The second volume of Osmund Bopearachchi has articles and monographs on Central Asian and Indian art, South Indian and Sri Lankan art and finally maritime trade in the Indian Ocean. While documenting thousands of coins in the Pakistani markets from 1992 onwards, Bopearachchi realised that one has to go beyond the traditional approach of simply cataloguing coins, and as a result he has made an attempt to link numismatics with sculptural and pictorial iconography.
His studies on Utpalavarna, the courtesan who later became a bhiksuni (Buddhist nun) and on the earliest iconography of Hindu gods like Siva, Brahma, Visnu and Varaha have revolutionised our knowledge of these domains.
His writings giving the results of the archaeological excavations and explorations carried out by the Department of Archaeology and the French Archaeological Mission in Sri Lanka along the estuaries and rivers provide substantial evidence to indicate that in ancient times large ships could cast anchor in the sea close to river mouths and commodities were taken to inland markets using the rivers and waterways.
His work also shows how the movements caused by these human activities have amalgamated local traditions with foreign identities and created new forms of art and belief. His research on sculptures imported to the island from Amaravati-Nagarjunakonda deals with the inspiration of these schools of art over the early forms of Buddhist sculpture in Sri Lanka. The different architectural aspects of the royal palace complex of Sigiriya, built by King Kassapa (477-95 cE) clearly demonstrate that various external ideas and concepts were used to convert this huge lofty rock into a more elaborate harmonious whole, in another words, a paradise or an Alakmanda.
Osmund Bopearachchi is a Director of Research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS-ENS Paris) and also visiting professor and member of the Doctoral School VI of the Paris IV-Sorbonne University. He is a numismatist, historian and archaeologist. As a Trung Lam Visiting Scholar in Central Asian Art and Archaeology (2010-14) at the University of California, Berkeley, Bopearachchi is working on a new catalogue of Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek Coins, as well as the publication of a selection of hitherto unknown masterpieces from Gandhara and Greater Gandhara dispersed in various museums and private collections in Japan, Europe, Canada and United States of America. He has published 9 books and over 150 articles in international journals in addition to editing 6 titles. Some of his important articles, originally written in French, have been translated into English for this volume.
Jacket illustrations (on left): Statue from Banu region (Pakistan) depicting an ithyphallic Siva, holding an aksamala and matulun ga, triSula adorned with a paratu and kamandalu (private collection). (on right): Guardstone from Akurugoda (Sri Lanka), characterized by the rhythmic flow of the drapery, serene expression of the face and the graceful attitude of the body (Archaeological Museum, Tissamaharama).
I felt the necessity to write a separate preface to the volume H: From Bactria to Taprobane dealing with the articles and monographs on 'Art History and Maritime Trade', although the contents of these researches cannot be isolated from the cultural, economic and political developments that took place in Central Asia and North India. Volume II is divided into three major sections: `Central Asian and Indian Art' (chapters 1-7); 'South Indian and Sri Lankan Art' (chapters 8-10) and 'Maritime Trade in the Indian Ocean' (chapters 11-18).
While documenting thousands of coins in the Pakistani markets from 1992 onwards, I soon realized that I also had to take into consideration the sculptures, intaglios, seals and many other artefacts that surfaced in Pakistani bazaars alongside the coins. Under the guidance of Francine Tissot to whose loving memory this volume is dedicated, I began to study these objects. My research on Gandharan Buddhist art particularly will be published in the forthcoming volume The Gandharan Art Revisted.
Encouraged by Paul Bernard, I have also been working on different aspects of the ancient maritime history in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka, my native country. Following a visit to the island in 1994 accompanied by Paul Bernard, the French Archaeological Mission in Sri Lanka was launched. A series of archaeological excavations and explorations carried out by the Department of Archaeology and the French Archaeological Mission in Sri Lanka along the estuaries and rivers brought to light substantial evidence to indicate that in ancient times large ships were anchored in the sea close to the river mouths and trade commodities were taken to inland markets using the rivers and waterfronts. The articles (nos. 11-18) show the evolution of our research on maritime trade.
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