Gandhara in the Role of Buddhist Art

As Buddha himself did not sanction personal worship the early images of Buddhism for veneration were confined to Buddha’s foot marks and stupas.

Gandhara in the present Pakistan is credited with the first representation of the Buddha in human form; the portrayal of Buddha in his human shape, rather than shown as a symbol. As Buddhist art developed and spread outside India, the Gandhara style spread to most eastern regions of the world. The adjacent Swat Valley, the land of romance and beauty, is celebrated as the holy land of Buddhist learning and piety. It is said that the Swat was filled with fourteen hundred imposing and beautiful stupas and monasteries, which housed as many as 6,000 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education. There are now more than 400 Buddhist sites covering and area of 160 Km in Swat valley alone.

The earliest discovered statue at Gandhara is that of the seated Buddha from 2nd or 3rd century AD. Other Buddha images from this period too are of Greco-Roman style. They seem to have flourished during the adjacent Kushan reign of Mathura (Uttar Pradesh). Gandharan’s role in the evolution of the Buddha image has been a point of considerable disagreement among scholars. It now seems clear that the schools of Gandhara and Mathura each independently evolved its own characteristic depiction of the Buddha about the 1st century CE. The Gandhara school mostly drew from the traditions of Rome and Greece and represented the Buddha with a youthful Apollo face, dressed in royal garments. The ancient Gandharan artisans in their composition of Buddha’s images and his experiences have transformed the religion into Buddhist Art.

 

ANTIQUE BUDDHA STATUES

 

 

 

 

 

The Ramayana Connection: Sri Lanka

Rama

The Sanskrit epic Rāmāyana is perhaps the most depicted epic in the world today. Some of the most exotic historic sites in India and the rest of the east, such as the  Ellora caves, Mahāvalipuram,  Cambodian temples, and several other places in Thailand portray Rāmāyana scenes and characters in their sculptures and paintings.  Its literary contents have continued to inspire artists and artesans to depict the Rāmāyana scenes in paintings, on stone and other media for sculptures. Consisting of 24,000 verses, it is supposed to have been written around 250 to 300 BC, although the events described in it appear to be much earlier, around 1000 BC.  Although generally looked upon as a religious epic of the Hindus the contents in relation to Lanka reveal some contents that may be historic.

Many other religious beliefs to stake a claim to Lanka, the present Sri Lanka. To the Mohammedans it was the paradise of Adam and Eve. One Islamic legend says that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the paradise, Adam fell on the island of Ceylon, and Eve near Jeddah, the port of Mecca. They later met each other and lived in Ceylon. Adam’s Peak is a legacy of this legend.

For the Buddhists, it was the island chosen for salvation of Rakshas and Nagas by the Buddha.  With such a variety of claims it is not entirely surprising to see Lanka having a multitude of ancient names. The Island’s ancient name, Lanka (Laka or Laksha, thousands) is supposed to be derived from the Sanskrit language, to refer to a multitude of islands around its western coast. In the Pandiyan Saṅgam  literature, the southern region in the peninsula is referred to as MaveIlaṅkai (great Lanka), while Lanka, known for its supply of rice to the Tamil kingdom, is referred to as Ilaṅkai. The Sinhalese called the island Sīhala, after the Siṃha (lion) of the Vijaya legend. This name was corrupted to Sinhaladipa, and became the Serendib of the Arabs around the 2nd century AD. During the colonial period Sieladipa became Ceilão, and later ‘Zeilan’, and ‘Ceylon’ under the Dutch and British.

To the Hindus, it was the scene of the epic Rāmāyana battle where Rāma and Rāvaṇa fought over Sītā. The Hindu epic poem, Rāmāyana refers to the island as Ilaṅkai, the most antiquated name for the island. Many holy places in the island are implied in the Rāmāyana. Rāma is said to have prayed for his victory over Rāvaṇa, at the shrine for Siva at Muniswaram (Tamil: mun, ancient or before, Īśvara, Hindu god) in the Chilaw district. The narrow causeway between Ramēśvaram (Hindu gods: Rāma, Īśvara,) in India and Talaimannar served as the crossing   point for Rāma   before   his battle with the Lankan  king Rāvaṇa, and we know that this is geographically true. Dandaka forest, the northernmost wildernes of South India (Penninsular India) is where the first conflict between Rama (Aryan) and Surpaanakai, the sister of king Rāvaṇa (Dravidian), began. The legend in many ways is a rerun of the Aryan invasion that occurred thousand years previously in the Indus which probably captured the imagination of Valmiki.

Following the Rig Veda of the Aryans (c 1400 BC), the next earliest quasi historic document that we can find is the Rāmāyana. The classical historian and Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Theodor Mommsen (1817-1910) quotes: “Imagination, mother of all poetry, is likewise mother of all history.” In the epic a divine monkey from the tribe of Vānarar comes to the island of Ilaṅkai  in search of  Rāma’s wife, who was abducted by  Rāvaṇa, the king of Lanka. Shortly before entering Lanka he stands on Pavalamalai (Pearl Mountain) near Lanka, and observes the island which is regarded as a paradise. In the Kamba Rāmāyanam, a Tamil version of the Rāmāyana written later in the 12th century AD, the divine city of Lanka was built by the architect of God. Its palaces reached for the skies, with shining precious stones embedded in gold. Divine women of the giant race (Rākṣasas) and divine   lords     were     serving  giants    like King Rāvaṇa. According to Kambar’s description Wind and  God       could     enter              the        city only with Rāvaṇa’s consent; such   was the the defence and           glory of Lanka.  Men and women happily lived here without the slightest care. Only happy people were seen about, and Hahnuman could not see any signs of discontent as he sifted through Lanka looking for Sītā.

The episode on war, the Uttara- kāṇḍa in the classic, between the Lankan Dravidian king and the Aryan king of India, constitutes 68 chapters out of a total of 537 chapters, in six books. Although  in these verses the Rāmāyana narrates unlikely supernatural feats such as            the flight of Hahnuman, a monkey god over Lanka,  some geographical framework such as the Rama’s Bridge is noted. Rāma and Sītā’s legend  still lives on in Sri Lanka    through several  place-names: Sītāvaka in the

Sitavaka Temple in Nuwara Eliya

Avissawella district where Sītā is believed to have been held in captivity: Sītākoṭuva, near           Gurulupota in Minipe, on         the        Kandy-Mahiyangana road where Sītā       is supposed to   have     been     initially held      by the        Lankan  king:     Rāvaṇa,              Älla,      in Ella              (near     Badulla), a scenic cave  behind  waterfalls              where   Rāvaṇa hid Sītā: Ariṣṭa   mountain Riṭigala) where Hahnuman is       said       to          have      dumped the earth containing medical      herbs from Himalayas: MunĪśvaram      where   Rāma    prayed  for his   victory:              Sītā       Amman Kovil, near Hakgala Gardens, where Hahnuman found Sītā,     and the Rāma’s Bridge (Adam’s              bridge)  built      by Hahnuman for             Rāma to cross over to Lanka.

 

HINDU ART & MYTHOLOGY

 

Hindu Art & Religion

Shiva and Parvati are primordial powers of the world demonstrating gender as the basic of human life. The Lingam representing male force, and Yoni, the female power are both the concept of love and procreation taking their roots in Indus culture of the proto-Dravidians or Pre-Aryans. The power of both the female and male

Ardharnishwara

force is represented in the image of Ardharnishwara, an androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. This concept of unified power of the male (Shiva) and the female (Parvati) takes its origin in the 9th and 10th centuries of the Chola period. One of the earliest images of Ardharnishwara from the 9th century AD was found in Sri Lanka and is displayed at the Colombo Museum demonstrating the Hindu influence on the adjacent island during the reign of the Raja Raja Cholan when Hindu culture reigned supreme. Incidentally the Hindu images unearthed at Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka constitute strong evidence for the Hindu influence in the island off the tip of south India.

Meenakshi

The current Hinduism is a fusion of nature gods of the Aryans and the personified tribal gods of the Dravidians, looking at the religion in a broader sense. The Hinduism of southern India is more representative or mother or female guardian culture with innumerable female deities such as Shakti, Parvati, Meenakshi, Kali, Durga, Valli and scores of others. In the same tone the family aspect Hinduism is reflected in Shiva and Parvati, their son Ganesha, and the couple Vishnu and Lakshmi. While the latter predominate in Vaishnavism, Shiva and Parvati iconography is the hall mark of Shaivism, second only to Tandava of Shiva as Nataraja. The mythologies of these deities have provided the playing field for the artisans in their display of their art and skill in gifting us with Hindu Art and sculpture from the glorious past.

The Hindu iconographies such as Durga slaying Maheshasuramardini, Krishna stealing cheese, Kaliya serpent submitting to Krishna, Shiva courting Parvati, Vishnu holding Lakshmi and the Tandava dance of Shiva are not only awe inspiring for the Hindu devotees, but also an immeasurable pleasure for the eyes and souls for the connoisseurs of Hindu Art: to them the magic of Hindu art itself has become a religion.

 

Hindu Art and Religion

©AntonSebastian

Durga as an Inspiration to Hindu Art & Sculpture

Durga is a representative of female power in Hinduism and is also identified by the Hindus as Adi Parashakti, Devi, Shakti, Bhavani, Parvati and numerous other female forms. She is a warrior goddess and the source of Hindu mythology for combating evil and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good. Many of Hindu Art and sculpture represents her fierce role as the protective mother goddess ready to unleash her anger against evil. Given her multirole it is not surprising to see the Hindu religious artisans throughout the ages focussing their skills in depicting Durga’s power and emotions.

Some of her artistic and sculptural representations of Durga are as a goddess riding a lion or tiger, with many arms carrying weapons. Her most ferocious form of defeating Mahishasura ( buffalo demon) with its head in her hands is the ultimate display of fate of the evil demons in her hands,

Her antiquity is takes its roots in the Vedic literature, such as in the Rigveda literature and the Atharvaveda. While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks the legendary details about her that follows in later Hindu literature.

Not only venerated as a destroyer of evil but also she is equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman for creation of the universe. Durga has a significant following all over India, Bangladesh and Nepal, particularly in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar. Durga is revered during the festival of Navratri celebrated by Hindus all over the world.

Art and Sculpture of Durga

Princely States that were Once the Splendor of India

At the time of the British withdrawal, 565 princely states were officially recognised in the Indian subcontinent,  apart from thousands of taluqarszamindaris and jagirs. In 1947, princely states numbering 555 covered 48% of area of pre-Independent India and constituted 28% of its population.

Mysore State, Krishnaraja Wadiyar

The most important states had their own British Political Residencies:

Indore State

HyderabadMysore and Travancore in the South followed by Jammu & Kashmir and Sikkim in the Himalayas, and Indore in Central India. Gun-salutes were often given for personal distinctions of the ruler rather than the importance of the state and varied from time to time. The most prominent among those – roughly a quarter of the total – had the status of a salute state, one whose ruler was honoured by receiving a set number of gun salutes on ceremonial occasions, ranging from nine to 21. Rulers of salute states entitled to a gun salute of eleven guns and above received from the British the style of His/Her Highness; while the Nizam of Hyderabad had the unique style of His Exalted Highness.

The princely states varied greatly in status, size, and wealth; the premier 21-gun salute states of Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir were each over 200,000 km2 in size, or slightly larger than the whole of Great Britain. In 1941, Hyderabad had a population of over 16 million,, while Jammu and Kashmir had a population of slightly over 4 million,

Maharaja Morvi State

comparable to that of Switzerland. At the other end of the scale, the non-salute principality of Lawa covered an area of 49 km with a population of just below 3,000. Some two hundred of the lesser states had an area of less than 25 km2 (10 mi2).  At the time of Indian independence in 1947, Hyderabad had annual revenues of over Rs. 9 crore (roughly £6.75 million/$27.2 million in 1947 values, approximately £240 million/$290 million in 2014 values), and its own army, airline, telecommunication system, railway, postal system, currency, radio service and a major public university; the tiny state of Lawa had annual revenues of just Rs. 28,000 (£2100/$8463 in 1947 values, £73,360/$89,040 in 2014 values).[

Baroda State

The era of the princely states effectively ended with Indian independence in 1947. By 1950, almost all of the principalities had acceded to either India or Pakistan. The accession process was largely peaceful, except in the cases of Jammu and Kashmir (whose ruler opted for independence but decided to accede to India following an invasion by Pakistan-based forces), Hyderabad (whose ruler opted for total independence in 1947, followed a year later by the police action and annexation of the state by India), Junagadh (whose ruler acceded to Pakistan, but was annexed by India).[10] and Kalat (whose ruler opted for independence in 1947, followed in 1948 by the state’s annexation

STAMPS OF PRINCELY INDIAN STATES

Chinese Expeditionary Force of India

The Chinese Expeditionary Force of India

A Chinese group called the Boxers by peasants in northern China formed “The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists” in 1898, who revolted against the imperialist. Their policies were against their Christian missionary evangelism. The Dowager Empress Cixi supported them and the foreign legations in Peking (now Beijing) came under siege in June 1900. An eight nation alliance of western powers assembled a force of 30,000 soldiers, mainly made up from the Indian army called the China Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.)  was effective in ending the 55 day siege and defeating the Boxer rebellion. The final peace settlement was signed in September 1901 and this allowed foreign troops to occupy key Chinese cities to safeguard the ex-patriot civilians.

This force was sufficiently large to justify the establishment of a field post office system to handle the mail. Initially Indian stamps were used on outgoing letters, from the arrival of the troops on July 23 1900, and mail thus franked is rare. On August 16 1900 Indian stamps and postal stationery overprinted C.E.F. were introduced to combat currency speculation, their validity being restricted to use by the Field Force. The postal rates were the same as those prevailing in India and the rate to India was the same as the Indian internal rate. Official stamps were not overprinted as they were not for public use. A base office was located at Liu Kung Tau (Wei-Hai-Wei), which was later transferred to Hong Kong. Other bases were at Tientsin and Tonku. There was provision for 19 field offices, with FPO numbers from 1 to 20, though some may not have been opened. 

In 1906 the majority of the Chinese Expeditionary Force was withdrawn from China and after that date only 4 field post offices continued to function. The final withdrawal of C.E.F. troops did not take place until November 1923. 

HISTORY OF INDIA IN STAMPS

The Emergence of New and Free Africa

The Cradle of Humans where the first humans evolved is also one of the most exploited continents in the world. Second only to Asia in size, this land of origin, beauty and resources was exploited by the Western Imperial Powers since the 15th century. Not only the land itself was carved among themselves the colonial powers took it to dehumanize its inhabitants and carry them across the world as commodities. The continent was split and named according the fancies of the colonists to bear the stigma of colonialism as long as they could control this vast area of 11,677,239 square miles.

 

Visit Coins & Stamps of Africa

It took as late as the second half of the 19th century for the colonial protectorates to become free to manage their own affairs. 

Belgian Congo- Republic of Congo,  established in 1908 as colony of Belgium, it became Republic of the Congo in 1960.

Botswana- Bechuanaland, a British protectorate became independent in 1966 as Republic of Botswana.

Djibouti- French Somaliland, the French colony was renamed to the French Territory of Afars and Issas (1967 – 1977), the territory became independent in 1977, known today as Djibouti

Gold Coast and the Togoland British trust territory became the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa was the first to gain independence as Ghana in 1957.

Lesotho- Basutoland, a British protectorate became independent in 1966 as the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Nyasaland- Malawi, a British protectorate became the independent nation of Malawi in 1964.

Rhodesia, Northern- Zambia was administered by the South Africa Company from 1891 until takeover by the British in 1923. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964.

Rhodesia, Southern – Zimbabwe, acquired by [British] South Africa Company in 1923, gained independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980.

Sudan, French- Mali,  a part of the Federation of French West Africa, in 1959, became Sudanese Republic and Senegal and gained independence as Federation of Mali becoming in 1960.

Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form the nation of Tanzania in 1964.

Union of South Africa- Republic of South Africa was formed on 31 May 1910 as a parliamentary union of the four self-governing British colonies: the Cape of Good Hope Province, Natal Province, Orange River Colony and the Transvaal Province. The Union came to an end in 1961with a new constitution and became the “Republic of South Africa”.

 

New Hebrides, so named by Captain Cook in 1774 due to its resemblance to the Scottish Islands

These islands in the east of Papua New Guinea saw its first European visitor Pedro de Queiros of Portugal in 1606 followed by the Frenchman Louis de Bougainville in 1768.

new-hebrides-1967-1New Hebrides, named for the Hebrides Scottish archipelago, was the colonial name for the island group in the South Pacific Ocean that now is the nation of Vanuatu. Native people had inhabited the islands for three thousand years before the first Europeans arrived in 1606 from a Spanish expedition led by Pedro Fernandes de Queirós. The islands were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century, shortly after Captain James Cook visited the islands.

The two countries eventually signed an agreement making the islands an Anglo-French condominium, which divided the New Hebrides into two separate communities: one Anglophone and one Francophone. This divide continues even after independence, with schools teaching in either one language or the other, and with different political parties. The condominium lasted from 1906 until 1980, when the New Hebrides gained their independence as Vanuatu.

Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, on Coins

rhodesia-1942The Colony of Southern Rhodesia was a self-governing British Crown colony in southern Africa from 1923 to 1980, equivalent in territorial terms to modern Zimbabwe. Following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965 it existed as the self-declared, unrecognized state of Rhodesia until 1979, when it reconstituted itself under majority rule as Zimbabwe Rhodesia, which also failed to win overseas recognition. After a period of interim British control following the Lancaster House Agreement in December 1979, the country achieved internationally recognised independence as Zimbabwe in April 1980.

Robert Mugabe rose to prominence in the 1960s  as the leader of the Zimbabwe African National.  As current President of Zimbabwe he has served since 22 December 1987. As one of the leaders of the rebel groups in opposition to white minority rule, he was elected Prime Minister in 1980, serving in that office as head of the government, until 1987, when he became the country’s first executive head of state. As of August 2016, he is the world’s oldest and one of the longest serving Head of State. His 36-year rule has been characterised by gross human rights violations, resulting in him joining the world list of dictators.

 

Ceylon, Commemorative issue ,2500 years of Buddha, 5 rupee, Silver 1957 UNC

Ceylon, Commemorative issue 2500 years of Buddha, 5 rupee, Silver 1957 UNC Commemorative issue

Buddha Jayanthi 2500th Anniversary

buddha-2500-years-5-rs500,000 coins minted in 1957 of which 258,000 were melted down in 1962

 

Obverse

An adaptation from the Anuradhapura Moonstone. The numeral 2500 at the centre with Flower petals around in inner annulus, next a procession of elephant, horse, lion and bull (2 sequences). next a procession of sixteen geese, with lotus flowers hanging from their beaks.
Note:These coins are popularly referred to as the Buddha Jayanthi coins

Sandakada pahana, also known as Moon-stone, is a unique feature of the Sinhalese architecture of ancient Sri Lanka. It is an elaborately carved semi-circular stone slab, usually placed at the bottom of staircases and entrances.

Lettering: 2500

Engraver: Bernard Sindall

Reverse

A design based on the Jasmine flower surmounted by a Lotus flower. The value in Sinhalese and the year of issue 1957 is superimposed at the center. The value FIVE RUPEES in English on left and Tamil on right and in Sinhalese `Sri Lanka’ at the apex and the anniversary `Buddha Jayanthi’ at the bottom.

Lettering:
FIVE RUPEES
1957