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Elements of Buddhist Iconography

Krishna Deva (Author)

Sixteenth in the Series of Collected Works of Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy in the IGNCA’s publication programme, Elements of Buddhist Iconography was first published by the Harvard University Press in 1935. This new edition, ably edited and revised by Shri Krishna Deva, has been enriched by incorporating the additions made by Coomaraswamy in his own hand in his personal copy.

This volume is a sustained demonstration of Coomaraswamy’s knowledge of the external features of iconography, his knowledge of the entire metaphysical tradition underlying the iconography, as well as the corresponding traditions in Islam and Christianity. It is a demonstration of the characteristics of a universe of discourse based on a detailed textual, iconographic, and comparative studies that include the metaphysics, phraseologies, and iconographic of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.

Buddhist art in India begins about the second century BC, with a well developed set of symbols in its iconography. But it does not seem possible to completely separate Buddhism as religion and art from the main current of Indian religion and art, or to think these symbols suddenly developed as a new creation. Coomaraswamy believes that the source of early iconography of the Buddhist art is in still earlier Vedic and Upanisadic conceptions. In addition, he noticed many surprising similarities between passages in the Vedic literature and in the mediaeval Christian theologians and mystics. The illuminating parallels found in the non-Indian traditions convinced him that mystical theology the world over is the same.

The present study deals with the basic symbols of Buddhist art, viz., the Tree of Life, the Earth-Lotus, the Word-Wheel, the Lotus-Throne, and the Fiery Pillar, and shows that these symbols can be traced back beyond their first representation in Buddhist Iconography through the anicomic period of the Brahmanical Vedas, even into the Rig Vedic period itself, and that they represent a universal Indian symbolism and set of theological concepts.

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About the author

Krishna Deva

Krishna Deva (1914-2001) after retirement as Director, Archaeological Survey of India was instrumental in bringing out several inventory volumes about sites and monument of India. He was the most eminent scholar of Indian art, achitectecture and archaeology. He conducted iconnograhphicaL and sculptural survey of the image in Nepal.He was Archaeological Advisor to his Majesty's Govt. in Nepal, Director Birla Academy of Art and Cultures, and for 12 years, as consultant to American Institute of Indian Studies, Varanasi for their project on Encyclopaedia of India Temple Achitecture. He was Editor of Journal of Indian Society of Oriental Art. His pioneering contribution in the Temples of India. He also wrote books on Images in Nepal. Report on vaishali Excavations and Temples of Khajuraho.

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Bibliographic information

Title Elements of Buddhist Iconography
Author Krishna Deva
Format Hardcover
Date published: 31.12.2009
Edition 1st. ed.
Language: English
isbn 9788173044328
length 146p., 44 B/W Illustration; 11.5 inch x 9.0 inch