An abiding interest in the past

Foreign research scholars who are on a visit to the Phangiri archaeological site in Nagonda district on Wednesday.

Foreign research scholars who are on a visit to the Phangiri archaeological site in Nagonda district on Wednesday.

The Hindu
T. KARNAKAR REDDY

Four foreign Sanskrit research scholars from four countries visited Buddhist archaeological site located at Phanigri in Nalgonda district on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Hindu , S. R.Vishalatchi, Director of Archaeology and Museums, said the research scholars from France, Germany, UK and USA approached them seeking permission to visit Nelakondapally, Khammam district, and Phangiri.

She said that the research scholars wanted to go through the inscriptions laid during the Ikshvaku dynasty across Telanagana as part of their research. Assistant Director of Archaeology and Museums, Panagal, P. Nagaraju accompanied the foreign scholars to the Buddhist site.

Arol Griffithis, professor of South-east Asian History at École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), a French institute dedicated to the study of Asian societies, and his three friends were part of the four-member team.

Mr. Arlo and his four member team had spent an entire day at Phanigiri. The Archaeology officials were surprised to see their knowledge of Indian history. Going through the four inscriptions and some label inscriptions that were found at Phanigiri written in Prakruthi language, the foreign scholars read out and understood each and every word without taking any help from local Archaeology authorities. They even discussed the Buddhist Jathaka Tales.

[link]

Thotlakonda in for a makeover

Times of India
Sulogna Mehta | TNN | Jan 28, 2016, 03.19 PM IST

Visakhapatnam: The unkept Buddhist heritage site of Thotlakonda is all set for a makeover with restoration works going on in a war-footing. However, its completion before the International Fleet Review (IFR) is doubtful even though it’s one of the tourist sites identified for visit by delegates.
Several workers are pulling down the damaged or broken bricks and laying fresh bricks replicating the ancient Buddhist stupas, viharas and chaitayas while signages and boards are also being made ready to be installed at various places.

The 2,000-year-old heritage site was spotted by the Indian Navy during an aerial survey in the 1980s following which the AP state archaeology department conducted major excavations during 1988-1993. The excavations led to the establishment of a Buddhist complex. However, bricks were laid on the excavated base structure to give the visitors an impression of what the original might have looked like.
Environmentalist and heritage activist Sohan Hatangadi, who has prepared the signages and is supervising the work, said, “The restoration work is going on as per the archaeological norms. Besides putting up the signages and laying of bricks, an interpretation centre where the history of the site would be provided would also come up 100 metres away from the heritage structures.”

“The elaborate plans for the interpretation room includes a video room, photo gallery, cafeteria, library, souvenir shop and amenities such as parking spaces and washrooms. However, the interpretation room cannot be ready before the IFR. We are hoping to complete the signages, inner pathways and restoration of the stupas and other structures before the IFR,” he added.

The state archaeology department has allotted nearly Rs 3 crore for restoration and renovation works at Thotlakonda and Bavikonda. While works at Thotlakonda have already commenced, the works at Bavikonda would be taken up from the end of February.

“However, we need a maintenance committee to look into the Buddhist heritage structures once they are renovated,” Hatangadi said.

[link]

Curators Discover New Details in the Etchings on a 6th-Century Chinese Sculpture

A headless figure, cloaked in a robe covered with complex illustrations, is now better understood thanks to 3D technology

The hidden significance of the illustrations found on “The Cosmic Buddha,” an iconic masterpiece from the collections of the Freer Gallery, is now being revealed thanks to 3D technology. (Freer Gallery of Art)

A headless figure, cloaked in a robe covered with complex illustrations, is now better understood thanks to 3D technology

By Menachem Wecker
SMITHSONIAN.COM
FEBRUARY 4, 2016

A life-size limestone sculpture created in the late sixth century, and bearing intricately involved narrative details carved into its robe, was likely used as a teaching tool to instruct students about Buddha’s life and teachings. The digital tools used to make an unprecedented three-dimensional scan of the Buddha, part of the collections of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, couldn’t be more different from the sculptor’s techniques employed 15 centuries ago. But their educational motivations are surprisingly similar.

Over the centuries significant pieces of the Chinese sculpture, known as Buddha draped in robes portraying the Realms of Existence, or Cosmic Buddha, were lost including the head, hands, parts of its feet and portions of its base.

But standing in front of this masterpiece of Buddhist art, a few days before the opening of the exhibition “Body of Devotion: The Cosmic Buddha in 3D,” J. Keith Wilson, curator of ancient Chinese art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, reflected on how rare and unusual the work was. The exhibition includes the ancient sculpture along with touchscreen monitors that allow visitors to drill down into super magnified images to study the complex illustrations that cover the sculpture.

Until 1996 when a number of others sculptures like the Cosmic Buddha were discovered, the work—dating to the northern Qi dynasty (550-577)—was “truly unique—like capital ‘U’ unique,” says Wilson. Continue reading

Science and Spirituality in Conversation, at RMA’s Brainwave

The Rubin Museum of Art’s Brainwave series melds tenets of Buddhist thought and neuroscience. Photo courtesy Rubin Museum of Art.

The Rubin Museum of Art’s Brainwave series melds tenets of Buddhist thought and neuroscience. Photo courtesy Rubin Museum of Art.

Added by Scott Stiffler on February 3, 2016.

BY SEAN EGAN | The burgeoning field of neuroscience and the ancient tenets of Buddhism, seemingly incompatible at a glance, are not so far apart.

Tim McHenry, the Director of Programs and Engagement at the Rubin Museum of Art, argues for the “commonality between the frontier science of neurological exploration — of neuroscience, and understanding how the mind works — and the innate understanding of how the mind works in Buddhist philosophy. They both try to do the same thing, but with very, very different means.”

This train of thought was the impetus behind Brainwave, an annual series McHenry has been curating since its debut in 2008. Anchored by a series of conversations between notable personalities and leading neuroscientists, Brainwave discussions address various mind-related topics by drawing on science and spirituality. “It’s proven to be a subject of inexhaustible interest to not only me, but anybody who attends,” McHenry notes.

For this year’s installment, the theme is “emotions,” a topic McHenry finds particularly interesting — though he makes it clear that Brainwave is concerned with digging deeper than just examining basic emotions (such as fear and happiness) and calling it a day.

“Emotions are really, really interesting in that they’re both useful and necessary, and yet deeply problematic” he says. “Buddhism is really about trying to mitigate or reduce the effect of your emotions on you in a way that is damaging, detrimental, and makes you beholden to them, as opposed to [feelings that] you enjoy, and using them to inform yourself and inform your understanding of the world. So that’s why emotions are interesting in this particular context.” Continue reading

Spotlight on Buddhist Rock Inscriptions in Pakistan’s Swat Valley

The first sutra inscription. Image courtesy of the Italian Archaeological Mission. From dawn.com

The first sutra inscription. Image courtesy of the Italian Archaeological Mission. From dawn.com

By BD Dipananda Buddhistdoor Global | 2016-02-05 |

Three 3rd century Buddhist rock inscriptions located by the hamlet of Jahanabad in a small valley near Shakhorai Village, within the Swat Valley administrative district of Pakistan, have made headlines recently, although local residents remain largely in the dark as to their significance and meaning.

The Swat Valley, once an active center for merchants, traders, and pilgrims as a crossroads for the ancient Silk Road trade routes, is home to a large number of Buddhist heritage sites and artifacts of great historical value, including monasteries, caves, rock-carvings, stupas, and inscriptions. More than 400 ancient stupas and monasteries can still be found within an area covering some 160 square kilometers.

Local residents say they are not aware of the significance of the three inscriptions at Jahanabad, although they recognize that they are clearly of ancient origin, according to a report in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. One resident noted that the epigraphs had once been of great interest to Chinese and Japanese visitors, adding that the area used to be full of Buddhist relics but that many had disappeared with the passing of time.

According to Dr. Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Swat, the inscriptions are written in Sanskrit using the Nagari script, a variant of the Gupta script, which is associated with the Gupta Empire, the latter ruling much of the subcontinent from 240–550 CE. All three inscriptions are boldly etched into rough granite in letters that vary between two and four inches in height. Continue reading

A Buddhist Deity Returns to Boston

A wooden Guanyin deity, about 900 years old, will return to view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Credit Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

A wooden Guanyin deity, about 900 years old, will return to view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Credit Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

 

 

The New York Times
By EVE M. KAHN JAN. 28, 2016

A Buddhist deity sculpture, absent from the galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for 17 years, will go back on view there next month after undergoing analyses and treatments throughout its gilded surface.

This deity, Guanyin, which embodies compassion, was carved about 900 years ago from a tree trunk. Nearly six feet tall, the figure is seated in a casual pose, with its glass eyes facing downward and one leg dangling as though being dipped in a pool of water. The underlying legend is that the deity was gazing at a reflection of the moon in the water.

Abigail Hykin, a conservator at the museum, has stabilized its flaking paint and has supervised tests that revealed insects, nails, dowels, pins and patches embedded in the body and limbs. (Further testing is being done to determine the types of insects.) The sculpture will be displayed starting on Feb. 6. Only a handful of similar wooden Guanyins survive, including ones at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.; the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The Boston museum’s figure is from northern China, but there is no information about which temple it belonged to before it arrived at the institution in 1920. It was originally sold to the museum with two smaller deity statues that will be analyzed to see whether their wood type and gilded paint match the Guanyin.

Barely decipherable inscriptions on the surface suggest dates when worshipers paid to have the wood repainted. Nancy Berliner, the museum’s curator of Chinese art, said that patrons would have hoped to gain “good karma from redecorating a Guanyin.”

The figure wears a crown and is draped in tassels and beaded jewelry, and its pierced ears indicate that at one time it also wore earrings. A plastic jewel in its forehead, which was added in the 1950s, has been removed. This Guanyin radiates calm rather than vanity.

“The expression on the face is so compassionate,” Ms. Berliner said.

The Museum of Fine Arts will display the deity alongside the X-rays and other scans of its surface and interior that were taken during the analysis.

The Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington are taking a similar scientific approach to displaying a sixth-century headless limestone Buddha; starting on Saturday, the figure will go on view alongside laser scans of its elaborately carved surfaces.

[link]

Trove of Buddhist relics found in Midnapore

Deccan Herald
Kolkata:Jan 31, 2016, DHNS

The site, currently a buzz of activities, has led to the discovery of some 50 relics connected to Buddhism, which was widely practiced in eastern Indian between seventh and 12th Century. Reuters file photo for representation only

Fourteen years after archaeologists stumbled upon the nondescript mound at Moghalmari in West Midnapore district, the site has thrown up one of the largest finds of Buddhist history in India.

The site, currently a buzz of activities, has led to the discovery of some 50 relics connected to Buddhism, which was widely practiced in eastern Indian between seventh and 12th Century.

While archeologists from Calcutta University first came across this site in March 2001, the state archaeology department has since taken charge. On January 23 this year they came across around 40 bronze artifacts dating back to fifth and sixth century. Since then, diggers have come across more relics, with chances that digging deeper will lead to further finds.

In 2001, archaeologists first found the structural details of a monastery, an inscribed seal and a broken bust, believed to be of the Buddha. While Moghalmari village, around 180 km from Kolkata, became an important find in understanding history of Buddhism in India, particularly Bengal, the dig emerged a centre of attention since January 23, with archeologists believing the site will provide crucial insights in assessing and understanding spread of Buddhism to eastern India and eventually to other parts of Asia. Continue reading