Buddhist Monuments in Andhra Region

Vengi in Andhra Pradesh has many stupa sites like Jagayyapetta, Amaravati, Bhattiprolu,
Nagarjunkonda, Goli, etc. Amaravati has a Mahachaitya and had many sculptures which are now
preserved in Chennai Museum, Amaravati Site Museum, National Museum, New Delhi, and the British Museum, London.

Like the Sanchi Stupa, the Amaravati Stupa also has Pradakshinapatha enclosed within a Vedika on which many narrative sculptures are depicted. The domical stupa structure is covered with relief stupa sculptural slabs which is a unique feature. The Torana of the Amaravati Stupa has disappeared over a period of time. Events from the life of the Buddha and the Jataka stories are depicted.

Though in the Amaravati Stupa there is evidence of construction activity in the third century BCE, it was best developed in the first and second centuries CE. Like Sanchi, the early phase is devoid of Buddha images but during the later phase, in the second and third centuries CE, the Buddha images are carved on the drum slabs and at many other places.

Interior space in the composition is created by different postures of the figures such as semi-back, back, profile, frontal, semi-frontal, side, etc. Sculptural form in this area is characterized by intense emotions. Figures are slender, have a lot of movement, bodies are shown with three bents (i.e. Tribhanga), and the sculptural composition is more complex than at Sanchi.

Linearity becomes flexible, dynamic movement breaks the statics of form. The idea of creating three-dimensional space in the relief sculpture is devised by using pronounced volume, angular bodies, and complex overlapping.

However, absolute attention has been paid to the clarity of form despite its size and role in the narrative. Narratives are profusely depicted which include events from the life of the Buddha and the Jataka stories. There are a number of Jataka scenes that have not been completely identified.

In the depiction of the birth event, the queen is shown reclining on a bed surrounded by female attendants, and a small-sized elephant is carved on the upper frame of the composition showing the dream of Queen Mayadevi. In another relief, four events related to the birth of the Buddha are shown. These represent varied ways of depicting the narratives.

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The animated movement in the figures gets reduced in the sculptures of Nagarjunkonda and Goli in
the third century CE. Even within the relatively low relief volume than in the Amaravati sculptures,
artists at Nagarjunkonda and Goli managed to create the effect of protruding surfaces of the body which is suggestive in nature and looks very integral. Independent Buddha images are also found at Amaravati, Nagarjunkonda and Guntapalle.

Guntapalle is a rock-cut cave site near Eluru. Small apsidal and circular chaitya halls have been excavated belonging to the second century BCE. The other important site where rock-cut stupas have been excavated is Anakapalle near Vishakhapatnam. In Karnataka, Sannati is the largest stupa site excavated so far. It also has a stupa like the one in Amaravati decorated with sculptural relief.

The construction of a large number of stupas does not mean that there were no structured temples or viharas or chaityas. We do get evidence but no structured chaitya or vihara survived. Among the important structured viharas, mention may be made of the Sanchi apsidal chaitya structure, i.e., temple 18, which is a simple shrine temple having front pillars and a hall at the back.

Similarly, structured temples at Guntapalle are also worth mentioning. Along with the images of the Buddha, other Buddhist images of Bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara, Padmapani, Vajrapani , Amitabha , and Maitreya Buddha started getting sculpted.

However, with the rise of Vajrayana Buddhism, many Boddhisattva images were added as a part of the personified representations of certain virtues or qualities as propagated by the Buddhist religious principles for the welfare of the masses

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