Taking hint from Traditional Buddhist Architecture, Architect builds Buddhist Learning Centre in Maharashtra

Designed by ‘sP+a’ – Sameep Padora & Associates, this half-acre holistic Jetavan has been constructed by employing authentic and local artisans, villagers and naturally acquired materials

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Inside Jetavana Learning Centre, Maharashtra Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mumbai, August 19, 2016: A Mumbai-based architecture firm Sameep Padora and Associates have recently completed building a Buddhist Learning Centre in Maharashtra. The architect wanted to renew the lost traditions that went into making Buddhist learning and meditation centres.

“Our approach looks to extend the idea of the regional paradigm whilst separating it from the pervasive image of what defines the local,” said the architect to a news portal. The centre was built keeping in mind that not a single tree is harmed at the site or cut down during the construction. The centre was hence split up into 6 buildings, situated between gaps of heavy trees, , mentioned dezeen.com.

Such learning centres in Buddhism are also called Jetavan. A Jetavan is one of the most integral spaces of meditation in Buddhism. It was earlier a monastery donated to Gautam Buddha, outside Savatthi an ancient Indian city in Uttar Pradesh. The remains of Buddha’s hut in Jetavana are still prevalent today.

A lit up evening of discourse and exchange of ideas. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Designed by ‘sP+a’ – Sameep Padora & Associates, this half-acre holistic Jetavan has been constructed by employing authentic and local artisans, villagers and naturally acquired materials. It also has a butterfly roof. The traditional architecture also has dung flooring done by the local community, which also has antiseptic virtues. The walls were built using volcanic stone dust, in an attempt to revive traditional Buddhist architecture.

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Buddhist art has its deep roots in India, which also influenced ancient Indian infrastructure, architecture, and heritage. The emperor of Magadh, Ashoka built his monuments in traditional Buddhist architecture and established Buddhism as the homogenous or state religion in his empire, as an endeavor to spread Buddhism across his land. The most famous forms of this style are Stupas (topes), Stambhs (pillars), Chaitayas (caves) and viharas (monasteries).

Disciples at the serene Mahabodhi Temple
Disciples at the serene Mahabodhi Temple. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Major rock-cut temples in ancient India, especially during the rise of Ashokan School, were built by workers and artisans, who had made temples of other religions too. So Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist temples more or less have similar kind of architecture. The oldest and the most famous example of such architecture is Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, near Patna, Bihar. It is a Buddhist temple which is famous for the legend that Buddha attained enlightenment here.

Headless figure of Gautam Buddha at Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Headless figure of Gautam Buddha at Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Another recognized model of Buddhist art and architecture is Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh. Built in the 3rd century BC, it is the oldest structure of India made with stones. A less complex hemispherical structure, it is built on the remnants of Buddha. The umbrella-like parasol at the top of the stupa is suggestive of high significance.

Ashoka Pillar, Sarnath Source: Wikimedia Commons
Ashoka Pillar, Sarnath. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, they have often been caught the attention of the figure on Indian currency, which illustrates three lions. This illustration is taken from the Ashoka Pillar, another Buddhist example of a creative building. The Ashoka Pillar was erected in Sarnath, where Buddha had his first discourse and talked about the four noble truths. It is the symbol of the national emblem of India. It carries high symbolism too – it symbolizes ‘axis mundi’ (celestial axis). The interpretation can be made from bottom to top because this represents a transition from unknowledgeable to enlightened living:

  • Lotus represents the dark mud of the dull world, where the lotus still blooms nevertheless.
  • The four animals symbolize the never-ending cycle of life despite one’s own fears, insecurities, losses and pain of this materialistic world.
  • The lions are suggestive of positive energies, inner confidence, to guard one from evil, and are often interpreted as Buddha himself. And it is from these lion figures that one can attain moksha, which is symbolized in the chakra.

– prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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