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was the stretch of country between Benares and
Pataliputra. Here the First Council had been
held in the year after Buddha's death, at Rajgir.
Here at Pataliputra under Asoka was held the
great Second Council about the year 242 B.C. It
is quite evident that the lead so well taken by
Magadha in recognising the importance of Bud-
dhism during the lifetime of its founder had been
signally maintained, and for the Council of Kan-
ishka to assert canonical rank, it must have been
attended by numerous and authoritative repre-
sentatives from the monasteries of Magadha, notably
that of Nalanda, whose supremacy as the seat of
exposition and elucidation was still acknowledged
in the time of Hiouen Tsang in the middle of the
seventh century of the Christian era. Unless then
there should be unimpugnable evidence to the
contrary, the rule being that ideals create symbol-
isms as their vehicle, and the source of Buddhist
thought having always been Magadha, we should
expect that that country would also be the creative
centre in matters of Buddhist art, and that it
would be responsible amongst other things for the
devising and fixing of the image of Buddha. That


this was the common belief on the matter in the
seventh century, moreover, appears highly probable
from the Life of Hiouen Tsang, whose biographer
and disciple Hwui Li represents him as bearing
back to China, and passing through the country of
Takkha or Gandhara on the way, a precious load
of books and images, and amongst these first, and
evidently most sacred and important, that of
Buddha preaching his First Sermon at Benares,
fully described. From this it is clear that in China,
in the seventh century at all events, India was
regarded as the source of authentic images as well
as of authoritative texts and their interpretations.
To India, and more especially to Magadha, the
East turned again and again to refresh and deepen
her own inspiration. For final pronouncements
men did not look to the schools of the frontier
countries and daughter churches.

Now there are to be found in Behar, the ancient
Magadha, to this day, the vestiges of a long history
of Buddhist sculpture in many phases and develop-
ments. No one has ever denied to India the pre-
Buddhistic existence of secular sculpture of the
human form. In front of the chaitya at Karli
(date 129 B.C.) we find integral figures of men and
women which may be portraits of kings and queens,
or of donors and their wives. In the Rail of
Bharhut we find figures in the round, and abundance
of animal representation. And the whole range of
Naga-types is common from the earliest times.

No one has ever pretended that these sculptures



were foreign in origin. In fact competent critics
are wont to turn to them for the exemplification
of the somewhat vague entity that may be called
the indigenous impulse in Indian art. In the low
carvings in relief, therefore, on the Asokan Rail at
Bodh-Gaya, we are not called upon to suspect a
foreign origin. We may take these frankly as we
find them, as examples of the Indian art of the
year 250 B.C. or thereabouts. From this point on
we watch the development of Buddhistic art in
Behar. Here we have the enclosure built about
the sacred tree. Again we have a footprint, as at
Gay a itself, where that now worshipped as the
Vishnupada was almost certainly originally a Bud-
dhistic symbol. Behar was at one time full of
stupas, but the very fact that these have been
defaced and treated as mounds or hills is testi-
mony to the fact that they were probably as plain
in the time of Asoka as that now at Sarnath or at
Sanchi. It is true enough that at its birth Bud-
dhism found all holiness in that plain dome-shaped
cairn of earth and bricks, which sometimes did, as
at Rajgir, and sometimes did not, as at Sanchi,
conceal a deposit of relics. Amongst the small
votive stupas which it became the fashion for
pilgrims and visitors to leave at sacred shrines,
there are many of this phase of development.

It was essential that they should have five parts,
clearly distinguishable, and a system of philosophy
grew up which connected these with the five ele-
ments earth, air, fire, water, and ether.

(Kenheri Caves)


It must have been soon after Asoka that attempts
were made to evolve a portrait-statue of Buddha.
In accordance with the Indian character as well
as with the severe truthfulness of early Hinayana
doctrines, the first efforts in this direction would
almost certainly be intensely realistic. They would
be filled with a striving after literal fact. In far-
away Sanchi, even as late as 150 B.C., we have the
bas-reliefs on the great gateways representing any-
thing and everything Buddhistic that could be wor-
shipped save and except Buddha himself. But
this is only what we might expect if, as we have
supposed, precedence in this matter really belonged
to Magadha. At some later date we find at
Kenheri illustrations of the blending of the old
school of art to which Sanchi belonged in which
a story was told, in picture form and this new
idea of the supernatural personage appearing as
heroic amongst even the holiest of mortal men.
This particular panel illustrates the Jatakas (birth-
stories), which must have been the absorbing
literature and romance of early Buddhism, and
were in themselves only a hint of the place which
the personality of its founder must sooner or later
assume in the religion. This figure of a former
Buddha is not naked, as might be supposed. It
is merely clothed in muslin so fine as to be almost
invisible. Grlinwedel gives a reproduction of a
clay seal from Bodh-Gaya, in which we have
another specimen of this same period in the ideal-
isation of the Buddha. The little turret-like patterns


which accompany it are stupas. But the Buddha
himself is imaged in front of a temple-stupa.

To this period probably belongs the story that
when Ajatasatru wished for a portrait of the Teacher,
he allowed his shadow to fall on a piece of cloth,
and then the outline was filled in with colour. Grttn-
wedel suggests that this story shows a desire to
claim canonical authority for the portrait-statue.
Whether this be so or not, it certainly does indicate
incidentally that the Buddhist world itself ascribed
the origin of the Master's image to Magadha. The
supreme example of this school of sculpture is un-
doubtedly the Great Buddha of Nalanda, which is
to this day the pride of the country-folk at Baragaon,
who call it Mahadev. To the same school belongs
also the Buddha of the temple at Bodh-Gaya. And
we cannot do better than take as an example of the
type the Buddha from Anuradhapura in Ceylon.

These are true statues, not mere bas-reliefs. And
perhaps the great proof of their early occurrence
in the Buddhist series lies precisely here, that they
were found in Ceylon, where the enthusiasm of
Indian intercourse was a marked feature of the
age immediately succeeding Asoka, and where the
Hinayana theology would not be friendly to
statuary like the images characteristic of a rich

The clay seal is of extraordinary interest. The
Buddha himself appears to be seated in something
like the temple of Bodh-Gaya, with branches
of the sacred tree appearing behind and above.

Original in the Berlin Museum


The plain stupas all round show the contempo-
rary development of that symbol. Now there
was a moment when, by the simultaneous modifica-
tion of all its five parts, the stupa was transformed
into something very like what we now recognise as
a temple. Specimens of this phase abound in the
neighbourhood of Nalanda, and indeed some hand
has gathered a quantity of representative examples
together and placed them on the bathing ghdt at
Baragaon. Except in the instances of this clay seal
figured by Grunwedel and a stupa which is to be
seen in the Sonar Bhandar Cave at Rajgir, however,
I do not remember ever to have seen this phase
of the stupa associated with an image. The panelled
example at Rajgir would seem to be old because
of the stiffness with which the standing Buddha
is portrayed. He stands with feet apart, as in the
drawings of children. But never have I seen a work
of art which was equal to this in the depth and
strength of the personal conviction which it found
means to convey. The Buddha is clad in the usual
invisible clothing of the period. He is stiffly and
awkwardly posed, and conveys the idea of gigantic
size. Outside the sunken panel on which he is
carved, above him and to right and left, appear
branches of trees of recognisable species, and each
such branch half conceals a hand with pointing
finger. The whole effect is extraordinary. The
words " This is the man ! " are almost to be heard.
This vividness of feeling combined with the stiffness
of the work would incline one to place the statue


early, and with this the evidence of the clay seal
now before us is in agreement. But if we are to
assign an early date to sculpture of this description,
we must completely abandon the notion of pre-
Buddhistic Indian art as semi-barbarous and crude.
This degree of expressive power and this irresistible
impulse towards the rapid modification of fixed
symbols argues a long familiarity with the tools
and the method of plastic enunciation. The Hina-
yana doctrine would incline the stupa-maker at first
to its aniconic development, but the innate genius
of the Indian race for man- worship and its funda-
mental fearlessness of symbolism would triumph in
the end over all the artificial barriers of theology,
and the aniconic stupa would inevitably receive
its icon. Of this moment our clay seal is a

The next step was to take the unmodified stupa,
and carve on it four small Buddhas, one on each
of its sides. We can well understand the impulse
that led to this. The dagoba was a geographical
point, from which Buddha himself shone forth to
north, south, east, and west upon the world. It
is the same idea which in a later age led to the
colossal images of the Roshana Buddha in Japan.
The very thought of the Master, with his spiritual
empire in the foreign missions, brought up a geo-
graphical conception. And this geographical idea
it is that finds expression in those small and simple
stupas, carved each with the four Buddhas, which
one could often hold on the palm of one hand. In


imitation of these, but much later, four Buddhas
were placed round the great stupa at Sanchi.

These points established, the course of history
is clear enough. He who would understand the
development of Buddhist art has only to follow
the development of the stupa. This is as fixed
in its succession of forms as a chronological scale.
At first it is plain, as at Sanchi. Then it is orna-
mented with the Asokan rail itself, which by this
time shares the general sanctity of association, as at
Karli, Bhaja, Kenheri, and Ajanta, Caves Nine and
Ten. Then it is elongated, and forms what we
regard as a temple. Then the small stupa takes to
itself the four Buddhas. Gradually these undergo
changes. The line of development hesitates for
awhile, and then branches off in a new direction.
The four figures become four heads, but whether of
Brahma or the Mother of the Universe is not yet
determined. Gradually the name of the Great God
is triumphant, the pillar-like top in the middle of
the four heads is more and more emphasized, and
along this line of development the stupa is finally
converted into the Shiva emblem of Hinduism.
One of the worship-mantras to this day ascribes
to Shiva the possession of five faces. That is to
say, his emblem is still to the eye of faith a dome-
shaped projection in the midst of four heads.

At that moment when the four seated Buddhas
were becoming the four heads, the image of Buddha
was being detached from the stupa altogether, and
entering on a new phase of development as an


icon or symbol of the highest sanctity. It was
because this was happening that the stupa itself
had been enabled to undergo the changes necessary
to convert it into the Shiva. It is now, then, that
we may place the evolution of the image of the
First Sermon at Benares. This was not so fixed as
is commonly supposed. In the caves of the second
period at Ajanta Seven, Eleven, Fifteen, Sixteen,
and Seventeen we may judge for ourselves of
the rigour or latitude of the convention. No two of
these are exactly alike. Seven is one of the earliest,
because the ambulatory which was essential to
the chaitya-dagoba is here found, at immense cost
of labour, to have been provided for the image in
the shrine also, showing that the excavators were
as yet inexperienced in the different uses of the
two. The shrine, or gandalcuti, was not yet
stereotyped into a mere hall of perfumes, or incense,
as Hiouen Tsang calls it. This processional use of
the shrine explains the elaborate carving of the
side-walls here, to be described later. In the image,
which is still more or less intact at Sarnath itself,
we find an effeminacy of treatment which is very
startling. The predella too is unexpected, holding
worshipping figures turning the wheel of the law,
instead of the peaceful animals lying quietly side
by side in that wondrous eventide. Griinwedel
points out that the use of the halo speaks
of the existence of an old school of art in the
country. So also do the flying devas and the wheel
and the symbolistic animals. The artist was speak-


ing a language already understood by the people.
The first images had arisen out of the desire to
express to foreign peoples something of the ideal
in the form of the beloved personality. This
particular image now became pre-eminent as a
mark of the fact that viharas were becoming
colleges. Buddhism was taking upon itself the
task of national education and scholarship.

But the original idea, in its original home, had
not ceased to develop. There was always the
irresistible instinct to express the growing and
changing forms of the national faith in plastic
concreteness. The evolution of Shiva and Saivism,
being first to branch off from the original Hinayana
stream, early hardened down, as far as Behar was
concerned, into the use as its supreme expression of
an emblem, instead of an image. It gave rise to a
certain amount of descriptive sculpture, as in the
case of Kartikeyya, for instance, but it did not
share to the full in the later artistic and sculptural
impulse. Still there remained unregimented the
old idea of the Mother or Adisakti, and sculptural
allusions to this begin to be frequent in the later
phases of Buddhist art, along with that which
supersedes everything under the Gupta emperors
as the religion of the state. Here we come upon a
wholly new symbolism, that of Narayan or Vishnu,
the Great God of those who worship Krishna.
Artistically speaking, indeed, on the west side of
India, it took centuries to exhaust the sculptural
impetus associated with Shiva, and much history is


written in the fact. He rose upon the horizon as
the third member of a trinity reflecting the
Buddhist trinity, of Buddha, Dharma, Sanga a
conception which is recorded in the large cave at
Elephanta. At Ellora and at Elephanta he is
almost passionately revered, so absorbing is his
hold on the artistic imagination, and such is the
wealth of illustration that they lavish on him. In
Magadha, however, creative art is playing with two
different ideas at this time. They are the Mother
later to become the occasion of an alliance between
Brahmanistic and Mongolian ideas and Vishnu or
Narayana. At Ayodhya, indeed, the second member
of the Trinity had already given rise to a humanised
reflection of Buddha in the notion of a human
incarnation, which had been preached as a gospel
in the Ramayana. The poet Kalidas had written
the romance of both branches of Hinduism in his
Kumara Sambhava and Raghuvamsa. And through-
out all the works of this period the attempt is
constantly made to prove the identity of Rama with
Shiva. This is satisfactory evidence that the wor-
ship of Shiva was elaborated as a system earlier than
that of Vishnu or his incarnations. It also shows
the intense grasp which the Indian philosophy of
unity had gained over the national mind. The
stupa continued even now to reflect the changing
phases of thought. Hence it is doubtless to this
time that we may ascribe those Shiva-lingams
covered with the feet of the Lord that are to be met
with occasionally in Rajgir.


After Shiva, however, the attention of sculptors in
Magadha was more and more concentrated on the
image of Narayana. It is probably an error to
think of this as rigidly fixed in form. An unyield-
ing convention is always the end of an evolution,
never the beginning. And like Shiva in the west,
so also Narayana in Magadha is connected with
Buddha by a long series of gradual modifications.
Sometimes we can detect Chinese influence in a
particular statue. With the rise of the Guptas and
the necessity of a gold coinage, it would seem as if
Chinese minters had been employed, just as in his
time and capital Kanishka had undoubtedly em-
ployed Greeks for the same purpose. There is
no difficulty in imagining that such Chinese work-
men might sometimes be employed on a statue.
The fact that the form itself, however, was not
of their initiating is best proved by the gradual
transitions which connect it with the image of
Buddha. So much has been said, so lightly, about
the impossibility of Indian inventiveness, that it
is necessary to guard from time to time against
petty misconception. Another point of the same
kind arises with regard to Hinduism itself. It
may be well to say that Buddhism did not
originate the ideas which in their totality make
up Hinduism. Indeed Buddhism was itself the
result of those ideas. But by its limmense force of
organisation, it achieved such a unification of the
country and the people, that it forced upon the
Brahmans the organisation of Hinduism.


The conception of Narayana was taken up by
the Guptas to be made into the basis of a national
faith. This took shape as Krishna, and its epic was
written in the Mahabharata. But the image asso-
ciated with it was still that of Narayana. This was
the form that was carried to the south by the
missionary travellers who were the outcome of the
educational and propagandist zeal of the Guptas,
and there it is worshipped to this day. It was an
image of this type that was placed by Skanda Gupta
on the top of the Bhitari Lat when he erected it in
A.D. 455 for the purpose of recording on his father's
sradh pillar his own victory over the Huns.

There is therefore a continuous history of sculp-
ture in Behar, beginning with the earliest period
of Buddhism, and passing gradually, and by easily
distinguished phases, into various forms of modern
Hinduism. In this continuous development we can
distinguish local schools, and this is the best answer
to those who would talk of foreign influence.

The comparatively coarse, artisan-like work of
Bodh-Gaya can never be mistaken for the soft,
exquisitely curved and moulded forms of Baragaon,
the ancient Nalanda. The Hindu carvings of
Rajgir, again, are distinct from both. It is almost
impossible therefore to speak of a single Magadhan
school of sculpture. Much of the Rajgir work is
Saivite in subject, being earlier than the Narayana
types of Baragaon.

Early Buddhism has thus had two products : the
portrait-statue and the iconic stupa. The stupa in


its turn has given birth to the Shiva emblem and
to the image proper. The image has developed
itself as Buddha, and also borne as an offshoot the
image of Narayana. But with this extraordinary
energy of modification, only to be credited when
we remember the wonderful theological and philo-
sophical fertility of the Indian mind, it is not to
be supposed that the stupa as such had ceased to
develop. There was at least one well-marked phase
before it yet. The world, for the monk, was
peopled with meditating figures. The church was
ideally a great host who had attained through the
Master's might. The lotus on which he sat en-
throned had many branches. This thought also
found expression in the stupa. The same idea is
laboriously sculptured on the walls of the shrine in
Ajanta Seven. And on reaching more distant parts
of the order, no doubt it was this development
that gave rise to the multiplication of small medi-
tating figures and their being placed even on
straight lines, or amongst leafage, wherever the
architecture gave the slightest opportunity or

All this goes to show that Magadha remained (as
she began), throughout the Buddhist age the source
and creative centre, alike for theology and for the
system of symbolism which was instrumental in
carrying that theology far and wide. Waddell
some years ago communicated a paper to the Royal
Asiatic Society in which he urged that the original
types of the Mahayanist images of Tibet must be


sought for in Magadha. He was undoubtedly right,
and the conclusion is forced upon us that the
doctrine of the Bodhisattvas must have been born
in Magadha, and from there have been poured out
upon the Council of Kanishka, at Taxila, or Jaland-
hara, or Kandahar. The Kanishkan Council thus
would only give effect to the opinions and specula-
tions that had long been gathering in the eastern
centre. The doctrine of the Bodhisattvas came
fullblown to Jalandhara and there gathered the
force that carried it over the Chinese Empire.
Indeed the very fact that the commentaries of this
Council were written down in Sanskrit is strong
presumptive evidence for the vitality and force of
the eastern elements at the Council, an added
witness to the prestige which their presence con-
ferred upon it. This Council is said to have sat
some months, and we are expressly told that its
work lay in reconciling and giving the stamp of
orthodoxy to all the eighteen schools of Buddhism
which by that time had come into existence. That
is to say, it did not professs to give currency to
new doctrines. It merely conferred the seal of its
authority on phases of the faith which would other-
wise have tended to be mutually exclusive. This
in itself is evidence of the way in which its
members were saturated with the characteristic
eastern idea of Vedantic toleration. And Buddhism
stands in this Council alone in religious history
as an example of the union of the powers of or-
ganisation and discretion with those of theological


fervour and devotional conviction in the highest
degree. Evidently we have here a great body of
monk-pundits, imported for the summer into
Gandhara. Probably many of them never re-
turned to their mother-communities, but remained,
to form the basis of that great monastic develop-
ment which Gandhara was afterwards to see.

The priority of Magadha requires little further
argument. At the time of the Council the syn-
thesis of the Mahayana was already more or less
complete. And in accordance with this is the fact
that on the recently-discovered relic casket of
Kanishka are three figures, Buddha and two
Bodhisattvas. In harmony with this is the further
fact that the few inscriptions hitherto discovered in
the Gandhara country are all dated between A.D. 57
and 328. We can see that after the evolution of
the ornate and over-multiplied style of Gandhara
Buddhism could not have had the energy to begin
over again in India to build up a new art with its
slow and sincere history of a growing symbolism.
As a matter of fact, Gandhara was in the full tide
of her artistic success in the fourth and early fifth
century, when Magadha had already reached the
stage of pre-occupation with images of Narayana.

Thus a definite theory has been enunciated of
the chronological succession of religious ideas in
Indian sculpture. According to this theory,
Magadha was the source and centre of the Indian
unity, both philosophically and artistically. This
province was, in fact, like the heart of an organism


whose systole and diastole are felt to its remotest

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