Mandalay restores stone plaques

inside-no-213TR Weekly
November 23, 2015 by Wanwisa Ngamsangchaikit

MANDALAY, 23 November 2015: Myanmar Ministry of Culture’s Archaeology and National Museum is collaborating with Sydney University’s Buddhist Studies Programme in Australia to restore stone inscriptions at Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay.

Global New Light of Myanmar reported the collaboration started since the beginning of the year.

According to Archaeology and National Museum’s Mandalay branch, technicians and experts are undertaking preservation works of stone plaques and pagodas, taking photo records, translating stone inscriptions from Pali-Myanmar to English and publishing academic articles about the stones and inscriptions.
Translation and publishing are being carried out by Sydney University.

The stone plaques depict Myanmar as it was in the 19th century as well as cultural aspects related to the Buddhist faith.

Kuthodaw Pagoda (also known as Maha Lawkamarazein Pagoda) was built by King Mindon in 1859. The pagoda, enclosed by high walls, was a repository for 729 stone plaques on Buddhist Pitaka.

The Buddhist stupa lies at the foot of Mandalay Hill contains the world’s largest book.

In 2013, the stone plaques from Kuthodaw Pagoda were included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.


Crumbling archaeological site in Swat needs govt’s attention

564e3e3358a19FAZAL KHALIQ — PUBLISHED NOV 20, 2015 06:40AM
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2015

MINGORA: Lying at the foot of a narrow vale, the Tokar-Dara stupa, a first century Buddhist monument, is crumbling down and needs immediate attention of the government and archaeology department.

Nestled against the foot of two mountains, Tokar-Dara valley is about five kilometres away from the city of Barikot, formerly known as Bazira, to the south in Najigram valley.

The Buddhist complex belonging to the first and third century AD, according to archaeologists, were constructed when Buddhism was at its peak in Uddiyana.

Experts say Tokar-Dara stupa was built when Buddhism was at its peak in Uddiyana

Robbed by antique dealers and smugglers, the site is one of the beautiful ancient sites in Swat, encompassing huge area of Buddhist monastery, stupa, assembly hall, cave, aqueduct and residential settlements. Continue reading

Jamal Garhi: Tremors unhinge Mardan’s architectural treasure

By Hidayat Khan
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2015.

Like other historical sites and buildings in the province, the fifth century CE Buddhist monastery and circular stupa, Jamal Garhi, also took a jolt. And so it lost a wall in the 7.5 magnitude earthquake on October 26.

Numerous stones from the collapsed wall skidded through the monastery and monk quarters, creating significant damage throughout the structure. According to an employee, Mahmood Khan, “One of the ancient walls completely collapsed from the massive earthquake. We are currently busy collecting the scattered stones and placing them in their proper place.”

Mardan’s historical grandeur

An ancient Gandharan architecture, it is located 13 kilometres north of Mardan city and rises 122 metres above ground level. The monastery is situated a short distance from Shahbaz Garhi and UNESCO World Heritage site of Takht Bhai, all of which contribute to Mardan being one of the prime tourist attraction spots in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Archaeologists believed Jamal Garhi was established during the era of Gandhara civilisation when Buddhism flourished within the Indian subcontinent. According to Sir John Marshall, a famous British archaeologist, the monastery is one of the earliest sites built in the region. It was first discovered by Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1848 and excavations were carried out from 1852 to 1873. Buddhist and Kharosthi inscriptions were discovered during the work and portions were shifted to Peshawar Museum for display and preservation.

Recent excavations in 2012, funded by the government of Japan and UNESCO, discovered coins from 158 CE, sculpture plate, head of Buddha and traces of a lake and other findings.

ANJ1190-copy Continue reading

Book: Transfer of Buddhism Across Central Asian Networks (7th to 13th Centuries) Edited by Carmen Meinert

89949Transfer of Buddhism Across Central Asian Networks (7th to 13th Centuries)
Edited by Carmen Meinert (Ruhr University Bochum, Center for Religious Studies (CERES)).

The interdisciplinary volume Transfer of Buddhism across Central Asian Networks (7th to 13th Centuries), edited by Carmen Meinert, offers a new transregional and transcultural vision for religious transfer processes in Central Asian history. It looks at the region as an integrated (religious) whole rather than from the perspective of fragmented sub-disciplines and analyses the spread of Buddhism as a driving force in a societal and cultural change of pan-Asian importance. One particular dimension of this ‘Buddhist globalisation’ was the rise of local forms of Buddhism. This volume explores Buddhist localisations through manuscripts and material culture in the multiethnic oases of the Tarim basin, the Transhimalyan region of Zangskar, Ladakh and Kashmir and the Western Tibetan Kingdom of Purang-Guge.

ISBN13: 9789004307414
E-ISBN: 9789004307438
Publication Date: October 2015
Copyright Year: 2016
Format: Hardback
Publication Type: Book
Pages, Illustr.: xviii, 333 pp., index
Imprint: BRILL
Language: English
Main Series: Dynamics in the History of Religions
ISSN: 1878-8106
Volume: 08

Carmen Meinert, Dr. phil. (2001), Bonn University, is Professor of Central Asian Religions at Bochum University. She has published on Buddhism in Central Asia, on Tibetan-Chinese relations, and monographs including Buddha in the Yurt — Buddhist Art from Mongolia (Hirmer, 2011).

Contributors are: Kazuo Kano, Deborah Klimburg-Salter, Rob Linrothe, Linda Lojda, Carmen Meinert, Henrik H. Sørensen, Monica Strinu, Gertraud Taenzer, Sam van Schaik, Jens Wilkens.

All interested in an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding religious transfer processes across a Central Asian Buddhist network, best known as the Silk Road(s).

Table of contents

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Nirvana in stone with Buddhist art

1446807103-5308A new exhibition showcasing artwork dating back to the 2nd Century puts Buddhist art on the international map

Business Standard
Avantika Bhuyan
November 7, 2015 Last Updated at 00:17 IST


An exquisite sculpture of the Avalokitesvara greets the eye at Exhibition Hall-1 of New Delhi’s National Museum. Dating back to the Pala period (11th-12th century), this granite grey work has been crafted from Rajshahi basalt — a rich black basalt jamb unique to that era. There is also a rare exhibit depicting the Mahaparinirvana of Buddha from Yusufzai, Pakistan, which goes back to the Kushan period (2nd century). It is 91 such objects — stone sculptures, palm leaf manuscripts and ritual objects — that form the part of the exhibition Buddhist Art of India and have travelled from Kolkata’s Indian Museum to the National Museum in Delhi.

The Indian Museum has an unparalleled archaeological section with an exhaustive collection of religious art. It is from this agglomeration that these objects have been drawn to be shown for the very first time in Delhi and abroad. For any collector of Buddhist art, a glimpse of artefacts from the Kushan or Pala period is a rare treat. And that’s what makes this exhibition so significant. “The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) hadn’t been set up when the British discovered the doctrinal tenets of Buddhism and when the stupas of Sanchi and Amravati were excavated. As there were no ASI site museums at that time, a lot of the newly-discovered artefacts were put in the Indian Museum,” says Jayanta Sengupta, director of the Indian Museum, which was founded in 1814 and has the distinction of being Asia’s oldest museum.

Earlier this year, this collection travelled to the Shanghai Museum, Tokyo National Museum and Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. Interest has also been evinced by museums in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to host the exhibition next year. “Taiwan and Singapore have hosted such exhibitions in the past, but that was a long time ago. This travelling exhibition is more recent and features art material that has never been seen outside of India. Also, it features early Buddhist art, dating back to the Gandhara and Kushan periods. This is rare as the international art market usually only has works from the last 500 years to showcase,” says Edward Wilkinson, director (Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian art) at New York-based auction house Bonhams.

1446807137-7611 Continue reading

Take me to the cosmic vagina: inside Tibet’s secret tantric temple

 A detail from the murals in the private meditation chapel of the Lukhang Temple, in Lhasa, Tibet. They were painted c.1700 for the fifth Dalai Lama.

A detail from the murals in the private meditation chapel of the Lukhang Temple, in Lhasa, Tibet. They were painted c.1700 for the fifth Dalai Lama.

Lukhang temple is the Buddhist Sistine Chapel, full of stunning murals of body-hopping yogis and the vagina that gave birth to the world. It’s meant for the Dalai Lama’s eyes only – so how did a US photographer manage to share its secrets?

Emine Saner

The Guardian
Tuesday 10 November 2015 10.12 EST

In the spring of 1986, Thomas Laird stood before the secret tantric paintings in the Lukhang temple of Lhasa, Tibet. The American photographer was one of the first westerners ever to enter, and the first to shoot inside this secret space created by the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century – and reserved for the private meditation of his successors.

“I was stunned by the colours: pink and gold and white and lapis,” he says of the murals that cover its walls. There were yogis demonstrating poses, 84 tantric masters, Buddhas, waterfalls, forests, animals and a vast number of symbols he couldn’t quite fathom. He was dazzled: “That afternoon had a huge impact on me.”

Twenty years later, Laird stood in a hotel in California showing his life-sized pictures of the murals to the Dalai Lama himself. The 14th Dalai Lama was exiled in 1959, and he was seeing them for the very first time. Laird had photographed them, then meticulously collated around 100 images into vast recreations that showed every last detail. The Dalai Lama stood before them, then turned to Laird. “OK,” he said, “now I’ll give you the commentary,” proceeding to talk him through their meanings. “At that moment,” says Laird, “it was like he was right there in the Lukhang with me.”

 The Lukhang Temple, Lhasa, c.1936. Photograph: Frederick Spencer Chapman/Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

The Lukhang Temple, Lhasa, c.1936. Photograph: Frederick Spencer Chapman/Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

This is the Tibetan Sistine Chapel … the whole Buddhist view of the world, in paintings
This month, Laird will bring his images from inside the temple to London, where they will form the centrepiece of a new show at Wellcome Collection called Tibet’s Secret Temple. This is the Tibetan Sistine Chapel, explains Laird: “The Sistine Chapel was painted by a great artist, commissioned by a pope and it tells us everything from God creating man to the resurrection. The whole world, as Christians viewed it, are there in images – and that’s what’s happening in the Lukhang.” Continue reading

How did the Ramayana come to adorn the walls of Thailand’s most revered Buddhist temple?

How did the Ramayana come to adorn the walls of Thailand's most revered Buddhist temple? Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How did the Ramayana come to adorn the walls of Thailand’s most revered Buddhist temple?
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

All around the Temple of the Emerald Buddha are murals telling the story of Phra Rama. How did they get there?

Mridula Chari · Nov 10, 2015 · 01:30 pm

Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the most sacred religious structure in Thailand. Located in the heart of Bangkok, near the royal palace, the lavish complex has more than 100 buildings in its compound, including a statue of the Emerald Buddha, which is considered the country’s protector.

Encircling this complex is a two-kilometre-long wall decorated with exquisite murals – of the Ramayana.

The Monkey Army, aided by the Queen of the Southern Ocean (Guanyin) and her subjects, builds a bridge of stones to Lanka. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The murals of Wat Phra Kaew are sumptuous in colour and delicate in detail. The story of Phra Rama, the hero of Ramakien, as the Thai Ramayana is called, is told across 178 panels that are kept fresh with restorative work every few decades. The latest round was carried out in 2004.

Ramakien, or the Glory of Rama, has the same overarching structure as Valmiki’s version, but differs on some details such as character and setting. Crucially, it is shorn of the religious significance it has in India, and is instead treated as an epic narrative centred on Thai characters.

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