Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stone cuttings, Isurumuniya, Sri Lanka.

'Moon-stone' at the start of the stone stairway.

Decorated stones guarding the side of the stone stairway.

'Among some of the more prominent riddles of Sri Lankan culture, that still remain unresolved, are the ‘Mystery’ of the Sigiri Apsaras and the identity of the ‘Man and the Horse’, in the well-known sculpture at Isuruminiya. ..
... In the current article, I once again return to Isurumuniya. After prolonged research, I have been able to identify the ‘Man and the Horse’, in the Isurumuniya Sculpture. My finding, I am sure, will lead to concerned debate and sustained expression of views. 
Man and Horse 
But, I am equally certain, that my ‘discovery’, will receive an encouraging acceptance. The work of art we focus, on, is a sculpture, done on the front surface of the boulder, which functions as a wall to contain the pond below. The figures of elephants at water sports are sculpted on the rock-wall. 
As art experts observe, the sculpture, could date back to the early days of Anuradhapura Kingdom. The sculptural refinement of the work, pre-eminently deserves the epithet ‘exquisite'. Its stylistic subtleties unerringly point to the flowering of an advanced tradition. Framed within an artificially hewn stone-recess, two figures occupy the rock-space - a man and a horse's head. 
The intriguing riddle that has voyaged down the long corridors of time, to puzzle us-the moderns-is, who are these two-Man and Horse? 
Before I present my unravelling of the ‘mystery’, what is logically correct, is to look at some of the solutions advanced, over time, by a whole range of persons. 
Some years ago, a critic put forward the amusing theory, that the sculpture depicts a ‘horse-trader'. We need not delve deep into this suggestion, simply because, such a dignified personality, surveying the captial city, can in no way be a mere ‘horse-trader.’ 
Prof. Senarath Paranavitana had surmised, that the ‘Man’ was ‘Parjanya, - the Rain-God, and the horse was ‘Agni’ (fire). 
The learned scholar has been impressed by the nobility and the dignity of the individual depicted in the sculpture. But, since iconographic details do not conform to divinity, this view was not widely accepted. Even if it were assumed that the Rain-God was, portrayed in human form, the interpretation seemed far-fetched. 
Expressing his view about the issue, Dr. William Kohn introduced the interpretation that the ‘Man’ was Sage Kapila. The intense military and aggressive visage of the ‘Man’, does not quite reflect the subdued, spiritual demeanour of the Great Sage. In consequence, the ‘Sage Kapila’ version was set aside. Now, we are back to square one. If so, who are these two - the Man and the Horse? 
Let us carefully scrutinise the two figures. The man is well-built. He wears a helmet. Ornaments adorn his body and his ears. He is seated in highly dignified ease, in the iconographic posture of royal style and guise (Rajalilasana). He gazes steadily and with evident pride and confidence, right ahead at the capital city - Anuradhapura. 
The garment that decks his lower body, covers his thighs. The garments reflect, high military attire. His total dress magnificently befits a Commander-in-Chief or a ruler-may even be Commander-in-Chief- cum-ruler. 
In his ‘Research Essay’ titled ‘Art of Isurumuniya’, Dr. Chandra Wickrema Gamage, approaches quite close to the final identification of the Man and the Horse. 
But, he does not take the last logical leap to arrive at the right conclusion that is in keeping with the initial steps he takes in his essay. Let us take a very close view of the steps that lead to the final conclusion. He is a crowned dignitary, in the attire of a Commander-in-Chief. He proudly surveys the then modern capital city ‘Anuradhapura'. 
The crowning touch is presented by the horse's head. This dignified man, has the horse's rein tied to his upper arm-as is clearly depicted in the sculpture. 
Iconographic feature 
Dr. Chandra Wickrema Gamage is perhaps the only observer who has so carefully noted this unique iconographic feature. In my experience, there is no other sculptural portrayal of a royally seated figure, who has his upper arm tied to his horse's rein. 
The noose that ties the mare’s rein to the king’s upper arm is lax, because it could be some kind of thread or a leather thong. It is interesting to observe the rigidity of the metal bangles worn by the king around his wrist. They are not lax at all in contrast to the rein of the mare. Mahawansa specifically records that the mare was captured by Prince Pandukabhaya with a noose. 
Where do all these unmistakably point to? Of course, invariably to the greatest commander and king of the Early Anuradhapura period, who after defeating all his enemies fully and totally, built the new city of Anuradhapura. 
Dr. Wilhelm Geiger, in his Appendix C to the English translation of Mahavira, traces, in admiration, the progress of Pandukabhaya's campaign. 
Mahavamsa authors contribute a long chapter, to describe in detail the emergence of King Pandukabhaya. 
When these preliminaries are introduced, the ‘Horse’ is quite easy. Mahavamsa, is eloquent about Pandukabhaya's mare Cetiya. 
A former she-devil (Yakkhini) this mare Cetiya, guided Pandukabhaya to utter and total victory. Mahavamsa goes on to say, after his coronation, King Pandukabhaya, sheltered her in the palace premises. After her passing away, the king made her a cult figure. That is how you find the ‘Man’, keeping the horse tied to his upper arm in this famous sculpture. 
Therefore, there is no hesitation whatsoever, that the ‘Man’ in the Isurumuniya sculpture is King Pandukabhaya himself. And of course, the Horse is ‘Cetiya’ the king's life-long protector and unswerving companion in all his conquests. 
The riddle is solved 
In the Man and Horse Sculpture at Isurumuniya, the man without any doubt is King Pandukabhaya, gazing proudly over the city he built. And the horse, once again is Cetiya - the she-devil, who sustained the king in the guise of Cetiya the mare. 
Pandukabhaya, in a manner of speaking, started his battles even before he was born. His ten uncles were ready to kill him the moment he was born. But he escaped. In a war continued over a period of 37 years he relentlessly battled his uncles. Pandukabhaya did away with eight of his ten uncles. The two left alive were friendly to him. As epic poet John Milton’s lines state, Pandukabhaya was propelled by ‘an unconquerable will and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield’. 
Achieving absolute victory he discarded Upatissa Gama- the seat of government favoured by his uncles. In a massive city- building effort, he brought into being his magnificent capital Anuradhapura and became the first king of Sri Lanka to rule from that urban centre. 
Mahavamsa is effusive in its elaborate description of King Pandukabhaya’s Anuradhapura. Pandukabhaya was a proud victor- absolute ruler and the architect of neatly laid-out capital city. 
The sculpture, ‘Man and Horse’, depicts conqueror King Pandukabhaya surveying his capital with immense pride, with mare Cetiya who was faithful to him throughout his troubled years, by his side. 
King Pandukabhaya lived lives for 107 years. He ruled the land for seven decades. 
The puzzle is solved. The Man and the Horse in the Isurumuniya sculpture are King Pandukabhaya and his mare Cetiya.'  
Author: Kalakeerthi Edwin Ariyadasa  | Source: Sri Lanka Daily News[August 21, 2012]

Bathing elephants at play overlooking the pool.
What a lovely sight, transcending the millenia. Even now the elephants bathing in pools of water draw crowds.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sights of Isuruminiya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

The stone stairway leading to the rock temple. Note the decorative 'moon-stone' at the base of the stairway and the 'guard stones' on either side of the beginning of the ascent..

The door-frames made of granite with etchings.

The statue of Lord Buddha with paintings.

A carved elephant on the wall.
Almost all the old carvings are in granite. The aesthetic sense in these are astounding.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Isurumuniya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

The pond in front of the rock-temple.

The rock-temple.

Probably only part of the 'Issaramana founded by King Tissa in the 3rd century BC. There is a cave, which must have sheltered monks during the early centuries of Buddhism, but many of the sculptures are not in fact religious in nature the sculptures themselves are, amongst the most beautiful works of art in Anuradhapura but what they represent is still debated by scholars.
On the eastern side of the rock next to the steps, is a pond. A cleft in the lock comes down to the water and on both sides of the fissure are Sculptures of elephants. Scholars have said that the group on the left is related to South Indian art of the Pallava period (i.e. 7th century)
The artist has used the natural shape of the rock to the full arid has created a three dimensional effect in relief. Immediately opposite on the light, is another elephant carved in bas‑relief, which is a most amusing work of art. It seems to have been calved by a forerunner of Walt Disney. It is probably unfinished arid may be by the same sculptor as the elephants in the Royal Pleasure Gardens.
Above the elephants, calmly surveying the view, sits a man in a relaxed pose, with his right aim over his knee, a horse's head peers out from behind him. The identity of this figure is still a matter of controversy, but the best explanation so far is that it represents Aiyanar, a forest deity of Sri Lanka who tides on horseback, arid watches over humankind in the jungles. It is usually associated with elephants.(

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Artifacts, Jethavanaramaya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

A magical incantation drawn on stone?

Engravings on stone for dice games?

Vertical etch marks on stone for keeping accounts?

Markings on stone for a donation?

The seven-headed cobra and dancing girls.
The 'Seven-headed Cobra' is much represented in stone carvings. It is claimed by some that a single headed cobra denotes a naga, a three-headed cobra represents a Naga Queen, a five-headed cobra represented a Naga King and a seven-headed cobra a Naga God. The Nagas seem to have played a very significant part in the Buddhist and Hindu religions in South Asia. They contributed much to the culture of the region thus the words 'Nagara' ('Naagar+aham' Dwelling of the Nagas), 'Naagariika' - to live like the Nagas, came into use. Their history is truly found 'in stone'. Genetically they contributed much to the present residents of the area. Nagas were claimed to be a mongoloid race. A yellowish skin color and a flat nose were their attributes. The fashion a generation ago of applying saffron ('Kaha' S- 'Manjal' T) to the skin by Sri Lankans maybe a bid to imitate the skin color. A flat nose did not contribute much to the beauty of the face. The habit of our grand-mothers of gently massaging and 'pulling the nose' of a new-born was an attempt to correct this anatomy, as embedded in our racial memory.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jethavanaramaya and stone artifacts, Sri Lanka.

The Jetavanaramaya (Sinhala:ජේතවනාරාමය) is a stupa, located in the ruins of Jetavana Monastery in the sacred world heritage city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. King Mahasena (273-301 AD) initiated the construction of the stupa following the destruction of Mahavihara. His son Maghavanna I completed the construction of the stupa.[1] A part of a sash or belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the relic that is enshrined here.
The structure is significant in the island's history for it represents the tensions within the Theravada and Mahayana sects of Buddhist monks, it is also significant in world history as one of the tallest structures in the ancient world.[2][3] The height of the stupa is 400 feet (122 m)[citation needed] and was the tallest ancient stupa in the world, the structure is no longer the tallest however it is the largest with a volume of 233,000 m2(2,508,000 sq ft). At the time of its completion the structure was the third tallest structure in the world behind the Great Pyramids of Giza.[2]Approximately 93.3 million baked bricks were used in its construction; the engineering ingenuity behind the construction of the structure is a significant development in the history of the island. The sectarian differences between the Buddhist monks also are represented by the stupa as it was built on the premises of the destroyed Mahavihara, which led to a rebellion by a minister of king Mahasena.
This stupa belongs to the Sagalika sect. The compound covers approximately 5.6 hectares and is estimated to have housed 10,000 Buddhist monks. One side of the stupa is 576 ft (176 m) long, and the flights of stairs at each of the four sides of it are 28 ft (9 m) wide. The doorpost to the shrine, which is situated in the courtyard, is 27 ft (8 m) high. The stupa has a 8.5 m (28 ft) deep foundation, and sits on bedrock. Stone inscriptions in the courtyard give the names of people who donated to the building effort. (Wikipedia).

it was Built in 3rd centaury. A.D. by king Mahasen (Mahasena). Originally it was about 400 feet high. 

It was the 3rd tallest building in the world during that time. 2 pyramids were higher than Jethawanaramaya. However pyramids were not constructed using brick  

Therefore Jethawanaramaya is the tallest building made out of brick. The only dagaba situated outside the Mahamewna Uyana garden. It is situated in Nandana Uyana garden.

 There are several opinions to the creation of the Name Jethawanaramaya. Part of the robe wore by Lord Buddha is kept inside the dagaba as a relic. There were 4 entrances to the dagaba. Unfortunately they have partially collapsed. 

There are beautiful stone carving in these entrances. The dagaba is being reconstructed under the Cultural Triangle Project. King Mahasen has donated the temple to Sagalika sect.

 Inside ‘budu ge’ (worship house for Lord Buddha) there are 3 statues of Lord Buddha and few statues of kings. The first statue among them is the statue of king Mahasen who build the temple.   – Copy