Iconography - Influence of Buddhism. What about in TN ?
  • Some scholars hold the view that Buddhism Iconography influenced the Hindu iconography. If one were to zip through the time, back and forth, using a time machine built by these scholars one would conclude:

    1. Vedic period did not focus on icons much.
    2. After Buddha's days, the earliest Buddisht icons were highly abstract and reverential - like feet, lotus etc.
    3. Gandhara Style Icons: With the Greeks controlling parts of Bactria; the Greco-Bactrian influenced the icon creations. So Buddha now started to appear as a handsome guy or a moribund guy etc etc. Even the hair was similar to what one finds on Greco-Roman sculptures. His robes were of Greek style.
    4. Mathura Style Icons: Now this style of Buddhist images changed the Gandhara Buddha into a wise Buddha (so to speak). These images were more "native" than the Greek inspired ones.
    5. Eventually, all these somehow inspired or influenced the Hindu and Jaina icons.

    If one were to accept #5 and #1, then:
    1. Did the people in other parts of India not create icons before?
    2. Especially, did the people in the current TN region have no icons? One often reads about Hero stones. Also one reads about village deities, clan deities etc. Were all these influenced by the post-Vedic Hindu icons?

    My theory is that there were icons or totems, it just that they stayed within a small group. Considering the fact that Hinduism was not as homogenized then, as it is today, the icons did not spread across India as rapidly as the post-Vedic homogenization.

    I hope scholars, experts and novice (like me) throw out their ideas, theories, facts and opinions.

  • Hi

    The gudimallam Lingam is dated to 3rd C CE
  • Excellent analysis.
    Look at the three forms..standing, sitting and lying down. All the Hindu icons were inspired by Buddhist iconography.
    R Narasimhan
  • Lingams are aniconic forms of icons? That is that which does not involve human or animal features.

  • The shot paper by Intellisurfer is a welcomfresh breezeand a  in trend setter in psp.

    The first Buddha 's sculpture appears only 300 years after Buddha, the famous sitting yogic poisture., according to historians.

    indded the 'plastic quality' of Greek artists has influenced Buddhist school.

    Vedic period had never mentioned of Puja rituals and "temple building' and'mass worship ' activities. Mulyiplicity of icns and Deities apparently come in to vogue during 300 - 900 A.D of Puranic period.

    V,Kothanda Raman
  • As far Tamilnad is concerned temples existed in sangam period.

    Ramayana and Mahabhratha speak about teerthas - holy waterbodies

    Can we take the reference ofSwtaranya in Valmiki as referene of temple or simply the kshetra? Was a kshetra be revered w.o a temple?
  • haa.. LoL. I did. Maybe I worded my post improperly. I was not specifically talking about that particular lingam.

  • I do not think there were temples as such in Tamil Nadu even during Sangam time.
    Yes, you are right.
    Kshetras were considered divine as water was given the first place in the Rig Veda before the Sun took over. The cluster of Punarvasu, Pushyam and Ailyam represented water, trees and snake reptiles. Mahavishnu in Parkadal.

    R Narasimhan
  • While itihasas and puranas offer important history; they are weaved with words of wisdom and lessons. And they were composed over several generations by different people.

    In addition, we are still dating those epics. So if we were to introduce those into our discussions, then the onus is on the presenter to provide more dots for us to connect :-)

  • We can take that the other way also.

    when the oldest available Tamil texts have references of temples - how could we say that there were no temples earlier to that?

    Purananooru not only refers Murugan temple but also the customs of the temple like mensurating women not touching the temple vessels.

    Whatever date you attribute to Puram - It is one of the oldest text in Tamil and that has reference to temples.

    second - If epics need to be discounted for lack of clear dates ( a
    valid argument)- then we should consider the other datable source for
    temples. We need to explore on that to come to any conclussion.

    No proof in Vedas is to be discounted as what is left is not even 1/10 of the original.
  • As per KAN Sastri {note: South India includes much of Maharastra, MP...etc as well}
    1. Antiquity of Humans in South India goes back 300,000 years.
    2. Microliths, belonging to Late Stone Age, are supposed to have arrived around 8000BC - 6000BC.
    3. Pre-Pottery Microlithi Industry is placed between 6000BC and 3000BC.
    4. Neolithic deposits have been Carbon-14 dated around 2000BC.
    5. Close of Sangam epoch around 300AD.

    I am not saying there were no temples. In fact, my theory is that there could have been icons in the South and elsewhere that grew independent of what happened in Gandhara or Mathura. I should say it is more of "a wish" than a theory. Essentially it is based on just a hunch.

    I am not saying we should discount any texts, I am saying when we consider texts that display artistic liberty, then we give it the credibility that it deserves.

  • Beacsue the first Big temple in stone is kanchi kailasanatha temple. ( there may are may not have been big brick temples but after seeing the pullalur temple, we cannot discount existence of grand big brick temples prior to kailasanatha)

    In fact Thevaram refers many mada temples, which defenetly are above avaerage size.

    even a combination of apsidal and mada temple in Pennadam is sung as Thoonganai madam.

    we are very sure that when the tradition started.
  • Bricks were used to construct meeting places, conference halls during the dominating periods of Buddhism and Jainism. Even the bodh Gaya temple is a brick work.
    Conversions of these places could have been temples.
    But the concept of a temple for the sun was enunciated and executed by the Pallavas in the form of Kailasanatha Temples, and they were made from sandstone.

    R. Narasimhan
  • Dear Sankaranarayanan:
    I am afraid you are missing my point & question. You are discussing temples and icons in general in South India. What prompted this discussion were the thoughts:
    * Did South India have animic icons - icons with human and animal features - before Buddhist Days.
    * Irrespective of the answer to the above question, what is the level of impact of Buddhist icons on South Indian Hindu icons?

    Buddhism and Jainism had penetrated deep into India from its initial places of origin. If I recollect correctly, South India contributed several famous Buddhist philosophers. Nagarjuna comes to my mind.

  • Hi,
    If we need to find icons before Buddhist period then the only option is to look
    in the books which dates before this period. To the best of my knowledge, there
    is no Hindu shrine which can be dated earlier than the earliest of the Buddhist
  • see the this coin for first reference for the temple in pallava period
    raman sanakran
  • Dear Saurabh,
    please write the dateof earliest buddhist temple and the place.
  • That is a good thought and I welcome that idea. So now we need to find books which point to an authorship prior to Buddha's times. Or for that matter say any text that is prior to Greek's settling around Bactria. And if these texts mention some kind of icons with human and animal figurines, it will be real worthwhile.

    Like I said, it is just my theory - based general observation of current humans, and skimming few articles and books on the internet - that humans in South India would have made some kind of icons. The question would be what kind were they? Another question would be the type and time of population of the Southern peninsular India.

    BTW, what dates do you have for the earliest Buddhist shrines?
  • First we should agree on the dates of the following -

    1. Date of first Buddhist temple/icon
    2. Date of Purananooru and other sangam.

    It is also very clear that India and Lanka had close links. When Lanka had big Viharas in a very early period, the first cave temple appeared in TN only at Pillayarpatti comparatively later at 5th C.

    Can any one give details of moorti worship of Indus civilisation?
  • Friends,

    Are we discussing appearance of Idols and Icons as part of culture of belief in personal God or merely an art craft by a stray individual inspiration.

    Many poets have beenaloof from Icon worship. Since ancient times, sages and saints have been universal spiritual attitude.In modern times Saibaba, or Ramana maharishi have shunned idol worship and encouraged Meditation on a Nirguna Brahman.

    Vallauvar or Auvvai have emphasised on 'ethics and Morals not bakhthi. attitude.

    Sangam literature is only an anthology of poems by bards or 'BaNarkaL'  and there are no personal Godor Bakhthi culture.

    Thirumurugatr and Paripadal appear in the very last phase, when Saivite and Vaishnava bakhthi culture emerges

    Most of the 'KadavuL vaazththu' attached yoto the various SANGAM COLLECTIONS ARE CMPOSED .BY LATER POETS WHO COMPILED BY THEM


    Tamilnadu was then a multi cultura society
    Worship of Muruga remained to hill societies or tribes as a cult or group worship..

  • I would say anything before 2nd century BC would be ok to consider in the study.
    None of the Buddhist shrine has been preserved in its original form as many were
    renovated in later times. The earliest would be Sanchi I my knowledge which can
    be dated in Ashoka's time. His pillars can also be studies however they only
    have secular icons like flowers and animals.
    Study of Bharhut panels will give a good insight as these are inscribed hence
    give precise information on what is displayed. Many of these panels are in
    Kolkata museum where they have reconstructed this stupa inside the museum.
  • To the best of y knowledge it would be Sanchi Stupa and Bharhut stupa. The
    former is standing still however the latter is no more at its original site but
    reconstured in Kolkata museum.

    You may have some earlier Buddhist cave than these monuments however it is very
    unlikely that we will get some icons in those caves.
  • I have a small note which may be of interest to you while discussing the first statue of the Buddhha.

    "It is believed that the first Buddha statue was not created until four or five hundred years after the death of Buddha out of respect. Therefore, the statues are not an exact replication of the person and there is no "right way" to represent him. The artist had artistic freedom of expression in that area. But, there are certain characteristics and symbolic elements that you will find at least one of in every Buddha statue.
    o If the hands are resting in the lap this represents meditation.
    o The hands crossing over the chest are a symbol of Dharma-or a state of "being."
    o In the earliest Buddha statue, the figure has both hands raised with the ring finger on the left hand touching the thumb and the index finger on the right hand is touching the thumb to make a circle with the three other fingers held aright. It is not certain what this symbolizes."

    It looks as though the Greek and Persiansculptors were the first ones to visualise the Buddha.

    R. Narasimhan

    R Narasimhan
  • Dear Friends,

    Can any one give details about the Soodamani Viharam of Nagapattinam and there
    is any remains....................

  • What about Silambu? if I am correct, its dated between 2nd BC to 2nd
    I read that there is mention of a 'nalangadi bootham' (sort of shrine for a
    kaval deivam) and other deivam in Silambu (courtesy - Jayashree Saranathan's

    So there were shrines for dieties in Silambu times.
  • Hi

    Not only Boothams - Temples of

    Siva - pirava Yakkaip perion,Vishnu, Muruga, Indhra, Durga, Balarama - are all mentioned.

    Current temples like - Tirumala, Srirangam, Azhagarkoil, Thiruvanandhapuram, Thiruveragam, Thiruchendur, Thiruchengodu, Madurai Velliambalam are also mentioned in silambu.

    Since Puram predates Silambu - I am sticking to Puram.

    This is on one side. On the other as GRS wants we have to conclusively prove that the tradition is independent of Budhism.
  • The topic was 'Influence of Buddhism-what about in TN?' The earliest site of
    buddism as refered is Sanchi, in Madhya Pradesh. What was the influence of it in
    Dr.Rajamanickanar in his "Chola History' (page 27) tells that the period of
    Karikalan was 60 BC to 10BC.
    Thirugnanasambandar, in his Tirukachi Ekambam Pathikam (Marayanai pathikam 7th
    verse) confims
    the Kachi Ekambavanar Temple was built by Karikalan.
    Silapathikaram, Vanchi Kandam, Kalkoll Kadhai lines tells the Cheran
    Senguttuvan was blessed with the prasadams from Ananda Padmanabaswamy Temple.
    Vanchi Kandam, Varam Tharu kadhaimentions Tiruvanandapuram as"Adaga
    Madam" "Pallikondapuram"

    with the temple there.
    There weremany temples in Southern India well before Buddhism.
  • The anthromorphic Buddhist icons were supposed to have originated between 2nd BC and 1BC. Buddhist icons existed prior to these too, but they were not anthromorphic.
  • So who is in Kolkatta :-)))))) ?
  • Srilanka, for all practical purposes, imbibed its culture including icons from the main land - India. Buddhism went from the North and reached all the way to Srilanka.

    Any Buddhist temple icon would have to be date after Buddha :-), hence somewhere in the 5th and 4th century BC.
  • No, the topic was not "Influce of Buddhism-what about in TN?". It was "Iconography - Influence of Buddhism. What about in TN?".

    While the two might be closely related, and probably one cannot discussion one without the other, my focus was on the development of Icons in India; and how much influence Iconography from Buddhism influenced the general icon creations in India. Including in Jainism and Hinduism.

    If Karikalan's times were 60BC to 10BC, then the Greco-Buddhism style of icons had made their appearance.

    If you say "There were many temples in Southern India well before Buddhism. " We can interpret it in two ways:
    1) Before Buddha, or
    2) Before the creation of Buddhism, after the demise of Buddha.

    In either case, we can consider the time around Buddha's demise as a rough approximation. So that would be around 483BC (5th century BC). So it means there were temples in SI before that. Yet the Sangam literature are dated around 600BC to 300AD. They might very well be talking about a period before them. When?
  • 1. A very good question. Rephrasing the question, a needless exercise as you wonderfully put it, "are we discussing religious icons or irreligious icons?".

    My answer:
    I mentioned my theory couple of times earlier about humans having the capacity to create icons through out the land. I used the word "totem" couple of times too. It is my belief that humans have had the inspiration to create craft or represent what they see and observe. We have pre-historic art, cave paintings and other artifacts - including beads and probably representation of animal and human figurines.

    So on one side, I "feel" all humans have the capacity of creation. The other side is my curiosity to understand how much of our religious icons have an influence from the Buddhist icons. If I understand correctly, Buddhist icons were more of abstract nature before the Greeks, Kushans etc influenced them to create handsome smiling Buddhas. The Greeks were big into show casing human bodies. Both their gods and humans were shown naked and had great physique - at least were depicted thus :-) Mathura style changed this; but I read that in the South they still held on to the older abstract icons for a long while.

    This brings to the concept of "persona god" as you wonderfully put it. Back then, when the philosophy was still not fully organized into neat categories; people had their own version of theism. So far example, a person living near, say Kanyakumari, could have created his or her version of Village Deity. Is this assumption correct?

    I understand sometimes it is impossible to discuss these subjects in absolute vaccum, and we have to bring in related materials for consideration. Be it religion or just craft. All is fair in the quest to satisfy curiosity. Hopefully, I get to learn something.

    With that aim, what is the earliest religious and non-religious figurine discovered in South India? It is not an easy answer. Let me tell you why. We still see stone slabs with carvings of snake being worshiped. Should we restrict our discussion to just human faces or hybrid for our discussions?
  • Our vairam on Silambu


    The ref to bringing stone for erecting statue of kannagi - is it part of the
    original script or later addition ?
  • Yes, There are views of Silambu can be dated to 5th C.

    I am not even considering the invocation song of Puram.

    There are specific reference to temples in Puram and since Puram is the old=
    est of sangam - i am considering that and they have reference of temples.

    Vivekanada opined that the temples of TN are influenced by Bhudhism.=20

    Kanchi Mahaswami had mentioned that the big Bhudhist temples and moortis di=
    d attract Hindus. ( But he had not mentioned that the temples are copied fr=
    om bhudhism)
  • yes,
    it is now the district court of nagapatnam. the vihara was in dilapidated state and was not in use in 1750. french east india company bought the place and constructed a school. it is st.joseph's school . it was later shifted to trichirapalli in 1850s. the old school has bee the judicial court for nagapatnam taluk and for the district. there are several buddhist artifacts found around this place and they are in the museum of nagapatnam( first line beach road)
  • Dear Sir

    can you pl post that separately

    could not access
  • The topic of avoiding the creation of sculpture of Buddha because respect brings an interesting point. And the point is,then, there must have been a culture/practice of sculpting statues - religious or irreligious.

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