National Museum-Buddhist Art of India

After its successful stint at Shanghai Museum, Tokyo National Museum and Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore, the Indian Museum, Kolkata, is presenting the exhibition on Indian Buddhist Art at the National Museum, New Delhi, from 30th October, 2015 to 30th November 2015. If you are someone who enjoys a journey back in time then this is definitely the place you should head to within the next two weeks. The tranquil atmosphere of the National Museum adds to the charm.

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91 exclusive objects from the collection of Indian Museum trace the different stages of Buddhism’s evolution through the ages.

Life Of Buddha

Specimens of scenes from the life of Buddha Sakyamuni that enumerate important episodes from his life begin the visitor’s enthralling journey.

The exhibition also presents a few exquisite stone carvings illustrating the miraculous powers of the Buddha. The Miracles include the Miracle of Sravasti, Taming of Nalagiri and the descent of Buddha from Trayatrimsa Heaven.

More on Miracles

More on the Life of Buddha Sakyamuni

Formation Of Doctrine And Its Development Through The Ages

In the second section of the exhibition the story proceeds to the formation of doctrine and its development through the ages. This encompasses the transition of Buddhism from aniconic to iconic worships.

The exhibition then explains the Form of Buddha. This segment focuses on the creation of the first statues of Buddha and Buddhist deities. While many of the statues of Buddha made shortly after the start of Buddhist sculpture are considered to have depicted the form of Sakyamuni, with the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, various other Buddhas were produced.

Buddhist Deities

Distinguishing between a bodhisattva (someone who is training to become a Buddha in the future) and Buddha, it is highlighted that bodhisattvas were modeled on the appearance of Indian royalty, decorated with ornaments such as crowns.

The story then moves on towards Esoteric Buddhism which is thought to have started in India in about the 5th to 6th century CE. On account of the influence of Hinduism, statues with multiple faces and arms were created. In Bengal and Bihar, Esoteric Buddhism prospered during the rise of Pala dynasty.

What is Esoteric Buddhism?

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The relationship between Stupas and Buddha has also been explained. Stupas were where relics of the Buddha were stored. With the beginning of Buddhist sculpture, the focus shifted from stupas to Buddhist statues, but belief in stupas also continued. With time stupas were also built for monks who had died.

Expansion

The last section deals with the expansion of Buddhism by crossing the geographical boundary. “This is not mere crossing the geographical limit but it is something going beyond the nucleus by flowering the ideology into an artistic expression which undoubtedly carries an exquisite aesthetic sense.”  

We have in the final section of the exhibition specimens of mainstream Buddhist Art as well as its diversified forms. Wooden and marble images of Buddha, colorful illustrated manuscripts or sutras and the silver alloy bowls carved with Vessantara Jataka on the outer surface make the whole experience aesthetically appealing and an enriching one.

The chronological consistency of the displays within and across sections gives the visitor a sense of watching a beautiful story unfold in front of her/his eyes. The helpful introduction to every section binds the story and helps the visitor connect the pieces.

Logistics:

Dates: 30th October, 2015-30th November, 2015

Timing: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. ; closed on Monday

Nearest Metro Station: Udyog Bhawan (Gate Number 2) or Central Secretariat

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