Buddhism and Jainism role in the development of ancient Indian architecture

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Question The emergence of Buddhism and Jainism played an important role in the development of ancient Indian architecture. Explain. – 2 October 2021

Answer –

Indian architecture developed during different periods in different parts and regions of the country. The arrival of Buddhism and Jainism in the 6th century BCE was important in the development of early architectural styles, and the influence of these religions was reflected in the development of architecture.

Contribution of Buddhism:

Three types of structures are associated with the religious architecture of early Buddhism: monasteries (viharas), relics (stupas), and shrines or prayer halls (chaityas, also known as chaitya griha) places for worship.

Buddhism gave new dimensions to the architecture of that period in the form of stupas, pagodas, monasteries and caves.

The great emperor Ashoka built monolithic pillars of sandstone, which were 30 to 40 feet high. Various animal figures were carved on their heads with Buddhist concepts, which Emperor Ashoka wished his subjects to follow. For example, the pillars of Lauria Nandangarh in Bihar, and Sanchi and Sarnath.

The development of cave architecture was in the form of ‘viharas’ i.e. the abode of Buddhist monks. This development was done through royal patronage as well as individual efforts. The caves were characterized by ornamental entrances and highly polished interior walls.

Buddhist stupas were built at important places like Lumbini, Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar etc. These stupas were built using large amounts of clay, and were covered with meticulously baked miniature standard bricks.

The Chaitya Griha, a distinctive structure found in Buddhism, not only has various plans, elevations, sections, but is also an accurate reflection of philosophical teachings. These chaitya houses were meeting halls for teaching work and interaction between the general public and Buddhist monks. Some examples are Chaitya houses of Karle, Bhaja, Bedsa, Ajanta, Braskhora, Ellora etc.

The following sculptures became popular due to Buddhism –

Embossed Sculptures – Stupas in later eras included various types of entrance doors and railings and their surfaces were carved with highly detailed carvings that are symbolic of Buddhism and Jataka tales. For example, Bharhut, Sanchi and Bodh Gaya in North India and Amravati and Nagarjunakonda in South India. And ndependently erected sculptures (monolithic sculptures): for example the dazzling Mauryan polished Yakshini statue of Didarganj, the Buddha statue of Sultanganj, etc.

Contribution of Jainism:

Unlike Buddhism, Jainism did not create its own distinctive architecture, but instead adopted local architectural traditions wherever Jains went. For example, the Jains in North India followed the Vaishnava cult, while in South India they followed the Dravidian style.

Temple Architecture: The Jains built many temples which are famous for their elaborate details and exquisitely decorated decorations. For example, Lohanipura temple near Patna, Meghuti Jain temple etc.

Cave architecture: Jain cave temples were smaller than Buddhist cave temples because Jainism preferred subjective rituals, not mass religious rituals. Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills have the highest number of cave-temples in Orissa.

Stupas: Like Buddhists, Jains also built stupas in honor of their saints and these stupas also had supporting structures such as stone railings, decorated gates, stone chhatris, elaborately carved pillars and copious sculptures. The earliest example of this has been found in Kanakali mound near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh.

Man-Stambha: Another contribution of Jains to the field of architecture is the attractive design and construction of numerous pillars of remarkable grace which are found attached to many of their temples.

The contribution of Buddhism and Jainism was the beginning from which continuity can be seen in the development of architecture and which inspired future rulers as well as people in terms of architecture.

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