While, Hinayana regards him as
Progenitor of law and call him a man
with extraordinary intellect,
Mahayana portrayed him as a Divine
being. Thus the misogynistic religion
turned into more flexible to
accommodate female divinities into
the pantheon. This proximity to
female divinities gave birth to another
sect, Vajrayana- Tantrayana. The
Banpur hoard contains images of
Heruka, Vajrahunkara, Kurukulla thus
making it clear that it was a centre of
Vajrayana. These images make an
interesting study in the context of
evolution of Buddhist deities.
The last word:
This book could not have been
published without the support of my
daughter Dr. Sneha Patnaik, taking
care of my health as a Doctor and in
making some minor correction as an
intelligent child and Zenith, the
youngest member of the family to
keep me cheerful being my constant
In this background the number of bronze images unearthed from Banpu may be regarded as
large. As many as ninety five bronze images of which seventy four were of Buddhist pantheon
have been found from here. The presence of these images shows that this site was primarily a
Dr (Mrs.) Debala Mitra, former Director, ASI has brought out the details of the bronze images
excavated from Banpur in her work 'Bronzes from Achutrajpur, Odisha' in 1978 but no study has
yet been done using the images in the context of evolution of Buddhist deities. The present work
is a sincere attempt to study the image concept of the Buddhist deities evolved from the earliest
phases before its transition from Mahayana to Vajrayana or Tantrayana phase of Buddhism.
While making a study on the evolution of image concept in Buddhism vis-à-vis the finds of
Banpur, proper attention is given to the main deities of Mahayana Buddhism which covered
roughly the first millennium AD in India. They are the Buddha, A valokitesvara, Mafijusri, Maitreya,
Vajrasattva, Prajfiaparamita, few Taras and Hariti. It is interesting that except Prajriaparamita and
Hariti, all other deities are found in the hoard, though they do not represent all the variations
found in Eastern India and Bangladesh. Since Prajfiaparamita and Hariti have important bearing
on the origin of goddess Tara, this work has focused on them. Besides, as far the other male deities,
their origin except the Buddha is discussed in detail with some relevant controversial theories and
their emergence in iconography. These are definitely essential to realize the trend of metamorphosis
of these deities in the transitional phase as they rise in their status in course of time. From this
analysis one can also fathom to what extent the earlier elements continue to survive in later images,
even in the late Mahayana period when Buddhism was sliding fast to fall into the grip of the
Varjayana or Tantrayana philosophy.
While during the Hinayana period Buddhism was not a religion as understood in common
usage of the term, i.e. a system of faith and worship but a religion (monastic state) of a community
of recluses especially for the male. The female medic ants had a very low status in the Order. The
Buddha very reluctantly founded a Sangha for women, who were regarded to be unfit for Vimutti.
In the Mahayana phase, when Buddha and Bodhisattvas were accepted as cult objects and when
Vimutti was declared to be attainable by the male householders by practicing Paramitas, Buddhism
was converted into a religion of the masses not for only the ascetics.
The religion which was originally a misogynic type had to yield before the will of the mass to
accommodate female divinities. Gradually female divinities not only superseded the male gods
but became the source of all mystic energy which it was thought generated from their union with
the male. Buddhism entered into the phase of Vajrayana and Tantrayana that scholars often believed
to have brought to an end to the religion in the soil of its origin.
The work discusses in detail about all the images found from Banpur - Achyutarajpur showing
the process of transition of the place from Mahayana to a centre of active Vajrayana in the 9th to
lOtn century AD. The photographs of the deities discussed here make the present work a must
read for the students of Buddhism.
Great religions of the world flourished here because of the catholicity of Odisha's successive
dynasties. It is rather interesting to find Odisha as the nerve centre of Buddhism and [animism,
though neither of the founders of these two religions ever set their feet here. Along with
Buddhism and Jainism, Brahmanical religion too made its progress simultaneously because
of the equal royal patronage extended to all these religions. We do not have any concrete proof
that there was much animosity between these religions. Sometimes it becomes difficult to
understand the religious tolerance of the rulers of the land. Because of this perhaps, sculptures
belonging to diverse religion have been unearthed together from several excavated sites.
Despite being a great Vaisnava center, Odisha remained one of the most important centers
of Buddhism. Numerous Buddhist images and other remains along with several mounds not
yet been excavated and some great sites in Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri make it clear
that Odisha was the most happening state, so far as Buddhism was concerned at least up to
11th century _12th century AD. So much was the influence of Buddhism on the people of Odisha
that Buddha has been accepted as an incarnation of Lord Visnu-Iagannath, a reference which
can be found in the Dharmapuavidhana'',
Though Buddha never visited Odisha, yet several early texts refer to two merchants Tapassu
and Bhallika from Utkal meeting the Lord on their way to Madhyadesa and offered him cake
and honey. Aizguttara Nikiiya2 speaks of Buddha's gift of eight locks of hair to the merchants
which were later enshrined in a Chaitya built by them. Despite these references, there was
nothing to prove that Buddhism was a major force to reckon with in Odisha till the advent of
Asoka in Kalinga.
In all practical purposes, Kalinga War in 261 BC was the turning point in the history of
Buddhism in Odisha. The death and destruction caused by the Kalinga War changed Asoka
who gave up digvijaya in favor of dhamma vijaya. Separate Rock Edicts at Dhauli reflect Asoka's
change of heart. The edict at Dhauli is significantly designed by the sculptured for part of an
elephant coming out of the rock. The rock elephant is definitely the theriomorphic representation
of Buddha and this representation perhaps indicates the entry of the white elephant into the
womb of Mayadevi, the mother of Lord Buddha.
Traditions refer to Asoka's building of a monastery in the name of his brother Tissa.
Huien Tsang's view that Asoka built more than ten stupas in Wu (U)-tu (Odra) at places where
Buddha preached cannot be accepted because of the fact that we have no corroborative
evidence whatsoever to prove that Buddha ever visited Odra. Besides, we have not yet found
anything to strengthen the line of argument that there existed any Buddhist establishment in
Odisha during the Maurya period or even immediate few centuries after. Presence of railing
posts near Bhaskaresvara temple can never lead to a conclusion that it was a Buddhist centre
despite the fact that images" of Buddha, Tara and that of Lokesvara" have been found from
that locality. These images are however datable from 8th to 9th century AD.
Our attention is however drawn towards the Nagarjunakonda inscription" of the Iksvaku
King Viropurusadatia. 7 The record speaks about the Ceylonese monks preaching in Tosali.
Buddhist text Garp!avyuha8 informs about the entry of Mahayana into the city of Tosali around
4th century AD. Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India" speaks of Odivisa being the first
country to have Mahayana Buddhism before Kaniska. These materials appear to be more
conjectural than definite because it was only in the 6th century to 7th century AD, we find
mention of Uttara Tosala'" and Dakshina Tosala11 and it was only in the ~ century AD Tosali
meant the whole of coastal Odisha.F It was after this time Buddhism was in ascendancy in
Buddhist establishments were there in several parts of Odisha probably during the Imperial
Guptas. We are told that towards the end of the life of King Buddhaprakasa, a vihara was built
at Ratnagiri in the present Jaipur district, where he 'prepared three copies of the scriptural
works of Mahayana and Hinayana and kept these in this temple.' 13 though the King
Buddhaprakasa has not yet been identified, yet scholars like Nalinakasha Dutta identify him
with the Gupta King Narasimhagupta Baladitya in the first half of the 6th century AD. 14 This
line of argument cannot be ignored altogether because of the findings of large number of
Buddhist images and artifacts from Ratnagiri. Though not a single Gupta record has been
found from the excavated site, yet a copper plate found in Jayarampur'" under Bhograi Police
Station give credence to the fact that one ruler Gopachandra granted a village for the ceremonial
worship of Arya Aualokitesoara.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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