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South Indian Buddhist Antiquities
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South Indian Buddhist Antiquities
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Preface

The present volume contains the results of excavations conducted at the ruined stupas at Bhattiprolu, Gudivada and Ghantasala during the beginning of 1892.

It is to be regretted that all these works, in common with most others of their class, have suffered at the hands of those who required material for the construction of roads or other such works. Though among the oldest existing monuments of an ancient civilization, their great antiquity was no protection from the despoiling hands of the adjacent villager, who scrupled not to destroy the finest works of art to provide material for the building of his wretched mud shrine. These despoilers were only gradual in their operations, as some examples which have existed up to the present time show; and, had they been the only ones, much more of these buildings might even yet have existed; but unfortunately there were others less excusable, who systematically reduced these buildings as they would a quarry. It was thought that this species of vandalism was only practised before the historical and artistic value of these ancient works was appreciated; but even yet, in-spite' of Government orders to the contrary, we occasionally hear of it. Such being the case, we can only unearth and endeavour to piece together such remains as have escaped the notice of the despoilers. We have been able to gather from these-in many cases seemingly shapeless mounds-that the architectural works of the Buddhists have never been excelled by any of later date existing in India. Unlike the later architecture of the Dravidians, their buildings not only contained master-pieces of detail, but the buildings were themselves perfect examples of architectural composition.

The most important results of the excavations were achieved at the former of these stupas. These show what may still lie buried in buildings which have seemingly been denuded of everything valuable. This temple had been examined and declared utterly ruined, with nothing of value in it left; yet buried in the centre of the masonry were important historical documents in a form of alphabet hitherto unknown. Independent of the importance of the inscriptions themselves, their position in the building fixes them as an infallible index to the date of its foundation. Inscriptions placed around a building may have been engraved at or subsequent to its erection, but there can be no doubt as to these.

Regarding the character of these recently discovered inscriptions, which are written in a new variety of the Southern Maurya or Lat alphabet, Dr. Buhler writes :

"The Bhattiprolu inscriptions cannot be placed later than 200 B.C., and may even be a little older. If this estimate is correct, their characters prove (what, indeed, is also made probable by facts connected with Asoka's edicts) that during the third century B.C. several well-marked varieties of the Southern Maurya alphabet existed. For they contain a perfectly worked-out system, which cannot have sprung up in a short time, but must have had a long history.

"The importance of this result lies herein, that it removes one of the favorite arguments of those scholars who believe the introduction of writing into India to have taken place during the rule of the Maurya dynasty or shortly before its beginning. It has been stated repeatedly that one of the facts, proving the Asoka edicts to belong to the first attempts of the Hindus in the art of writing, is the absence of local varieties among the letters of versions incised at places between which lie distances of more than a thousand miles. This argument is based, as I have pointed out more than once, on imperfect observation; and it may be met also by the obvious objection, that Asoka's edicts were all issued from the same office, and that the importance naturally attributed to the writing of the royal clerks at Pataliputra might be expected to influence the copyists in the provinces, and to induce them to Imitate as closely as possible the shape of the letters used at head-quarters. Nevertheless, if the Bhattiprolu inscriptions now show a system of writing, which, in some respects, is radically different, and which may be reasonably supposed to be coeval with that in Asoka's edicts, they furnish a very great help to those who, like myself, believe the art of writing to have been practised in India for centuries before the accession of Chandragupta to the throne of Pataliputra.”

The great majority of the mounds hitherto examined are situate in the Krishna district, where numerous unexplored remains yet exist. But as this district marks the southern boundary of the districts which ought to be rich in Buddhist remains, we may expect to make even more interesting discoveries when those to the north of it are explored. The rock-cut monuments at Nagalapalle, and the more recently discovered remains of stupas and monastic buildings at Arugolu in the Godavari district are examples of what may be expected. The latter were brought to notice by Mr. Higgens, the Collector of Godavari, who, appreciating the importance of these remains, ordered that their destruction to provide bricks should cease.

When these mounds are catalogued under the orders of Government, we will have some record of what really exists and know exactly where to go to them. At present, without a knowledge of their locality, much time will be wasted in searching for them, and even then, some would be certain to escape notice. When this is done, we may expect less instances of dismantling of these ruins to occur; cases which being carried out in unknown localities are probably never heard of, or, if so, only after irreparable damage has been done.

It has not been thought necessary to include any historical notes on the Andhra dynasty whose works these are. All present available information on the subject has been utilized by Dr. Burgess in his recent work on Amaravati.

The references to published works on other examples of the class of monuments described in this volume are much less complete than I could have wished; but they include all that I have been able to make available. The work is thus chiefly confined to descriptions of the actual results obtained by survey. Further comparisons with such works and deductions resulting there- from must be left to those who may possess better means of reference.

 

Contents

 

I CONSTRUCTION OF DOMES OF SOUTH INDIAN STUPAS 1
II RAILS 5
III BHATTIPROLU: Previous explorations at the Stupa 7
IV Discovery of caskets and relics 9
V First casket 11
VI Second casket 13
VII Third casket 14
VIII Excavation around the building 15
IX REMAINS NEAR BHATTIPROLU (Chinna Lanja dibba and Yikramarka, kota dibba) 17
X THE STUPA AT GUDIVADA 18
XI SITE OF THE ANCIENT VILLAGE 20
XII ANDHRA COINS FROM GUDIVADA 21
XIII GHANTASALA: Excavation at the stupa 32
XIV Piers 35
XV Bases and capitals 36
XVI Slabs from the stupa 37
XVII Marble slabs with modern sculptures 38
XVIII The design of the stupa 39
XIX OTHER REMAINS IN AND NEAR GHANTASALA 42
XX ANCIENT SITES IN THE REPALLE TALUK 44
XXI AMARAVATI: Buddhist marble carving 47
APPENDIX NOTE ON THE STONES FROM THE BHATTIPROLU CASKETS 51

 

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South Indian Buddhist Antiquities

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1997
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Preface

The present volume contains the results of excavations conducted at the ruined stupas at Bhattiprolu, Gudivada and Ghantasala during the beginning of 1892.

It is to be regretted that all these works, in common with most others of their class, have suffered at the hands of those who required material for the construction of roads or other such works. Though among the oldest existing monuments of an ancient civilization, their great antiquity was no protection from the despoiling hands of the adjacent villager, who scrupled not to destroy the finest works of art to provide material for the building of his wretched mud shrine. These despoilers were only gradual in their operations, as some examples which have existed up to the present time show; and, had they been the only ones, much more of these buildings might even yet have existed; but unfortunately there were others less excusable, who systematically reduced these buildings as they would a quarry. It was thought that this species of vandalism was only practised before the historical and artistic value of these ancient works was appreciated; but even yet, in-spite' of Government orders to the contrary, we occasionally hear of it. Such being the case, we can only unearth and endeavour to piece together such remains as have escaped the notice of the despoilers. We have been able to gather from these-in many cases seemingly shapeless mounds-that the architectural works of the Buddhists have never been excelled by any of later date existing in India. Unlike the later architecture of the Dravidians, their buildings not only contained master-pieces of detail, but the buildings were themselves perfect examples of architectural composition.

The most important results of the excavations were achieved at the former of these stupas. These show what may still lie buried in buildings which have seemingly been denuded of everything valuable. This temple had been examined and declared utterly ruined, with nothing of value in it left; yet buried in the centre of the masonry were important historical documents in a form of alphabet hitherto unknown. Independent of the importance of the inscriptions themselves, their position in the building fixes them as an infallible index to the date of its foundation. Inscriptions placed around a building may have been engraved at or subsequent to its erection, but there can be no doubt as to these.

Regarding the character of these recently discovered inscriptions, which are written in a new variety of the Southern Maurya or Lat alphabet, Dr. Buhler writes :

"The Bhattiprolu inscriptions cannot be placed later than 200 B.C., and may even be a little older. If this estimate is correct, their characters prove (what, indeed, is also made probable by facts connected with Asoka's edicts) that during the third century B.C. several well-marked varieties of the Southern Maurya alphabet existed. For they contain a perfectly worked-out system, which cannot have sprung up in a short time, but must have had a long history.

"The importance of this result lies herein, that it removes one of the favorite arguments of those scholars who believe the introduction of writing into India to have taken place during the rule of the Maurya dynasty or shortly before its beginning. It has been stated repeatedly that one of the facts, proving the Asoka edicts to belong to the first attempts of the Hindus in the art of writing, is the absence of local varieties among the letters of versions incised at places between which lie distances of more than a thousand miles. This argument is based, as I have pointed out more than once, on imperfect observation; and it may be met also by the obvious objection, that Asoka's edicts were all issued from the same office, and that the importance naturally attributed to the writing of the royal clerks at Pataliputra might be expected to influence the copyists in the provinces, and to induce them to Imitate as closely as possible the shape of the letters used at head-quarters. Nevertheless, if the Bhattiprolu inscriptions now show a system of writing, which, in some respects, is radically different, and which may be reasonably supposed to be coeval with that in Asoka's edicts, they furnish a very great help to those who, like myself, believe the art of writing to have been practised in India for centuries before the accession of Chandragupta to the throne of Pataliputra.”

The great majority of the mounds hitherto examined are situate in the Krishna district, where numerous unexplored remains yet exist. But as this district marks the southern boundary of the districts which ought to be rich in Buddhist remains, we may expect to make even more interesting discoveries when those to the north of it are explored. The rock-cut monuments at Nagalapalle, and the more recently discovered remains of stupas and monastic buildings at Arugolu in the Godavari district are examples of what may be expected. The latter were brought to notice by Mr. Higgens, the Collector of Godavari, who, appreciating the importance of these remains, ordered that their destruction to provide bricks should cease.

When these mounds are catalogued under the orders of Government, we will have some record of what really exists and know exactly where to go to them. At present, without a knowledge of their locality, much time will be wasted in searching for them, and even then, some would be certain to escape notice. When this is done, we may expect less instances of dismantling of these ruins to occur; cases which being carried out in unknown localities are probably never heard of, or, if so, only after irreparable damage has been done.

It has not been thought necessary to include any historical notes on the Andhra dynasty whose works these are. All present available information on the subject has been utilized by Dr. Burgess in his recent work on Amaravati.

The references to published works on other examples of the class of monuments described in this volume are much less complete than I could have wished; but they include all that I have been able to make available. The work is thus chiefly confined to descriptions of the actual results obtained by survey. Further comparisons with such works and deductions resulting there- from must be left to those who may possess better means of reference.

 

Contents

 

I CONSTRUCTION OF DOMES OF SOUTH INDIAN STUPAS 1
II RAILS 5
III BHATTIPROLU: Previous explorations at the Stupa 7
IV Discovery of caskets and relics 9
V First casket 11
VI Second casket 13
VII Third casket 14
VIII Excavation around the building 15
IX REMAINS NEAR BHATTIPROLU (Chinna Lanja dibba and Yikramarka, kota dibba) 17
X THE STUPA AT GUDIVADA 18
XI SITE OF THE ANCIENT VILLAGE 20
XII ANDHRA COINS FROM GUDIVADA 21
XIII GHANTASALA: Excavation at the stupa 32
XIV Piers 35
XV Bases and capitals 36
XVI Slabs from the stupa 37
XVII Marble slabs with modern sculptures 38
XVIII The design of the stupa 39
XIX OTHER REMAINS IN AND NEAR GHANTASALA 42
XX ANCIENT SITES IN THE REPALLE TALUK 44
XXI AMARAVATI: Buddhist marble carving 47
APPENDIX NOTE ON THE STONES FROM THE BHATTIPROLU CASKETS 51

 

Sample Pages




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