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Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India

John Guy (Author)

Named for two primary motifs in Buddhist art, the sacred bodhi tree and the protective snake, Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India is the first publication to foreground devotional works produced in the Deccan from 200 BCE to 400 CE. Unlike traditional narratives, which focus on northern India (where the Buddha was born, taught, and died), this groundbreaking book presents Buddhist art from monastic sites in the south. Long neglected, this is among the earliest surviving bodies of Buddhist art, and among the most sublimely beautiful. An international team of researchers contributes new scholarship on the sculptural and devotional art associated with Buddhism, and masterpieces from recently excavated Buddhist sites are published here for the first time—including Kanaganahalli and Phanigiri, the most important new discoveries in a generation. With its exploration of Buddhism’s emergence in southern India, as well as of India’s deep commercial and cultural engagement with the Hellenized and Roman worlds, this definitive study expands our understanding of the origins of Buddhist art itself.


Contents: Preface. MAPS. BEGINNINGS OF BUDDHIST IMAGERY. 1. Early Buddhist Landscape of Southern India. CATALOGUE. RELICS, STUPAS, AND TEXTS. 2. Stupas, Footprints, and Imagination in Early Buddhism. 3. Stupas and the Cult of Relics. 4. Celebrating the Buddha in Early Southern India. CATALOGUE. MONASTIC BUDDHISM, COMMERCE, AND PATRONAGE. 5. The Business Side of a Buddhist Monastery. 6. Buddhist Patronage and Monastic Institutions in Andhra: Epigraphic Evidence. 7. Maritime Networks of Coastal Andhradesa. CATALOGUE. GLOBAL SETTING. 8. Rome and Its Connections with India. 9. Evoking the Buddha in Peninsular India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. CATALOGUE. THE BUDDHA REVEALED. 10. The Development of Buddhist Image Worship in Early Andhradea. 11. Buddhist Narratives at Kanaganahalli. 12. The Buddhist Stone of Andhradesa. CATALOGUE. 13. Early India: Chronology and Key Events. 14. Gazetteer of Buddhist Sites, Principally in the Deccan.

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About the author

John Guy

John Guy is Senior Curator of South and South-East Art in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  He has organized a number of exhibitions, most recently Indian Art and Devotion (Barcelona and Madrid, 2007), and contributed to many catalogues, including Encounters: the meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800 (V & A, 2004), La Sculpture du Champa (Musee Guimet, Paris, 2005) and Chola Bronzes (Royal Academy, London, 2006).  Major publications include Oriental Trade Ceramies in South East Asia (1986), Ceramic Traditions of South East Asia (1989), Arts of India: 1550-1900 (1990, co-ed.), Indian Art and Connoisseurship (1995, ed.), Vietnamese Ceramies: A Separate Tradition (1998), and Woven Cargoes.  Indian Textiles in the East (1998).  He is currently preparing a catalogue to the Indian sculpture collections in the V & A.

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Bibliographic information

Title Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India
Author John Guy
Format Hardcover
Date published: 04.07.2023
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 9789394501164
length 344p., 322 Illustrations; 9 x 12.25” (228 x 311 mm)