, between 4 other small Buddhas in two tiers. Below is a line of inscription in Old Mon saying; "This Buddhamuni was made by Matrarajikar", governor of the Madra, a people N.W. of India. Perhaps he was a minister of Kyanzittha who gave several of his ministers’ fanciful Sanskrit titles. Dozens of this type of plaque have been found at Pagan, E. of the Mingalazedi. Often they have Mon writings on the rims. One is to be seen in the Tresor at Pegu, Shwemawdaw pagoda.

THE EIGHT SCENES

bas relief

One large and important group of votive tablets at Pagan, illustrates the Eight Scenes ( athamahathana) in the life of Gotama Buddha. These have a long history in Indian art, from Gandhara onwards. At Old Nalanda one of the Pala kings built a colossal image of the Earth-touching Buddha against a reredos 15ft. high and 9k ft. broad, showing the Eight Scenes. This, and the many Pala carvings on black slate, must have spread the fashion to both our countries. In Burma, at Sri Ksetra, only two fragments of a votive tablet of the Eight Scenes have yet been found. At Pagan they are plentiful. They may be painted, as in Loka-hteikpan temple, on a large scale, 18ft. in height. They may be condensed nto terracotta tablets barely 3 inches high. The finest are intricately carved on what we call 'Andagu' stone, defined in the dictionaries as Dolomite.

Not having previously seen mention of the Eight Scenes in Thailand, I was delighted to read, in Artibus Asiae, an article by Coedes: "Note sur une stele indienne d'epoque Pala decouverte a Ayudhya (Siam)". It is a small gilded stone, a little over 6 inches high. The kind of stone is not stated; one would like to know whether it is a stone common to Bengal and Thailand, or one peculiar to either: for although the style is plainly Pala, the size is that of our 'andagu' carvings, not of ordinary Pala black slate reliefs. The scenes shown include the usual Eight:

  1. Nativity (bottom left corner)
  2. Enlightenment, at Kapilavatthu. at Bodhgaya. (center)
  3. First Sermon, near Benares. ( middle tier, left )
  4. Great Twin Miracles, at Savatthi. (bottom left corner ) (middle tier, right)
  5. Descent from Tavatin.1sa, to Sarikassa. (top tier. lef't)
  6. Monkey's offering of honeycomb, ncar Vcs'iili. (bottom right corner)
  7. Taming of Natagiri elephant, at Rajagaha. (top tier, right)
  8. Parinirvana, at Kusinagara. (top)

There are also 3 additional figures in the middle of the lower tier-the Buddha sheltered by the Mucalinda Naga, flanked by two Buddhas with outer hands on knee, and inner raised in abhaya mudra. Coedes dates the carving 11th or 12th century, judging partly from the writing of the Sanskrit/Pali Buddhist Credo engraved on the reverse.

The arrangement of these scenes is not rigid, except that the Parinirvana is always shown at the top and the Nativity at the bottom; but the latter may be either on the left or the right, and the same applies to the other scenes. Burma plaques sometimes add an extra scene at the bottom centre; and several 'andagu' slabs add, between the 6 side-scenes and the central Buddha, another series or 6 (or 8) scenes in intermediate relief', showing the Seven Sites'1:1 in the neighborhood of the Bodhi tree, where the Buddha, according to the later texts, spent the first seven weeks after the Enlightenment.

THE FAT MONK

pagoda

Dupont shows a remarkable 'votive tablet' from Wat P'ru Pat'on in which a Fat Monk, seated with both hands supporting his belly (or is he in dhyana mudra?), takes the place of the Buddha. In one of his reports Duroiselle mentions, without illustrating it, a similar plaque round in a mound near Tilominlo temple, Pagan. Statuettes of the Fat Monk are plentiful in Burma, in stone, bronze, silver-gilt, bronze-gilt, plaster, terracotta and unburned clay. They are found frequently in old relic-chambers: at Sri Ksetra, Rangoon, Pegu, Mandalay, Pagan etc., from the 7th to the 17th Century. Perhaps the oldest is a stone statuette, once lacquered and gilded, found in the stone casket in the relic-chamber or Kyaik De-ap (Bo-ta-htaung) pagoda, Rangoon.

In Thailand, I believe you call this Fat Monk Kaccayana. – Is this the 5th-6th century author of the first Pali grammar, Kaccayana vyakarana? Or is it the eminent disciple of the Buddha, Mahakaccayana, famous for his golden complexion? - The rich youth of Soreyya, according to the Dhammapada-atthakatha (I, 324 ft), wished that his wife were like the latter: a prayer that seems improbable if he was really so obese. In Burma we hardly know how to identify him. Personally, I follow our venerable archaeologist, U Mya, in thinking he is Gavainpati, patron saint of the Mons, and a sort of ' elder statesman' in Buddhism, whose gilded images are mentioned in our inscriptions.

But I know no text that says Gavampati was abnormally fat. And Burmese scholars have suggested that the monk is the Great Disciple of the Left, Moggallana, uncomfortably swelled by the naughty Mara entering his belly, as told in the Maratajjaniya Sutta of the MajjhimaNikaya.41

THE DVARA VATI BUDDHA-IMAGE

buddha statue

Our experts, Dr. Dupont and Dr. Le May, are pretty well agreed about the distinctive features of the Buddha image in Mon Dvaravati. Dupont (pp. 177-185) defines three of them:-

  1. The brow-arches are joined.
  2. The figure seems almost naked, but sexless (''lc nu ascxue").
  3. Both hands tend to execute the same mudra.

For (i), Dr. Le May says "lightly outlined eyebrows, in the form of a swallow springing ".

For (ii), he says "torso ... like a nude sexless body under a fine diaphanous cloth".

For (iii), he distinguishes two types:-

  1. The standing Buddha with right hand raised in abhaya mudra, or both in vitarka mudra.
  2. The image seated European wise (pralambanasana), either in dharmachakra mudra, or with right hand raised, left in lap.

He also adds other features:--

  1. Spiral curls of hair, or abnormal size.
  2. Elliptical form of face.
  3. Bulging upper eyelids.
  4. The material never sandstone, but a hard blue-black limestone.

How does all this compare with our images in Burma? - I find it difficult to say. Nearly all these features, except the last, occur in some Burma images both stone, bronze and terracotta. They are commonest perhaps at Pegu; but they occur everywhere from N. Arakan to Sri Kshetra. And they do not exclude other, different features.

In many cases the images are so old or damaged that we cannot be sure about the curls, the eyelids or the brow-arches. We can, however, usually determine the mudra and the asana. The Burma image seated European wise, represents (with few exceptions) either the First Sermon, or the Parileyyaka Retreat. In the former case hands are in dharmachakra mudra, with Wheel and Deer usually visible at the base. But the pralambanasana is not obligatory in this scene. More often the Buddha sits crosslegged in Indian fashion. In the Parileyyaka scene he nearly always sits in pralambanasana, sometimes turned half-left towards the Monkey in the right corner. He has usually alms bowl in lap. The Elephant is generally shown in the left corner, with an irrelevant monk behind.

SAME MUDRA FOR BOTH HANDS

buddha statue

Images, seated or standing, where both hands execute the same mudra, are always, in Burma, archaic. Here I would readily admit Dvaravati influence: with this difference, that standing images are commoner in Dvaravati, while seated images arc commoner with us. Here is a summary of the Burma evidence:-

From Sri Ksetra come at least 4 such images, 3 seated cross-legged, 1 standing; 3 in bronze, 1 in gold. All have both hands raised in vitarka mudra. The gold image, seated right leg on left, was found south of the Tharawady Gate, in a garden just outside it. A beautiful bronze, seated in much the same pose, comes from the octagonal ruin at Kan-wet-hkaung-g6n. Here the robe covers the left shoulder only. A similar bronze image, much cruder in style, is clearly a Pyu attempt to copy an Indian original, with features exaggerated, bulging almond eyes, large hands propped on the robe, and legs awkwardly superposed, right on left. It comes from a site west of Yindaikkwin. The standing bronze image, found by the Shwenyaungbinyo abbot near his monastery S. of Taunglonnyo village, wears a heavy pointed crown: but in all other respects he is dressed as a monk, with an indented line across the waist, and plain robe spreading behind the legs.

From the relic-chamber of a ruined pagoda at Twante, some 15 miles W. of Rangoon, comes a fine bronze image of the Buddha seated in pralambanasana, his delicate hands raised from the elbow in vitarkamudra. His robe covers only the left shoulder.

At Pagan, 3 bronzes and 1 terracotta illustrate this feature. One small weathered bronze comes perhaps from Paunggu pagoda, now mostly fallen into the river, just N. of the junction of Myinkaba Chaung and the Irawady. It is a Buddha seated cross-legged, right leg on left, with large hands propped at the wrist, raised in abhaya mudra. With it was found another archaic bronze of the Pyu Maitreya. I have a note also, written in Pagan Museum, of a similar "small bronze of 'Pyu' style, headless, with tiny round legs and feet barely crossing, and both large hands in abhayamudra ". Another bronze, from Pagan Shwehnsandaw, shows the Buddha seated on double lotus, right leg on left, with both hands propped at the wrist. Here, I think, the attitude is vitarka mudra. The Shwehsandaw, built by Aniruddha c. 1060 A.D. or earlier, contained some of the oldest Pagan tablets and bronzes, including Pyu.

The Hpetleik pagodas at Lokananda, 3 miles S. of Pagan, are probably older than Aniruddha. It was he, doubtless, who encased them each with a corridor to hold 550 unglazed Jataka-plaques, the finest in Burma. In doing so, he re-orientated the pagodas so as to face east, instead of north or west where the old stairways are still visible. At the West Hpetleik, the North steps led up to the main niche in the anda or bell. Here a row of very antique bricklike tablets can be seen and 3 similar ones at Pagan Museum. They have long tenons which ran back into the bell. Faintly visible in the centre is a haloed Buddha of Dvaravati type, standing with Iarge1 hands raised, alms forward, perhaps in the pose of Argument ( vitarka mudra) rather than Freedom from Fear (abhaya mudra). Of the three tiers on each side, the upper one may hold stupas, the two lower ones worshippers.

CONCLUSION:

View our collections of statues and arts in our gallery

Perhaps you will feel, as I do, that the really distinguishing features of Mon, or any other art, are not really contained in such rigid criteria. Useful as they are as workaday means of identification, they do not contain the essence of works of art, such as the many noble specimens from Dvaravati to which Dr. Le May has introduced us. I do not think that we can rival these in Burma. But our archaeological record of Ramannadesa is far more incomplete, I fear, than is yours of Dvaravati. And while we talk, with some confidence, about the 'Mon' element in the early temples of Pagan, we still write 'Mon' in inverted commas: for though we see clearly that it is different from Burmese, we are not always absolutely sure that it is Mon. To ascertain this, we shall have to do much more excavation in Tenasserim.

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Our collections of Buddha statues and arts

Old teakwooden panel with lotus flowers

Old teakwooden panel with lotus flowers

200 euro
Antique Burmese Monk statue

Antique Burmese Monk statue

150 euro
Old Nepali bronze Buddha

Old Nepali bronze Buddha

275 euro
Antique Ivory Guan Yin statue

Antique Ivory Guan Yin statue

2000 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Nat statue

Antique wooden Burmese Nat statue

750 euro
Antique wooden Shan Buddha statue

Antique wooden Shan Buddha statue

150 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha statue

750 euro
Old bronze nepali Buddha statue

Old bronze nepali Buddha statue

275 euro
Large sandstone Buddha statue

Large sandstone Buddha statue

9500 euro
Antique bronze Thai Buddha statue

Antique bronze Thai Buddha statue

1750 euro
Old Nepali crowned Buddha statue

Old Nepali crowned Buddha statue

550 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Shan Buddha statue

600 euro
Old large marble Buddha statue

Old large marble Buddha statue

4250 euro
Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

Old bronze Nepali Buddha statue

275 euro
Antique Burmese Buddha statue

Antique Burmese Buddha statue

1950 euro
Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha

Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha

875 euro
12th century Pagan Votive Tablet

12th century Pagan Votive Tablet

300 euro
Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

Antique wooden Mandalay Buddha statue

4950 euro
Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

Antique wooden Burmese Buddha statue

325 euro
Antique wooden Laotian Buddha statue

Antique wooden Laotian Buddha statue

1950 euro
Very special bronze Burmese Buddha statue

Very special bronze Burmese Buddha statue

Nepali bronze Buddha statue

Nepali bronze Buddha statue

200 euro
Antike Thai Rattanakosin Buddha statue

Antike Thai Rattanakosin Buddha statue

1350 euro
Antique wooden Thai Buddha statue

Antique wooden Thai Buddha statue

1250 euro
High quality Nepali bronze Buddha statue

High quality Nepali bronze Buddha statue

1600 euro
Antique wooden Thai Buddha statue

Antique wooden Thai Buddha statue

225 euro
Old Burmese bronze Buddha statue

Old Burmese bronze Buddha statue

2900 euro
Large bronze Avalokiteshvara statue

Large bronze Avalokiteshvara statue

6500 euro
Newly made Nepali Maitreya Buddha statue

Newly made Nepali Maitreya Buddha statue

750 euro
Antique wooden Laotian Buddha

Antique wooden Laotian Buddha

1250 euro
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