From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Stupa Architecture
Mains level : Ancient Buddhist Architecture
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) stumbled upon a 1,300-year-old stupa right in the middle of a Khondalite mining site in Odisha’s Jajpur district.
About the Stupa
- The stupa could be 4.5-meter tall and initial assessment showed it may belong to the 7th or 8th
- It was found at Parabhadi which is situated near Lalitagiri, a major Buddhist complex, having a large number of stupas and monasteries.
- The newly discovered stupa was possibly disfigured in an earlier period.
Back2Basics: Lalitagiri Buddhist Complex
- Lalitagiri is a major Buddhist complex in the state of Odisha.
- The complex is home to stupas, ‘esoteric’ Buddha images, and monasteries (viharas), which is the oldest site in the region.
- Significant finds at this complex include Buddha’s relics. Tantric Buddhism was practiced at this site.
- Together with the Ratnagiri and Udayagiri sites a short distance away, Lalitagiri is part of the “Diamond Triangle”.
- It used to be thought that one or all of these were the large Pushpagiri Vihara known from ancient records, but this has now convincingly located at a different site.
In the most basic sense, as an architectural representation of a sacred burial site, a stupa — no matter where it is located in the world or when it was built — has three fundamental features.
- A hemispherical mound (anda) The anda’s domed shape (green highlights) recalls a mound of dirt that was used to cover the Buddha’s remains. As you might expect, it has a solid core and cannot be entered. Consistent with their symbolic associations, the earliest stupas contained actual relics of the Buddha; the relic chamber, buried deep inside the anda, is called the tabena. Over time, this hemispherical mound has taken on an even grander symbolic association: the mountain home of the gods at the center of the universe.
- A square railing (harmika) The harmika (red highlights) is inspired by a square railing or fence that surrounded the mound of dirt, marking it as a sacred burial site.
- A central pillar supporting a triple-umbrella form (chattra) The chattra, in turn, was derived from umbrellas that were placed over the mound to protect it from the elements (purple highlights). Just as the anda’s symbolic value expanded over time, the central pillar that holds the umbrellas has come to represent the pivot of the universe, the axis along which the divine descends from heaven and becomes accessible to humanity. And the three circular umbrella-like disks represent the three Jewels, or Triantha, of Buddhism, which are the keys to a true understanding of the faith: (a) Buddha; (b) dharma (Buddhist teachings or religious law); and (c) sangha (monastic community).
Around these three core building blocks were added secondary features.
- Enclosure wall with decorated gateways (toranas) at the cardinal directions The wall — with its trademark three horizontal stone bars (in the top image) — surrounds the entire structure. The wall is marked in light blue highlights and the toranas in yellow.
- A circular terrace (medhi) The terrace — surrounded by a similar three-bar railing — supports the anda and raises it off the ground (black highlights); it likely served as a platform for ritual circumambulation.
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