Monday, August 4, 2014

Mathuran Art & the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom (250 - 130 BC)


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"The origins of Greco-Buddhist art are to be found in the Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian kingdom (250 BC- 130 BC), located in today’s Afghanistan, from which Hellenistic culture radiated into the Indian subcontinent with the establishment of the Indo-Greek kingdom (180 BC-10 BC). Under the Indo-Greeks and then the Kushans, the interaction of Greek and Buddhist culture flourished in the area of Gandhara, in today’s northern Pakistan, before spreading further into India, influencing the art of Mathura, and then the Hindu art of the Gupta empire, which was to extend to the rest of South-East Asia. The influence of Greco-Buddhist art also spread northward towards Central Asia, strongly affecting the art of the Tarim Basin, and ultimately the arts of China, Korea, and Japan."

"Gupta Buddha......At Mathura the ’native’ Indian style continued to produce sturdy, outward-looking images. Under the Gupta dynasty (320-550 CE) images were refined to a classical perfection which still reflected the robust qualities of the earlier style."....

"Kanishka's reputation in Buddhist tradition is based mainly that he convened the 4th Buddhist Council in Kashmir. Images of the Buddha based on 32 physical signs were made during his time......He provided encouragement to both the Gandhara school of Greco-Buddhist Art and the Mathura school of Hindu art (An inescapable religious syncretism pervades Kushana rule). Kanishka personally seems to have embraced both Buddhism and the Persian cult of Mithra.".....

Rishabha, also known as Adinatha, is the traditional founder of Jainism.

"Mathurā art, style of Buddhist visual art that flourished in the trading and pilgrimage centre of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India, from the 2nd century bc to the 12th century ad; its most distinctive contributions were made during the Kushān and Gupta periods (1st–6th century ad)......

Tirthankara, Mathura, A.D. 5th Cent.....In Jainism, a Tīrthaṅkara is a human being who helps in achieving liberation and enlightenment .....

Figure of Surya, the Sun God .....Mathura sculpture in the Gupta period, AD 300-600....Surya (Sanskrit: सूर्य Sūrya, "the Supreme Light") also known as Adithya, Suraya, Bhanu, Ravi or Phra Athit is the chief solar deity in Hinduism and generally refers to the Sun.......

"Surasena (or Sourasena) (Sanskrit: शूरसेन, Śūrasena) was an ancient Indian region corresponding to the present-day Braj region in Uttar Pradesh. According to the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya, It is mentioned in the Ramayana as an earlier Janapada state from at least 1000BCE. Surasena was one of the solasa (sixteen) Mahajanapadas (powerful realms) in the 7th century BCE. The ancient Greek writers refer the region as Sourasenoi and mention its capital as Methora.....The Mahabharata and the Puranas refer the rulers of the Mathura region as the Yadus or Yadavas, divided into a number of septs, which include the Vrishnis. The Buddhist texts refer to Avantiputta, the king of the Surasenas in the time of Maha Kachchana, one of the chief disciples of Gautama Buddha of Nepal, who spread Buddhism in the Mathura region....Its capital, Mathura, was situated on the bank of the river Yamuna, presently a sacred place for the Hindus. The ancient Greek writers mention about another city named Cleisobora in this region.".....Singh, Upinder (2008), A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Delhi

"In the 6th century BC..... Mathura became the capital of the Surasena Mahajanapada. The city was later ruled by the Maurya empire (4th to 2nd centuries BC) and the Sunga dynasty (2nd century BC). It may have come under the control of Indo-Greeks some time between 180 BC and 100 BC. It then reverted to local rule before being conquered by the Indo-Scythians during the 1st century BC......Mathuran art and culture reached its zenith under the Kushan dynasty which had Mathura as one of their capitals, the other being Purushapura (Peshawar). The dynasty had kings with the names of Kujula Kadphises, Kanishka, Huvishka and Vasudeva I."

"Megasthenes, writing in the early 3rd century BC, mentions Mathura as a great city under the name Μέθορα (Méthora)......Megasthenes (ca. 350 – 290 BC) was a Greek ethnographer and explorer in the Hellenistic period, author of the work Indika. He was born in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and became an ambassador of Seleucus I of the Seleucid dynasty possibly to Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra, India. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain. Scholars place it before 298 BC, the date of Chandragupta's death...At the beginning of his Indika, he refers to the older Indians who know about the prehistoric arrival of Dionysus and Hercules in India, which was a story very popular amongst the Greeks during the Alexandrian period. Particularly important are his comments on the religions of the Indians. He mentions the devotees of Heracles and Dionysus but he does not mention Buddhists, something that gives support to the theory that the latter religion was not widely known before the reign of Ashoka..".....Vassiliades, Demetrios, "Greeks and Buddhism Historical Contacts in the Development of a Universal religion".....The Eastern Buddhist. Kyoto 2005.

The Indo-Scythians (aka Sakas or Shakas) conquered the area of Mathura over Indian kings around 60 BC.....The first Saka king was Maues (Moga) (1st century BC) who established Saka power in Gandhara (modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan region) and gradually extended supremacy over north-western India.....Indo-Scythians (Sakas), were in Sogdiana, Bactria, Arachosia, Gandhara, Sindh, Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Bihar......from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD.....The invasion of India by Scythian tribes from Central Asia, often referred to as the Indo-Scythian invasion, played a significant part in the history of South Asia as well as nearby countries. ....The most famous Shakya was the prince Siddhartha Shakya (5th century BC) who was the founder of Buddhism and came to be known as Gautama Buddha."

"Buddhism entered China mainly through Central Asia, coming from the Gandhāran cultural area. The Prakrit (s) of that area explain(s) the ancient Chinese terminology. The ancient translations from the middle of the second century A.D. until about 400 A.D., are mainly based on Prakrit(s). During that period a Mahāyāna movement was developing in India. This is the period of the Lotus Sūtra, of developing prajñāpāramitā literature, of Amitābha, of the Avatamsakasūtra, etc.. Bactria, an area of multiple cultural influences, an area from where there was easy access to China, is central in the development of these new kinds of Buddhism. Bactria, for some time located in the Kusānā empire, was an area of sthaviras, i.e. of sarvāstivādins, of dharmaguptakas, and of pudgalavādins, but also of their rivals, the mahāsāmghikas. The heterogeneous groups of sarvāstivādins in the Gandhāran area, in the Bactrian area and in Central India are known as sautrāntikas from the time of the sarvāstivāda synod in Kaśmīra on (end of the second century A.D.). ".....


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….August 2014


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