+
3 Tutorials that teach Influence of Buddhism on Ancient Indian Art
Take your pick:
Influence of Buddhism on Ancient Indian Art

Influence of Buddhism on Ancient Indian Art

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will discuss the influence of Buddhism on ancient Indian art.

(more)
See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

Examining how Buddhism influenced the art of ancient India.

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of "Exploring Art History with Ian." My name is Ian McConnell. Today's lesson is about the influence of Buddhism on ancient Indian art.

As we watch the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. As soon as you're ready, we can begin. Today's objectives, or the things we are going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms. Explain the influence of Buddhism on the King Ashoka of the Mauryan Period.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

First key term is Mauryan Period. One of the largest ancient Indian empires during the fourth to second century BC.

Ashoka was an important Buddhist king of third-century BC India known for his edicts posted at the top of monumental pillars. We'll be talking about those today.

Sarnath is an important pilgrimage site where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kandanna.

Ashokan Pillars are pillars inscribed with the edicts by Mauryan King Ashoka.

Continuing with key terms, edicts are orders commanded by an authority or supreme ruler.

Axis mundi, in religion or mythology, is the center or connection between heaven and earth, the point where communication can occur between higher and lower regions.

And aniconic is not allowing images or idols.

The big idea for today is that Buddhist religion began to show its influence on ancient Indian art during the Mauryan Period.

There are required artworks today, and they're in purple. Or I should say, artwork, because we're just looking at the Ashokan Pillars today.

So when in history does this take place? We're going to be looking at the reign of King Ashoka, who was during the third century BC in ancient India.

And the Indian subcontinent, again, is where we're focused today. Dark green.

So we'll begin with the Buddha and his life. Buddha means enlightened one. He was born in around 563 BC and died in 483 BC. He is important because he's the founder of Buddhism, which is named after him.

Buddhism, to summarise really briefly, looks at life is a journey of self-discovery, and the ultimate goal is to achieve nirvana, which is enlightenment or a profound peace of mind. To do this, you need to eliminate earthly desires, which is considered suffering. This is the path to enlightenment. The Buddha, upon becoming enlightened, decided to travel around India, roaming to different places and preaching his discipline. One of the places that he stopped at was this area called Sarnath. It's become a pilgrimage site for Buddhists, and the reason is that at this place Buddha converted a man named Kandanna and his followers. And this is important because it created the first Sangha, or Buddhist community.

So now I'll look at Ashoka and the spread of Buddhism. I'll make a connection here to Buddha when we're talking about him. But King Ashoka was a ruler of the Mauryan Kingdom, 272 to 231 BC. And the Mauryan Kingdom was the largest ancient Indian periods. It was founded in 323 BC after the defeat of Alexander the Great and the Macedonians, or the Greeks.

The reason this is important is because later on King Ashoka adopted Buddhism. And in doing so, he made it, I guess you could call it, the national religion. And the Pillars of Ashoka were these monumental forms of architecture, large pillars about 30 to 40 feet tall, that were inscribed with the laws, or the edicts, from Ashoka based on the Dharma, this idea of duty in Buddhism.

Now along with this is this idea of axis mundi, for these pillars were embedded in the earth and created a connection, in this case a vertical connection, between heaven and earth.

Here is one of the Pillars of Ashoka. Note that it's plural, pillars, because they were spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. Really spread all over the place. Not just one location, it's not like there's one or two. They're all over the place. The reason they're all over the place is because they were inscribed with edicts, or the laws. So in order to make sure that people were adhering to those laws, you needed to have them posted. So they remain during the third century BC, and they are large stone examples of monumental architecture.

The monumental sculpture was not the only thing being made during this time-- or monumental architecture, rather. Sculpture was another form of art that was being made in the third century BC. This example is of a yakshi holding a fly whisk. Now, yakshi were mythical female beings that have roots in the mythology of ancient Indian religions. Not just Buddhism, but also Hinduism and Jainism. They're typically depicted as voluptuous, these stylized figures, enhancing certain parts of the female anatomy because they were associated with fertility and nature.

And with this image on the right shows is really not only the skill of the artists in depicting the female physical features, but also elements like jewelry and the folds of the cloth. And these are stylistic conventions that inspired later Buddhist art.

So, short lesson today. Let's take a look at our objectives and see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? To explain the influence of Buddhism on the king Ashoka of the Mauryan Period?

And the big idea for today is that Buddhist religion began to show its influence on ancient Indian art during the Mauryan Period.

There you go. Thank you for joining me today. See you next time.

Citations

Image of Ashokan Pillar at Feroze shah Kotla, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Ashoka_Pillar.JPG;  Image of Detail of Ashokan Pillar at Feroze shah Kotla, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ashoka_Pillar_at_Feroze_Shah_Kotla,_Delhi_01.JPG;  Image of Yakshi with Fly Whisk, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yakshini.jpg

Notes on "Influence of Buddhism on Ancient Indian Art"

Overview

(0:00 - 2:05) Intro, Key Terms, BIG IDEA

(2:05 - 2:29) When in History? and Geography Lesson

(2:30 - 3:42) The Buddha

(3:43 - 5:41) Ashoka and Buddhism

(5:41 - 6:43) Yakshi Figures

(6:43 - 7:16) Review, Wrap-up, Ending

Key Terms

Mauryan Period

One of the largest ancient Indian Empires during the 4th to 2nd century BC.

Ashoka

An important Buddhist king of 3rd century BC India, known for his edicts, posted at the top of monumental pillars.

Sarnath

An important pilgrimage site where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna.

Ashokan Pillars

Pillars inscribed with the edicts by Mauryan king Ashoka.

Edicts

Orders commanded by an authority or supreme ruler.

Axis Mundi

In religion or mythology, the center or connection between Heaven and earth; the point where communication can occur between higher and lower regions.

Aniconic

Not allowing images, or idols.

Citations

Image of Ashokan Pillar at Feroze shah Kotla, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Ashoka_Pillar.JPG; Image of Detail of Ashokan Pillar at Feroze shah Kotla, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ashoka_Pillar_at_Feroze_Shah_Kotla,_Delhi_01.JPG Image of Yakshi with Fly Whisk, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yakshini.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Aniconic

    Not allowing images, or idols.

  • Axis Mundi

    In religion or mythology, the center or connection between heaven and earth; the point where communication can occur between higher and lower regions.

  • Edicts

    Orders commanded by an authority or supreme ruler.

  • Ashokan Pillars

    Pillars inscribed with the edicts by Mauryan king Ashoka.

  • Sarnath

    An important pilgrimage site where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna.

  • Ashoka

    An important Buddhist king of 3rd century BC India, known for his edicts, posted at the top of monumental pillars.

  • Mauryan Period

    One of the largest ancient Indian Empires during the 4th to 2nd century BC.