A Comprehensive Guide to Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu Periods by Percy Brown
Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu by Percy Brown
India is a land of rich and diverse cultural heritage, which is reflected in its magnificent architecture. From ancient times to modern days, India has witnessed the rise and fall of various dynasties, religions, and artistic movements, each leaving behind their unique imprint on the built environment. Among the most influential and enduring styles of Indian architecture are those of Buddhism and Hinduism, two major religions that originated in India and spread across Asia and beyond.
Indian Architecture Buddhist Hindu Percy Brown Pdf 73
In this article, we will explore the book Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu by Percy Brown, a renowned scholar and historian of Indian art and architecture. We will learn about the main features of Buddhist and Hindu architecture, how they compare and contrast with each other, and why this book is considered a classic and authoritative work on the subject.
What is Indian architecture?
Indian architecture is the term used to describe the various styles and forms of architecture that have developed in the Indian subcontinent over thousands of years. It encompasses a wide range of regional, historical, and religious influences, as well as diverse materials, techniques, and functions. Indian architecture can be broadly classified into two categories: secular and religious. Secular architecture includes palaces, forts, tombs, monuments, civic buildings, etc., while religious architecture includes temples, mosques, churches, shrines, monasteries, etc.
Who is Percy Brown?
Percy Brown was a British art historian, archaeologist, and curator who specialized in Indian art and architecture. He was born in 1872 in London and studied at the Royal College of Art. He came to India in 1896 as an assistant curator at the Indian Museum in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He later became the director of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the superintendent of the Government School of Art in Calcutta. He also served as a professor of fine arts at the University of Calcutta.
Percy Brown was one of the pioneers of modern scholarship on Indian art and architecture. He wrote several books and articles on various aspects of Indian culture, such as painting, sculpture, textiles, coins, etc. His most famous work is Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu, which was first published in 1942 as part of a series called The History of Indian and Eastern Architecture. The book is divided into two volumes: one on Buddhist architecture and one on Hindu architecture. It covers the historical development, geographical distribution, stylistic evolution, structural features, iconography, symbolism, and aesthetic principles of both types of architecture.
Why is this book important?
The book Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu by Percy Brown is important for several reasons. First, it is one of the earliest and most comprehensive studies on Indian architecture in English. It provides a detailed and systematic analysis of the architectural forms and elements of both Buddhism and Hinduism from their origins to their later variations. Second, it is based on extensive fieldwork and research by the author himself. Percy Brown visited hundreds of sites across India and neighboring countries to document and photograph the monuments. He also consulted various sources such as inscriptions, scriptures, literary works, etc. to corroborate his findings. Third, it is written in a clear and engaging style that appeals to both scholars and general readers. Percy Brown uses simple language, vivid descriptions, illustrations, diagrams, maps, etc. to explain the complex and diverse aspects of Indian architecture. He also provides historical and cultural context, as well as comparisons with other architectural traditions, to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the subject.
Main features of Buddhist and Hindu architecture
Buddhist architecture is the architecture associated with the religion of Buddhism, which was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (also known as the Buddha) in the 6th century BCE in northern India. Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha, who attained enlightenment and taught the path to liberation from suffering and rebirth. Buddhism spread from India to various parts of Asia, such as Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Tibet, Southeast Asia, etc., and developed different schools and sects over time.
Buddhist architecture reflects the beliefs, practices, and traditions of Buddhism. It is mainly used for religious purposes, such as worship, meditation, education, etc. The main types of Buddhist architecture are stupas, chaityas, and viharas.
A stupa is a hemispherical or dome-shaped structure that contains a relic or an image of the Buddha or a saint. It is considered a symbol of the Buddha's presence and a place of pilgrimage for the faithful. The stupa originated as a pre-Buddhist burial mound or tumulus that was later adopted and modified by the Buddhists. The earliest stupas were simple mounds of earth or brick that were surrounded by a fence or railing. Later stupas became more elaborate and ornate, with features such as gateways, niches, sculptures, umbrellas, etc.
The most famous example of a stupa is the Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, India. It was built in the 3rd century BCE by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, who was a patron of Buddhism. It was enlarged and embellished over several centuries by various rulers and monks. It has a diameter of 36 meters and a height of 16 meters. It has four gateways (toranas) at the cardinal directions that are decorated with carvings depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha and his previous incarnations (jatakas). It also has a circular railing (vedika) around the dome that has 64 lotus medallions. On top of the dome is a three-tiered umbrella (chhatra) that represents the three jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (community).
A chaitya is a hall or cave that contains a stupa or an image of the Buddha at one end. It is used for congregational worship and prayer by the Buddhists. The chaitya originated as a natural or artificial cave that was excavated or carved out of rock. The earliest chaityas were simple chambers with a stupa at the back wall. Later chaityas became more spacious and elaborate, with features such as pillars, arches, windows, sculptures, paintings, etc.
The most famous example of a chaitya is the Karla Chaitya in Maharashtra, India. It was built in the 1st century CE by the Satavahana dynasty, who were patrons of Buddhism. It is one of the largest rock-cut chaityas in India, measuring 45 meters long and 15 meters high. It has a horseshoe-shaped window (chandrasala) above the entrance that allows natural light to enter. It has 37 octagonal pillars that support a wooden roof that resembles a barrel vault. It has a stupa at the end wall that has a wooden umbrella on top. It also has sculptures and paintings depicting various deities and donors.
A vihara is a monastery or residence for Buddhist monks and nuns. It is used for living, studying, meditating, etc. The vihara originated as a simple hut or shelter that was built near a stupa or a chaitya. Later viharas became more complex and organized, with features such as cells, courtyards, shrines, libraries, etc.
thousands of monks and students. It had a library that contained thousands of manuscripts and texts on various subjects such as Buddhism, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, etc. It also had temples, stupas, sculptures, paintings, etc. that reflected the artistic and religious diversity of the place.
Hindu architecture is the architecture associated with the religion of Hinduism, which is one of the oldest and most widespread religions in the world. Hinduism is based on the belief in a supreme reality called Brahman, which manifests itself in various forms such as gods and goddesses, who are worshipped by the devotees. Hinduism also believes in the concepts of karma (action and consequence), dharma (duty and morality), samsara (cycle of birth and death), and moksha (liberation from samsara).
Hindu architecture reflects the beliefs, practices, and traditions of Hinduism. It is mainly used for religious purposes, such as worship, ritual, celebration, etc. The main type of Hindu architecture is the temple.
A temple is a structure that houses an image or a symbol of a deity or a sacred concept. It is considered a representation of the cosmic order and a link between the human and the divine realms. The temple originated as a simple shrine or altar that was built to honor a natural or supernatural power. Later temples became more elaborate and ornate, with features such as walls, roofs, towers, gateways, halls, sanctuaries, etc.
The most famous example of a temple is the Kailasa Temple at Ellora in Maharashtra, India. It was built in the 8th century CE by the Rashtrakuta dynasty, who were patrons of Hinduism. It is one of the largest and most remarkable rock-cut temples in India, measuring 60 meters long and 30 meters high. It was carved out of a single rock that was cut vertically from top to bottom. It has a pyramidal tower (shikhara) that rises above the main shrine (garbhagriha) that contains an image of Shiva, the god of destruction and regeneration. It also has a gateway (gopura) that leads to a courtyard that has a hall (mandapa) for assembly and worship. It also has sculptures and reliefs depicting various scenes from Hindu mythology and legends.
A shikhara is a tower or spire that crowns the main shrine of a temple. It is considered a symbol of the deity's power and presence and a means of communication with the heavens. The shikhara originated as a simple mound or cone that was placed over the shrine. Later shikharas became more complex and varied, with features such as tiers, ribs, niches, finials, etc.
The most famous example of a shikhara is the Brihadeshwara Temple at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India. It was built in the 11th century CE by the Chola dynasty, who were patrons of Hinduism. It is one of the largest and tallest temples in India, measuring 66 meters high. It has a shikhara that consists of 13 tiers that are decorated with sculptures and carvings depicting various deities and motifs. On top of the shikhara is a massive stone ball (kalasha) that weighs 80 tons.
A mandapa is a hall or pavilion that is attached to or detached from a temple. It is used for various purposes such as assembly, worship, performance, etc. The mandapa originated as a simple canopy or tent that was erected near a temple. Later mandapas became more permanent and elaborate, with features such as pillars, arches, domes, ceilings, etc.
India. It was built in the 16th century CE by the Nayaka dynasty, who were patrons of Hinduism. It is one of the largest and most colorful temples in India, covering an area of 15 hectares. It has four mandapas that are located at the four entrances of the temple complex. Each mandapa has a towering gateway (gopura) that is covered with thousands of sculptures and paintings depicting various deities and scenes from Hindu mythology and legends. The most famous mandapa is the Thousand Pillared Hall (ayiram kaal mandapam) that has 985 pillars that are carved with intricate designs and figures.
Comparison and contrast of Buddhist and Hindu architecture
Buddhist and Hindu architecture have some similarities that reflect their common origin and influence in India. Some of the similarities are:
Both use stone, brick, wood, and metal as the main materials for construction.
Both use geometric shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, etc. as the basis for their plans and designs.
Both use symbolism and iconography to convey religious and philosophical messages and values.
Both use sculpture and painting to decorate and embellish their structures and spaces.
Both use natural elements such as water, fire, earth, etc. as sources of inspiration and expression.
Buddhist and Hindu architecture have some differences that reflect their distinct beliefs and practices. Some of the differences are:
Buddhist architecture is more austere and simple, while Hindu architecture is more elaborate and ornate.
Buddhist architecture is more focused on the communal and monastic aspects of religion, while Hindu architecture is more focused on the personal and ritual aspects of religion.
Buddhist architecture is more influenced by foreign styles such as Greek, Persian, Chinese, etc., while Hindu architecture is more influenced by indigenous styles such as Dravidian, Nagara, Vesara, etc.
Buddhist architecture is more uniform and consistent across regions and periods, while Hindu architecture is more diverse and varied across regions and periods.
Buddhist architecture is more oriented towards the horizontal axis, while Hindu architecture is more oriented towards the vertical axis.
Summary of the main points
In this article, we have discussed the book Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu by Percy Brown, a classic and authoritative work on the subject. We have learned about the main features of Buddhist and Hindu architecture, such as stupas, chaityas, viharas, temples, shikharas, mandapas, etc. We have also compared and contrasted Buddhist and Hindu architecture in terms of their similarities and differences.
Implications and recommendations
The book Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu by Percy Brown is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history, culture, and art of India. It provides a comprehensive and systematic overview of the architectural forms and elements of both Buddhism and Hinduism from their origins to their later variations. It also provides a historical and cultural context, as well as comparisons with other architectural traditions, to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the subject.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the topic of this article:
What is the difference between a stupa and a pagoda?
A stupa is a hemispherical or dome-shaped structure that contains a relic or an image of the Buddha or a saint. A pagoda is a tower-like structure that has multiple tiers or stories that are usually topped by an umbrella or a spire. Both are used for Buddhist worship and pilgrimage, but they have different origins and styles. Stupas originated in India and are more common in South and Southeast Asia, while pagodas originated in China and are more common in East and Southeast Asia.
What is the difference between a shikhara and a gopura?
A shikhara is a tower or spire that crowns the main shrine of a temple. A gopura is a gateway or entrance that leads to a temple complex. Both are used for Hindu worship and decoration, but they have different functions and styles. Shikharas are meant to symbolize the deity's power and presence and to communicate with the heavens, while gopuras are meant to mark the boundary and transition between the secular and sacred realms. Shikharas are more pyramidal and vertical in shape, while gopuras are more rectangular and horizontal in shape.
What is the difference between a chaitya and a vihara?
A chaitya is a hall or cave that contains a stupa or an image of the Buddha at one end. A vihara is a monastery or residence for Buddhist monks and nuns. Both are used for Buddhist worship and education, but they have different purposes and features. Chaityas are meant for congregational worship and prayer, while viharas are meant for living, studying, and meditating. Chaityas have more open and spacious interiors, while viharas have more closed and cellular interiors.
What is the difference between a mandapa and a mandir?
A mandapa is a hall or pavilion that is attached to or detached from a temple. A mandir is another name for a temple. Both are used for Hindu worship and celebration, but they have different roles and forms. Mandapas are meant for assembly, worship, performance, etc., while mandirs are meant for housing an image or a symbol of a deity or a sacred concept. Mandapas have more flat and horizontal roofs, while mandirs have more curved and vertical roofs.
What is the difference between a nagara and a dravidian style of temple architecture?
A nagara style of temple architecture is a style that originated in northern India and is characterized by a curvilinear shikhara, a square plan, and a horizontal emphasis. A dravidian style of temple architecture is a style that originated in southern India and is characterized by a pyramidal shikhara, a rectangular plan, and a vertical emphasis. Both styles evolved over time and influenced each other, resulting in hybrid forms such as the vesara style.