Tag Archives: Tirunavaya

Buddha Purnima at Ajanta: Foundations of Indian Art in Aurangabad, Ellora, Elephanta and Ajanta Buddhist Caves

A young Buddha in Ajanta.  25 May 2013 Buddha Purnima

A young Buddha in Ajanta. 25 May 2013, Buddha Purnima Day

It was an enlightening experience to be at Ajanta on Buddha Purnima on 25 May 2013.  Anirudh and me were fortunate to visit the fundamental sites of Indian and south east Asian art in Maharashtra this summer, though we were planning for years.  The evolution of Indian sculpture, architecture and painting in the Buddhist rock cut Chaitya and Vihara vestiges and the gradual appropriation of these arts into Hindu Brahmanical mainstream can be seen in these early sites of culture in Asia as some of the caves date back to third century BC.

Ajanta caves from eastern entrance on the morning of Buddha Purnima, 25 May 2013.  Anirudh stepping on to the gateway.  River Waghora has dried up beneath in the late summer.

Ajanta caves from eastern entrance on the morning of Buddha Purnima, 25 May 2013. Anirudh stepping on to the gateway. River Waghora has dried up beneath in the late summer.

Maharashtra and the Deccan was with the Mauryas  at the beginning of the common era and the political patronage helped the spread of Buddhism, its egalitarian and ethical philosophy of peace, non violence and conservation oriented eco-aesthetics.

A Buddha bust in Ellora or Elapura.  Such busts were changed to the Mahes bust in Elephanta near

A Buddha bust in Ellora or Elapura. Such busts were changed to the Mahes bust in Elephanta near Mumbai

Cultural expressions that co-exist with nature and preserve the environment with minimum intervention was the basic tenet of Buddhist cave architecture and visual art.  These monasteries and chapels never altered the geology, topography or hydrology of the region but simply existed in a non violent way amidst the wilderness in tranquility and at ease.

A young neo buddhist monk meditating in an Aurangabad Chaitya Vihara, 24 May 2013.

A young neo buddhist monk meditating in an Aurangabad Chaitya Vihara, 24 May 2013.

The development of Mahayana school liberalized and  popularized the original Teravada austerity and it resulted in gods and goddesses called Boddhisatvas and Devis along with the paraphernalia of Yakashas and Yakshis.

In the dining Vihara of Aurngabad caves.

In the dining Vihara of Aurngabad caves.

This enormous liberalization caused a shift from Buddhism to Brahmanism and with the help of the Tantric School of Vajrayana the Hindu Brahmanical hegemony gradually absorbed Buddhism into its meta referential structure.  The Tathagata himself was assimilated as an avatar of Vishnu and a dynamic Boddhisatva was termed Siva.

With young monks at Aurangabad caves (Kharki is the original name before it was renamed in early 17th century). 24 May 2013.

With young monks at Aurangabad caves (Kharki is the original name , it was renamed in early 17th century). 24 May 2013.

Sleeping Buddha at Ajanta.  Maha Parinibana, 25 May 2013.

Maha Parinibana known in the west as Sleeping Buddha at Ajanta, 25 may 2013, Buddha Purnima.

This gradual takeover and absorption of Buddhism into Hindu Brahmanism is visible and tangible in Ajanta, Aurangabad, Ellora and Elephanta.  Violence and  forced trasformation of Boddhisatva images into Siva and Vishnu or Taradevi into Parvati is clear and concrete here.  Chiseling and modifying the Stupa of Teravada into huge Linga or phallus is also evident.

Before the Stupa in a Chaitya hall or cathedral at Ajanta.  Mark the apse, pillars and other cathedral architecture that was later recovered by European churches.

Before the Stupa in a Chaitya hall or cathedral at Ajanta. Mark the apse, pillars and other cathedral architecture that was later recovered by European churches.

The Linga cult itself was deployed to strategically absorb the Stupa icon ans symbolism in Teravada Buddhism.  While the Stupa is like an egg and womanish the phallus aggressively musculinist and patriarchal.  Brahmanic patriarchy found its ideal icon in this erect and imposing Linga, a cunning reworking of the Stupa.

A squirrel at Ajanta, 25 May 2013 Buddha Purnima

A squirrel at Ajanta, 25 May 2013 Buddha Purnima

At  Ajanta, 25 May 2013

At Ajanta, 25 May 2013

This covetous modifications happened around 8th and 9th century AD during the heyday of Hindu Bhakti surge called Saivism and Vaishnavism.  Many Buddhist and Jain caves were converted to Hindu ones during the intoxicating spell of Bhakti.  The fall of the Mauryans and the newly converted local kings to Brahmanism also contributed in this regression into  primitive phallus cult.

The reminiscent painting in Ajanta.  Most caves were painted and only traces remain after almost two thousand years of their creation, most by skilled monks and Viswakarma artisans.

Apsaras: The reminiscent painting in Ajanta. Most caves were painted and only traces remain after almost two thousand years of their creation, most by skilled monks and Viswakarma artisans.

But fortunately almost all the caves in Ajanta and half the caves in Ellora are still Buddhist, thanks to the great Ambedkarite movement and the neo buddhists.  The Aurangabad caves are also exclusively Buddhist and there is a thriving monastery beneath it were neo buddhists or dalitbahujans play a pivotal role in the present sustenance of the teaching of the compassionate one among the people at the bottom.

Reclining Buddha in Maha Parinibana at Ajanta, 25 May 2013.

Reclining Buddha in Maha Parinibana at Ajanta, 25 May 2013.

Anirudh before Sidharth College Mumbai established by Dr Ambedkar; 26 May 2013.

Anirudh before Sidharth College Mumbai established by Dr Ambedkar; Early morning 6.10am, 26 May 2013.

We also visited Ambedkar University at Aurangabad, Milind College of Law established by Babasaheb in 1951 in Aurangabad, Ambedkar Research Centre, Regional History Museums and libraries inside the campus.  The Mogul legacy that started in 14th century also resulted in monuments like Bibi ka Maqbara, famous as little Taj and Panchaki an old water mill. We reached Aurngabad on May 23, visited Ellora on 24 and went to Ajanta on 25 May.

A Teravada Buddha in Aurangabad caves belonging to BC second century.  Note the Malsya Mudra or fish mark on the base.  Gradually by the 5th century A D this simple and austere formal style gave way to the more elaborate and sophisticated Mahayana style and it was easy for the Hindu Brahmanical forces to absorb such nuanced digression.

A Teravada Buddha in Aurangabad caves belonging to BC second century. Note the Malsya Mudra or fish mark on the base. Gradually by the 5th century A D this simple and austere formal style gave way to the more elaborate and sophisticated Mahayana style and it was easy for the Hindu Brahmanical forces to absorb such nuanced digression.

On 26 May we visited Mumbai and Elephanta island and caves.  A Buddhist Stupa in ruins still exists there.  All the other six caves are now being converted into Saivite ones. This happened in the 8th century. The bloody violence is still visible in the mutilations and erasures done on the sculptural representations.

Buddha Purnima at Aurngabad.  See the entrance to the Railway Station in Chaitya gateway style of Ajanta and full moon climbing at left top; Anirudh also in the frame. 25 May 2013.

Buddha Purnima at Aurangabad. See the entrance to the Railway Station in Chaitya gateway style of Ajanta and full moon climbing in left top; Anirudh also in the frame. 25 May 2013.

We returned on the Kanyakumari Express and reached Kottayam on the morning of 28 May 2013.  The summer was hard with low humidity on the Deccan plateau and high humidity on the Mumbai coast but as working people we get time and space only during the vacation to go and see the real heritage and civilization of the people in India that has become the shared legacy of the world.

The fabric look alike Shamiana painted onto the cut ceiling  at Ajanta.

The fabric look alike Shamiana painted onto the cut ceiling at Ajanta.

The light of Asia, the only light you see amidst the darkness of the phallic violence and the barbarism of caste and Varna, emanates from Ajanta and it blooms in the month of Baisak and particularly on the Buddha Purnima.

Buddha with the begging bowl in his own home town; A trace from an elaborate work at Ajanta.  Flash not allowed. 25 May 2013.

Buddha with the begging bowl in his own home town; A trace from an elaborate work at Ajanta. Flash not allowed. 25 May 2013.

Last Buddha Purnima (2012) was at Tirunavaya in Malabar where the Chaitya Vihara was turned into a Hindu Brahmanical temple after declaring the Buddhists defeated in rhetoric and plucking their tongues out by the henchmen of Brahmanism who were intoxicated by the Bhakti of Vishnu in the 8th century AD according to radical historiographers and counter hegemonic writers from the people in Kerala.

The beauty of the Buddha form that also formed the foundation of ethical aesthetics and sculpture ever after.  The oldest and most enduring ethical and artistic expression that humanity has ever produced.

The beauty of the Buddha form that also formed the foundation of ethical aesthetics and sculpture ever after. The oldest and most enduring ethical and artistic expression that humanity has ever produced radiate from Ajanta and Elapura and Kerala is direct heir of this ethical tradition.

Let the people recognize and reclaim their cultural sites and heritage  through peaceful democratic and cultural politics that was obliterated, mutilated and erased by the Varna centered patriarchal ideology of Brahmanism through the heinous orchestration of phallic violence and lingering symbolic violence in the present.

Aurangabad city from the Buddhist caves.  Bibi ka Maqbara is also seen in distance.

Aurangabad city from the Buddhist caves. Bibi ka Maqbara is also seen in distance.

Let there be light and peace, let the peaceful light of the full moon of Baisak prevail over the peninsula as it prevailed over a millennium from BC third century to 13th century in India.  Our journey to the Deccan was an attempt to relink this ancient cultural connection between Elapura (Ellora now) and Kara Elam or Kerala.

Ponnani: Eco-cultural Legacies and Minor Histories

Ponnani estuary: The sun, sea and the river meet in a spectacular ensemble, a view towards north west from Ezhava Thuruthy, 16 Feb 2013.

Ponnani estuary at noon: The sun, the  sea and the river meet in a spectacular ensemble, a view towards north west from Ezhava Thuruthy, 16 Feb 2013.

Big gulls including Heuglin and Yellow-legged Gulls (first and second wintering) at Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013.

Migrants from distant shores: Big gulls including Heuglin’s and Yellow-legged Gulls (first and second wintering) at Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013.

 

Public Office or colonial court complex at Ponnani 1838.

The British legacy: Public Office or colonial court complex at Ponnani 1838.

A group of Sand Plovers in Ponnani shore.  16 feb 2013

A group of Sand Plovers in Ponnani shore line. 16 feb 2013

Thottunkal Pally, Ponnani one of the ancient mosques in Kerala founded in 8th century.  Ponnani houses around 50 Pallys and is known as the Mecca of the south east.  It also hosted the Al-azhar University of Islamic and Arabic studies in the early middle ages.

Tottunkal Pally (the Pally by the river Perar) in Ponnani; one of the ancient mosques in Kerala founded in the 8th century. Ponnani houses around 50 Pallys and is known as the Mecca of the south east. It also hosted the Al-azhar University of Islamic and Arabic studies in the early middle ages.

 

Green Shanks and big gulls at Ponnani beach.  The colonial light house in the back ground.  Ponnani was also one of the important ports after Muziris.  The Zamorins of Calicut made it their second capital as their naval chiefs Marakars were originally from here.

Green Shanks and big gulls at Ponnani beach. The colonial light house in the back ground. Ponnani was also one of the important ports after Muziris. The Zamorins of Calicut made it their second capital as their naval chiefs Kunjali Marakars were originally from here.  It is also the home of Sheikh Zainudin Makhdum who wrote the first anti colonial history from Kerala soil, The Tufatul Mujahidin (Tributes to the Holy Warriors who resisted the Portuguese) in the 16th century.

 

The little Mecca of the south east.  Ponnani was the seat of Islamic learning from AD 8th century onwards.  The congregation of mosques and minarets at the southern bank of the mouth of the Perar.  A view from the shore to south east. 16 feb 2013

Paravais and Pallys: The little Mecca of the south east,  Ponnani was the seat of Islamic learning from AD 8th century onwards. The congregation of birds, mosques and minarets at the southern bank of the mouth of the Perar is remarkable. A view from the seashore to south east. 16 feb 2013

Wintering big gulls on Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013

A view in itself: Wintering big gulls on Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013

 

Kutikad temple in Ezhava Thuruthy, Ponnani.  The place name Kutikad clearly signify a Sramana past.  Words Kuti, Kottam and Vattam originally refer to a Buddhist or Jain Pally.

Kutikad temple in Ezhava Thuruthy, Ponnani. The place name Kutikad clearly signify a Sramana past. Words Kuti, Kottam and Vattam originally refer to a Buddhist or Jain Pally as in Ganapati Vattam/Sultan Batery or Kutipuram.

Turning the pot and tilling the land:  Potter's wheel and kiln in a Kumbhara alley in Ezhava Thuruthy by the Perar near Ponnani.

Turning the pot and tilling the land: Potter’s wheel and kiln/Chula in a Kumbhara alley in Ezhava Thuruthy by the Perar  on the southern bank near Ponnani.  As the Kumbhara or Kosava potters made black and red ware the Ezhava or Uzhava clans tilled and cultivated the land and nurtured the earth with paddy and coconut that desalinated the region and made it fertile and livable.

 

A Heuglin's Gull first wintering in Ponnani coast in Kerala, 16 feb 2013.

A Heuglin’s Gull first wintering in Ponnani coast in Kerala, 16 feb 2013.

A humble coconut leaf thatched tea shop in Ezhava Thuruthy.  Mr Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist before the humane hut amidst astonishing coconut groves by the Perar.

A humble coconut leaf thatched tea shop in Ezhava Thuruthy. Mr Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist before the humane hut amidst astonishing coconut groves by the Perar. 16 feb 2013

 

The renovated fish landing in Ponnani, a view from sea shore.  Due to extensive dredging in the estuary the migratory birds and fish have abandoned this river mouth of Perar.

The renovated fish landing in Ponnani, a view from sea shore. Due to extensive dredging in the estuary the migratory birds and fish have abandoned this river mouth of Perar.

Big gulls in flight along the Ponnani coast.

Big gulls in flight along the Ponnani coast.

 

Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist by the Perar in his nativity of Ezhava Thuruthy, 16 feb 2013. Premdas helped me to get out of the mud by the river where my bike was stranded and gave me a sumptuous lunch in his home and an aesthetic treat with his poems and paintings, thanks to Prem and his mama.

Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist living by the Perar in his nativity of Ezhava Thuruthy (literally the islet of Ezhava people), 16 feb 2013.   Premdas helped me to get out of the mud by the river where my bike was stranded and gave me a sumptuous lunch in his home and an aesthetic treat with his poems and paintings, thanks to Prem and his mama.

A visual composition with the river, the tree and the sky by artist and photographer Premdas Ponnani, 16 feb 2013.

A visual composition with the river, the tree and the sky by artist and photographer Premdas Ponnani, 16 feb 2013.

 

Ponnani Valiya Jaram or the big Makham of Ponnani, some 400 years old by the NH 17. An Islamic missionary from Arabia is laid to rest here who directly belong to the lineage of the Prophet.

Ponnani Valiya Jaram or the big Makham of Ponnani, some 400 years old by the NH 17. An Islamic missionary from Arabia is laid to rest here who directly belong to the lineage of the Prophet according to legend.

A migrant group of Sand Plovers landing on Ponnani coast, 16 feb 2013.

A migrant group of Sand Plovers landing on Ponnani coast, 16 feb 2013.

 

A Western Reef Egret at Ponnani beach, 16 feb 2013.

A Western Reef Egret at Ponnani beach, 16 feb 2013.