Buddhist Architecture

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a note on buddhist architecture

Transcript of Buddhist Architecture

Budhist architec

BUDDHIST ARCHITECTUREThe Buddhist architecture has its root deeply implanted in the Indian soil- the birthplace of the Buddha's teachings. The Buddhist architecture began with the development of various symbols, representing aspects of the Buddha's life (563 BCE - 483 BCE). Indian emperor Ashoka, not only established Buddhism as the state religion of his large Magadh empire, but also opted for the architectural monuments to spread Buddhism in different places. The major features of this style are Stupas stambhas chaitayas viharas these have been mere spectators of different eras quietly speaks about the phases of the Buddhist stages.

STUPAA stupa is a mound-like structure containing buddhist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship.These stupas are the circular tumuli built of earth, covered with stone or brick, the plan, elevation, section and the total form of which were all derived from circle.

Stupa become a cosmic symbol in response to a major human condition: death. With the enlightenment of the Buddha, stupa became a particularly buddhist symbol.SANCHI STUPA there are mainly three main stupas on the top of the sanchi hill which rise about 100m above the plain.Of the three stupa the biggest one is known as the great stupa.


The 'Great Stupa' at Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in India and was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It was crowned by the chatra, a parasol-like structure symbolizing high rank, which was intended to honour and shelter the relics. It has four profusely carved ornamental gateways and a balustrade encircling the whole structure.

DOME- is a solid brick-work 32.32m in diameter and 12.8m high.The dome has a slight crushed profile at top and was surmounted by HARMIKA with a central triple UMBRELLA.The facing of the dome consists of dry masonry composed of hammer dressed stones laid in even courses.The terrace 4.87m high from ground was added thus creating a separate and upper AMBULATORY passage 1.8m wide access to which was provided by a double staircase with high BALUSTRADE, on the south sidePlan and elevationThere are four gateways known as TORANAS at the cardinal points to the compass and are slightly staggered from the railing enclosing stupa.The ambulatory or pradakshina path is fenced by railing 3.35m high all around the stupa.Outside the railing there once stood the famous ashoka pillar, the fragments of which are noticed now to the right of southern torana

Axonometric drawingTORANAToranas, the entrance to the ambulatory were accepted as the traditional type of ceremonial potals and excel the array of architectural embellishment.Torana consists of two square uprite columns with capital of lion or elephant heads denoting strength.These columns support three separate horizontal panels between each of which is a row of ornamental balusters.These panels are supported by atlantean figures, a group of dwarfs, lions and elephant.The total height of this erection is somewhat 10.36m with a width of 3m

RAILING OR VEDICAThe vedica or railing consists of upright octagonal plan 45cm in diameter spaced at 60 to 90cm from each other and connected by three lens shaped horizontals called suchi or needles 60cm deep being threaded through the holes of the upright.The top horizontal bar is provided with coping to drain out rain water.

STUPA AT AMARAVATIThe Great Stupa at Amaravati was a large Buddhist monument built in south-eastern India between the second century B.C. and the third century A.D. It was a centre for religious activity and worship for hundreds of years.

The Stupa was part of a complex of religious buildings built and paid for by local people. Over time, the Stupa was added to and changed many times.


This relief shows a stupa with a harmika and umbrellas. HARMIKADOME (UPPER)

The main part of the Amaravati Stupa was a solid great dome which most likely stood about 18 meters high. The dome was made of pale green limestone which was probably painted with bright colors. The lower part of the dome was covered with large stone reliefs. This section of sculpture shows different scenes from the Buddha's life.

DOME (LOWER)There were four gateways in the railing around the Stupa. Each one of the gateways marked one of the four directions, north, south, east and west. GATEWAYA small platform extended out from the drum at each of the gateways. Five pillars were mounted on top of each of the ayaka platforms. The ayaka platform may have been used in the rituals which took place at the Amaravati Stupa. AYAKA PLATFORMPILLARFacing each gateway into the Amaravati Stupa was a group of five pillars. The pillars were mounted on a special platform called the ayaka which was part of the drum and extended out from it.

RAILINGAround the outer limits of the Stupa was a tall railing made of limestone. The railing marked the boundaries of the Stupa.

LION Lion sculptures were placed at the gateways to the Amaravati Stupa. Lions represented power and strength and were meant to ward off evil spirits and protect the Stupa.

STAMBHAS OR LATSThese pillars are common to all the styles of Indian architecture. With the Buddhist they were employed to bear inscriptions on their shafts, with emblems or animals on their capital.

Typical Buddhist column are of two type one is based on persepolitian type and other graeco-roman type.

Persepolitian type is a octagonal with bell shaped capital supporting animal sculpture. The shaft is highly polished and has a vase-shaped base. Graeco-roman type is rectangular with shallow flutes. They are tall and slender, the height nearly six to eight times its lower diameter. At the top is a capital usually with a fluted vase motif.

The authentic examples of these pillars are those which king Ashoka set up to bear inscriptions conveying to his subjects the leading doctrines of the new faith he had adopted, Buddhism. These are sturdy, finely proportional and properly balanced religious sign posts

ASHOKA PILLARSThe pillar at sarnath more than 15m high has a group of four addoresed lions with flowing manes, surmounting the capital.These lions originally supported a massive metal wheel with 24 spokes called wheels of the law.The capital more than 2m high resembles the shape of a inverted bell or lotus bub with series of fluted petals.Above the capital is the abacus which is circular, having broad edge carves with ornamental borders, containing four figure of animals alternate with the four small wheels

CHAITYASChaityas or sacred spots are the temples as well as assembly halls created out of the particular demands of buddhist religion. These became necessary to accommodate those who congregated to pay their homage.These have a small rectangular door-way which opens to a vaulted hall, with apsidal end and divided longitudinally by two colonnades forming a broad nave in the centre and two side aisles.At end is a stupa also carved in natural rock with enough space around it for circumambulationThe roof is usually semi-circular.

1-stupa, 2-nave, 3-aisles, 4-entryCHAITYA AT KARLIThe entrance of the chaitya is very grand and consists of three doorways set underneath a gallery.The chaitya hall is 38.5m long and 13m wide with a vaulted roof rising to a height of 13.7m.The roof is supplemented by a series of wooden ribs which are closely spaced.The hall is divided by two rows of columns forming a broad nave in the centre.Each column is 1.22m in diameter and 7.32m high, with bell shapes capital which supports a pair of kneeling elephants carrying male and female riders and those of horses and tigers in the rear.The shaft is octagonal in shape and has a vase-shapes base. At the end is a stupa, caved in natural rock, with railing and inverted stepped pyramid or tee at the top. A beautiful lat surmounting with four addorsed lions is erected at the entrance of the chaitya.

Richly carved pillars

Detail of wooden frame for windowCouples on elephant

FEATURESFacade of chaitya hall at karli

Section in perspective of rock-cut chaitya hall at karliELEPHANTA CAVESThe cave temple of Shiva, located on Elephanta Island in Bombay Harbor, was excavated out of the rock sometime in the 6th century. The Elephanta caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta island.The island has two groups of caves in the rock cut architectural style.The primary cave numbered as Cave 1 is a rock cut temple and consists of a main chamber, two lateral chambers, courtyards, and subsidiary shrines.Inside, it contains a square linga shrine. The interior of the cave is decorated with a dozen large relief sculptures of the great god Shiva in his fierce and kindly aspects.On the eastern part of the island, on the Stupa Hill, there is a small group of caves that house Buddhist monuments

Main caveThe main cave, also called the Shiva cave, Cave 1, or the Great Cave, is 27 meters (89ft) square in plan with a hall (mandapa). At the entrance are four doors, with three open porticoes and an aisle at the back. Pillars, six in each row, divide the hall into a series of smaller chambers. The roof of the hall has concealed beams supported by stone columns joined together by capitals. The central Shiva shrine is a free-standing square cell with four entrances, located in the right section of the main hall. Smaller shrines are located at the east and west ends of the caves. The eastern sanctuary serves as a ceremonial entrance.

The main cave blends features such as massive figures of the divinit