Wednesday April 8, 2020

Stupa Architecture: Tracing Hindu-Buddhist Influence and Indo-Cambodian Relations

South East Asian regions like Indonesia, Cambodia, Malay Peninsula etc. came to be under the influence of the Indian culture from as early as the 3rd century BC

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Bayon Temple, Cambodia. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
  • Stupas form an integral and inseparable part of Buddhist architecture and culture
  • South East Asian regions like Indonesia, Cambodia, Malay Peninsula etc. came to be under the influence of the Indian culture from as early as 3rd century BC
  • The most significant Indianized state that existed was Funan, which is now a part of Cambodia
Part of Dhamek Stupa of Sarnath. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
Part of Dhamek Stupa of Sarnath. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

In Sanskrit, stupa means “heap”. Stupas form an integral and inseparable part of Buddhist architecture and culture. It stands as the burial ground or a place to hold religious objects and artefacts. But, what is interesting is that it has a connection to Hinduism as well.

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South East Asian regions like Indonesia, Cambodia, Malay Peninsula etc. came to be under the influence of the Indian culture from as early as the 3rd century BC. Broadly speaking, it was the time during which there was an amalgamation of Buddhist and Indian culture. In fact, till  the 15th Century AD, a lot of the parts of South East Asia were ruled by Indians. It is remarkable how India was able to approach and consolidate the branches of their civilisation is such a way without military conquest. There is a debate regarding the architectural influences that the South East Asian countries drew from India but not much has been talked about how in the later period, there were instances of Indian stupas being inspired from that of the South-East Asia. The votive Stupas of Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh are examples of such an impact, mentioned Ancient Origins Website.

Ruins of Sarnath Temple in Uttar Pradesh, India. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
Ruins of Sarnath Temple in Uttar Pradesh, India. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

Sarnath is located near the confluence of Gomati as well as Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. The structures of the stupa are mostly built with bricks, mud, clay, stone and dry masonry. According to researchers, stupas are also built of terracotta and other materials but none of that can be found in this particular stupa at Sarnath.

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Actually, at that time, a lot of Indians travelled to these places in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and this resulted in a cultural influence, mentioned the Ancient Origins Website. That was how both Hinduism and Buddhism was successfully spreading from India to these parts of the world- via traders, scholars and rulers, who were travelling through sea routes to these remote places. Over the time, strong relations were established between India and the South East Asia.

A statue from the walls of Angkor Thom, Cambodia. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
A statue from the walls of Angkor Thom, Cambodia. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

The most significant Indianized state that existed was Funan, which is now a part of Cambodia. Legend has it that, the ties between Indians and the Khmer or the native people of the land, was strengthened when an Indian Brahmin’s daughter married the local chief. Funan carried on trade with India and had series of kings who attempted to repress the rising tide of Buddhism and patronised Hinduism. Thus, the Indo-Cambodian relationship was in existence since then. Not only trade relations or personal relations but cultural ties were also strong between these two. The instances of Hindu and Buddhist influences can be found in the architectural manifestations of Angkor Watt Temple, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon temples in Cambodia.

Prepared by Atreyee Sengupta of NewsGram.

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Fireworks Might Extinguish the Flame of Laxmi Puja

We can have various kind of festival enjoyments on Festivals but without ever causing problem to others and the environment

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Fireworks
There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI

If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.

Fireworks
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment without Using Fireworks.

I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.

Fireworks
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers, Fireworks and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong.

Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”.  Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Fireworks
TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land.

It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna LilaRam Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas” (musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentrationThe objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.

Fireworks
There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation and not Fireworks. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”.

However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.

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Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.

Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali