Ananda Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913)

 

Coomaraswamy.jpg

“The artist is not a special kind of person; rather each person is a special kind of artist” Ananda  Coomaraswamy, A pioneer historian of Indian Art and foremost interpreter of Indian culture to the West’.

Ananda  Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913) not really a review but excerpts from the book. Very readable and not just the art but the religious and philosophical background to art.  This and other books by AC are available free, link at end of the post.

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947)
Son of
Sir Muttu Coomaraswamy  the first Ceylon (and  South Asian?)  Knight and Elizabeth Beeby, who was a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria. First class honours in Geology and Botany (1900) from University of London. The first Director of Mineralogical Surveys, Ceylon (1903). Doctor of Science degree from the University of London in 1906 for identifying and research on the mineral Thorianite.

In 1905 he founded the Ceylon Social Reform Society.  The Society was “formed in order to encourage and initiate reform in social customs amongst the Ceylonese, and to discourage the thoughtless imitation of unsuitable European habits and customs”. He claimed fluency in 36 languages, where his definition of fluency in a language is the ability to read a scholarly article without referring to a dictionary.

AC refused to join the British armed services in World War I and As a result he was exiled from the British Empire and a bounty of 3000
Pounds placed on his head by the British Government and his house was seized. Moved to USA in 1917 together with his extensive art collection, described as ‘among the finest in the Western world’. His entire private art collection was transferred to Boston Museum of Fine Arts,  and worked there as Curator and as Visiting Lecturer at nearby Harvard University for the next thirty years until he retired in 1947.

AC’s first book major book Medieval Sinhalese Art was self published. Using his considerable inherited wealth bought the ailing Essex House Press and a small church called Norman Chapel in Broad Campden in Gloucestershire.  He used part of the premises as his residence and moved the machinery of Essex House Press to the rest of the building.
Hand printing of the book started in September 1907 and was completed in December 1908.  The layout of the book, which is a work of art in its
own right, and the printing of the 425 copies were supervised by him.
(more and much of above from In Appreciation of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy)

Excerpts from Ananda  Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913)

In the first place, almost all Hindu art (Brahmanical and Mahayana Buddhist) is religious. ” Even a misshapen image of a god,” says Sukracharya {ca. 5th century a.d.) “is to be preferred to an image of a man, howsoever charming.” Not only are images of men condemned, but originality, divergence from type, the expression of personal sentiment, are equally forbidden. “(Animagemade) according to rule (shastra) is beautiful,no other forsooth is beautiful.

” the likeness of the seated yogi is a lamp in a windless place that flickers not”{Bhagavad Glta, vi. 19). It is just this likeness that we must look for in the Buddha image, and this only. For the Buddha statue was not intended to represent a man ; it was to be like the unwavering flame, an image ofwhat all men could become, not the similitude of any apparition (nirmanakaya).

A like impersonality appears in the facial expression of all the finest Indian sculptures. These have sometimes been described as expressionless because they do not reflect the individual peculiarities which make up expression as we commonly conceive it.

This ideal is described in many places, typically, for example, in the Bhagavad Gita xi. 12-19 : ” Hateless toward all born beings, void of the thought of I and My, bearing indifferently pain and pleasure, before whom the world is not dismayed and who is not dismayed before the world; who rejoices not, grieves not,desires not; indifferent in honour and dishonour, heat and cold, joy and pain; free from attachment”—such an one is god-like,from attachment”—such an one is god-like,

BhagavadGita is also the chief gospel of action without attachment: change, says Krishna, is the law of life, therefore act according to duty, not clinging to any object of desire, but like the actor in a play, who knows that his mask {persona) is not himself. For this impassivity is not less characteristic of the faces of the gods in moments of ecstatic passion or destroying fury, than of the face of the stillest Buddha. In each, emotion is interior, and the features show no trace of it: only the movements or the stillness of the limbs express the immediate purpose of the actor.

This amazing serenity (shdnti) in moments of deepest passion is not quite confined to Indian sculpture: something very like it, and more familiar to Western students, is found in the gracious and untroubled Maenad furies of the Greek vases, the irresponsible and sinless madness of the angry Bacchae.

Maenad Satyr-Vase 480bc

There is no more remarkable illustration of the Hindu perception of the relative insignificance of the individual personality, than the fact that we scarcely know the name of a single painter or sculptor of the great periods: while it was a regular custom of authors to ascribe their work to better-known authors, in order to give a greater authority to the ideas they set forth.

This process of intuition, setting aside one’s personal thought in order to see or hear, is the exact reverse of the modern theory which considers a conscious self-expression as the proper aim of art. It is hardly to be wondered at that the hieratic art of the Indians, as of the Egyptians, thus static and impersonal,should remain somewhat unapproachable to a purely secular consciousness.

Much later in origin are the definite Assyrianisms and Persian elements in the Asokan and early Buddhist sculpture, such as the bell-capital and winged lions.

Early Buddhism, as we have seen, is strictly rationalistic, and could no more have inspired a metaphysical art than the debates of a modern ethical society could become poetry. The early Sutras, indeed, expressly condemn the arts, inasmuch as ‘ ‘form, sound, taste, smell, touch, intoxicate beings.” It is thus fairly evident that before Buddhism developed into a popular State religion (under Asoka) there can hardly have existed any “Buddhist art,”

A confusion of two different things is often made in speaking of the subject-matter of art. It is often rightly said, both that the subject-matter is of small importance, and that the subject-matter of great art is always the same. In the first case, it is the immediate or apparent subject-matter—the representative element—that is spoken of; it is here that we feel personal likes and dislikes. To be guided by such likes and dislikes is always right for a practising artist and for all those who do not desire a cosmopolitan experience ; and indeed, to be a connoisseur and perfectly dispassionate critic ofmany arts or religions is rarely compatible with impassioned devotion to a single one.

The paintings of Ajanta, though much damaged, still form the greatest extant monument of ancient painting and the only school except Egyptian in which a dark-skinned race is taken as the normal type.

Ajanta Painting
Ajanta Painting

 

Painting/fresco,  approx 500 AD Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

When a little later we meet with the excavated chatiya-houses, and, later still, the earliest Hindu temples of the Aryavarta and the Dravidian school, we are again faced with the same problem, of the origin of styles which seem to spring into being fully developed. . It is clear that architecture had not made much progress amongst the Aryans when they first entered  India; on the contrary, all the later styles have been { clearly shown to be developments of aboriginal and non-Aryan structures built of wood(posts and beams, bamboo, thatch), the intermediate stages being worked out in brick. The primitive wooden and brick building survives to thepresent day side by side with the work in stone, a silent witness of historic origins. Some of the details of the early stone architecture point to Assyrian origins, but this connection is, for India, prehistoric. How the use of stone was first suggested is a matter of doubt; none ofthe early forms have a Greek character, but are translations of Indian wooden forms into stone; while stone did not come into use for the structural temples of the Brahmans until so late as the 6th century A. D.

The Ceylon Shilpashastras preserve canons of form and proportion for six different types, called by such names as Bell-shape, Heap of rice, Lotus, and Bubble.

Chaitiya Hall (approx 50 AD), Karli, India

Another most important class of early buildings, and one purely Buddhist, is that of the chaitiya-hall (Buddhist temples).

The prototype perhaps survives in the dairy temple of the Todas. We are well acquainted with the structural peculiarities of the chatiya-halls, from the many examples excavated in solid rock. These have barrel roofs, like the inverted hull of a ship, with every detail of the woodwork accurately copied in stone. The earliest date from the time of Asoka(3rd century B.c.) and are characterised by their single-arched entrance and plain facade.

Toda Hut

Reservoirs:  but it was only notably in Ceylon that there existed conditions favourable to the construction of very large works at a much earlier date. The largest of the embankments of these Ceylon reservoirs measures nine miles in length, and the area of the greatest exceeds 6000 acres (24 sq km). The earliest large tank dates from the 4th century B.C. What is even more remarkable than the amount of labour devoted to these works, is the evidence they afford of early skill in engineering, particularly in the building of sluices: those of the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. forming the type of all later examples in Ceylon, and anticipating some of the most important developments of modern construction. The most striking features of these sluices are the valve pits (rectangular wells placed transversely across the culverts and lined with close-fitting masonry), and the fact that the sectional area of the culverts enlarges towards the outlet, proving that the engineers were aware that retardation of the water by friction increased the pressure, and might have destroyed the whole dam if more space were not provided.but

There is scarcely any Hindu building standing which can be dated earlier than the 6th century a.d. without any trace of historic origins. The explanation of this circumstance is again to be found in the loss of earlier buildings constructed of perishable materials; all the greatarchitectural types must have been worked out in timber and brick before the erection of the stone temples which alone remain. One point of particular interest is the fact that the early temples of the gods, and prototypes of later forms, seem to have been cars, conceived as self-moving and rational beings.

and in another place, the whole city of Ayodahya is compared to a celestial car. The carrying of images in processional cars is still an important featurej of Hindu ritual. The resemblance of the Aryavarta shikhara to the bamboo scaffolding ofa processional car is too striking to be accidental. More than that,’ we actually find stone temples of great size provided with enormous stone wheels (Konarak, Vijayanagar) and the monolithic temples at Mamallapuram (7th century) (fig. 83) are actually called rathas, that is cars, while the term vimana, applied to later Dravidian temples, has originally the same sense, of vehicle or moving palace.

The greatest period of Indian shipbuilding, however, must have been the Imperial age of the Guptas and Harshavardhana, when the Indians possessed great colonies in Pegu, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo, and trading settlements in China, Japan, Arabia, and Persia.

Many notices in the works of European traders and adventurers in the 15th and i6th centuries show that the Indian ships of that day were larger than their own ; Purchas, for example, mentions one met by a Captain Saris in the Red Sea, of 1 200 tons burden, about three times the size of the largest English ships then made (161 1).Many notices in the works of European traders and adventurers in the 151!^ and i6th centuries show that the Indian ships of that day were larger than their own ; Purchas, for example, mentions one met by a Captain Saris in the Red Sea, of 1 200 tons burden, about three times the size of the largest English ships then made (1611).

It is worth while to remark that a good deal of the material used for dagger-handles and similar purposes is not Indian or African ivory, but is known as “fish-tooth,” most of it being really fossil ivory from Siberia. Old examples prove that there used to exist an overland trade in this material. Hippopotamus and walrus ivory may also have found its way to India by land routes.

The great majority of Indians wear cotton garments, and it is from India that all such names as chintz, calico, shawl, and bandana have come into English since the i8th century. Weaving is frequently mentioned in the Vedas. cotton, silk, and woollen stuffs in the epics. Silk was certainly imported from China as early as the 4th century B.C.,

Neither cotton-printing nor dye-painting are Sinhalese crafts. All the finer cloths found in Ceylon appear to be of Indian origin. There is evidence of several settlements of Indian weavers in Ceylon on various occasions.

The Mughal portrait style is scarcely clearly developed before the time of Jahangir (1605 to 1627). At its best it is an art of nobly serious realism and deep insight into~character7 at its worst, it is an art of mere flattery. Two works reproduced here, the Bodleian Dying Man (fig. 169) and the Ajmer portrait of Jadrup Yogi (fig. 170), stand out before all others in their passionate concentration.
(my sbarrkum note; if some one can send link to modern colored images, Jadrup Yogi or Dying Man very welcome)

 

List of free books by Ananda Coomaraswamy
https://archive.org/search.php?query=Ananda%20Coomaraswamy

Author: sbarrkum

I am 3/4ths Sri Lankan (Jaffna) Tamil, 1/8th Sinhalese and 1/8th Irish; a proper mutt. Maternal: Grandfather a Govt Surveyor married my grandmother of Sinhalese/Irish descent from the deep south, in the early 1900’s. They lived in the deep South, are generally considered Sinhalese and look Eurasian (common among upper class Sinhalese). They were Anglicans (Church of England), became Evangelical Christians (AOG) in 1940's, and built the first Evangelical church in the South. Paternal: Sri Lanka (Jaffna Tamil). Paternal ancestors converted to Catholicism during Portuguese rule (1500's), went back to being Hindu and then became Methodists (and Anglicans) around 1850 (ggfather). They were Administrators and translators to the British, poets and writers in Tamil and English. Grandfathers sister was the first female Tamil novelist of modern times I was brought up as an Evangelical even attending Bible study till about the age of 13. Agnostic and later atheist. I studied in Sinhala, did a Bachelor in Chemistry and Physics in Sri Lanka. Then did Oceanography graduate stuff and research in the US. I am about 60 years old, no kids, widower. Sri Lankan citizen (no dual) and been back in SL since 2012. Live in small village near a National Park, run a very small budget guest house and try to do some agriculture that can survive the Elephants, monkeys and wild boar incursions. I am not really anonymous, a little digging and you can find my identity.

31 thoughts on “Ananda Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913)”

  1. Is the information under “from Ananda Coomaraswamy: The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon (1913)” copied precisely. There are several pieces of information which appear to be incorrect, or outdated.
    ” It is clear that architecture had not made much progress amongst the Aryans when they first entered India; on the contrary, all the later styles have been { clearly shown to be developments of aboriginal and non-Aryan structures built of wood(posts and beams, bamboo, thatch), the intermediate stages being worked out in brick”

    The Aryans entered India before 1500 BC, and as early as 2250 BC. The only architecture from before that time is the IVC. It is not even clear who the third set of people who formed the trinity that peopled India, or they were hunter-gatherers, or rudimentary pastoralists. What ancient architecture before 2000 BC is expected here?

    “The earliest large tank dates from the 4th century B.C.”

    I see this claim everywhere without evidence. Lakes or tanks cannot be carbon dated. There are no maps that show the existence of tanks from such an early age. This appears to be a story that gets repeated without evidence.

    “while stone did not come into use for the structural temples of the Brahmans until so late as the 6th century A. D”
    It is not clear what this means. Temples themselves, and idol worship started only in 4th and 5th century AD; the earliest temples can be located form 121-151 AD but made of stone but dedicated to Kanishka in Afghanistan. There are at least two temples, made odf stone, but with inscriptions from 325 AD.

    “the earliest Hindu temples of the Aryavarta and the Dravidian school, we are again faced with the same problem, of the origin of styles which seem to spring into being fully developed”

    I do not know what this means; can the builders revise the design of a structure as time passes? Many Hindu temples have been rebuilt even over ancient Buddhist temples, most famous examples being Tirupathi and Sabarimala. To a person who sees the temple, it appears developed, but excavations in te temples continuously uncover older structures.
    “All Hindu art is religious”

    what does this mean? some Hindu art is religious. but examples of “Hindu” art of just common people can be seen.

    I am skeptical of Ananda Coomaraswamy’s interpretation of art and culture; may be it is just outdated.

    1. VijayVan,

      Is the information copied precisely.
      As I was reading the free book (pdf) copied and pasted what I thought was interesting.. Minor editing as in letters merged and spacing between words.

      “The earliest large tank dates from the 4th century B.C.”
      The Mahavamsa (and Sinhala Atthakatha) does record when a tank/reservoir was built restored.
      4BC does sound early. Will do a cross check.

      “while stone did not come into use for the structural temples of the Brahmans until so late as the 6th century A. D”
      It is not clear what this means. Temples themselves and idol worship started only in 4th and 5th century AD; the earliest temples can be located form 121-151 AD

      I think AC means that there were Buddhist stone/cave temples before Hindu stone temples.

      The carrying of images in processional cars is still an important featurej of Hindu ritual. The resemblance of the Aryavarta shikhara to the bamboo scaffolding ofa processional car is too striking to be accidental. More than that,’ we actually find stone temples of great size provided with enormous stone wheels (Konarak, Vijayanagar) and the monolithic temples at Mamallapuram (7th century) (fig. 83) are actually called rathas, that is cars, while the term vimana, applied to later Dravidian temples, has originally the same sense, of vehicle or moving palace.

      Did you see any significance of above.

      Anyway the books is online and free. Maybe outdated, but I found it easy reading.

    2. “Many Hindu temples have been rebuilt even over ancient Buddhist temples, most famous examples being Tirupathi and Sabarimala.”
      Vijay, where did you get the idea that the present temple of Tirupati was built over Buddhist temples? Turumalai hills are referred to from early Tamil literature as ‘abode of Vishnu’ (mAlavan kunRam). 10 out of 12 Azhvars , the Vaishnavite devotees who lived between 3rd C and 8th C have sung songs on the deity at Tirupati and collected in a ‘nalAyira divya prabhandam’ i.e. Collection of 4000 holy verses. These Azhwars sand praises of the deities whose temples were already in situ. Apart from that, there are hundreds of inscriptions in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit going over to 6th century giving donations by different kings . There are tons of literary and epigraphy records to see the continuous history of the present temples. To suddenly throw a Buddhist temple there, is beyond belief .

      1. VijayVan,
        Please consider the following scenario. Tirupati temple originally was a Vaishnavite temple say 2000 years ago, as you indicated. Then it came to pass that south India was dominated by Jainism and Jain kings. The temple was transformed into a Jain temple. Later Buddhism became the state religion and people became Buddhists. Whole Andhra area was Buddhist during Nagarjuna’s time. Then the temple yielded to Buddhism. Later when Buddhism died down it was reclaimed by Vashnavites and operating as such. During that revival a Muslim woman was included as a consort to the deity. Tonsuring that happens at Tirumala is a distinct Jain and Buddhist tradition that is not normally observed in Hindu holy places. These are couple of clues left by history.

        Temples do go through these phases like modern corporate takeovers. Compare to what is happening in Ayodhya now. As the legend goes, there was Sri Ram temple at the site where Babur built a masjid and now a Sri Ram temple is coming up any time. In the western countries it is common to see Jews buying up an unused church building and using it as synagogue and vice versa.

        1. Given the continous evidence available, the Buddhist proposition doesn’t have a remote chance. There are Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagar, and assorted kings’ inscriptions available, not to speak of secular and religious lit. Tonsuring as a voluntary act occurs at other temples also in the south as also during ceremonies like death ceremonies among orthodox circles. Nothing Buddhist about it. The ‘Tulukka Nachiyar’ I.e. Muslim princess is said to have happened in 13th century. All these peripheral things doesn’t change the history of the place.
          Temples aren’t like Rental Car companies where the user keeps changing. They’re great spiritual investments. Change of religion means much trauma.

          1. Agreed that tonsuring is a voluntary act in other Temples in the South. Thiruttani is other popular place if one can’t make it to Thirumala for whatever reason. Also, any temple with a snake hill would also do.

            In some families, first tonsure of a male child involves great deal of ceremony and people without their own family temple would go to these other famous temples.

            I thought it was also common all across the south, that the first tonsure and ear piercing ceremony is done for all children in traditional families.

          2. At my age, it is futile to argue “hindu” history on the internet. The first Hindu reference of Hindu style worship at Tirupathi is via a donation to Pallava queen called Samavai whose origin was in Chitoor district of ~9th century, and the first transformation was reported around 966 AD. However, TTD version of history moved it up to 6th century. The Chola, Pallava references to thirumala temple are of 9-10-11 century. There existed a mahayana Buddhist temple with an idol dedicated to Maitreya inside the present quadrangle since 4th century AD, and Prakrit scripts referring to the Mahayana Buddha were recovered in 1920s by the deasthanam along with Annamacharya kriti lines, in Prakrit! The copper plates are in SV university even now, and a visitor can look at, both, the Annamayya script in old Telugu, and Maitreya references in Prakrit, even today, but which of the millions actually will look at them?

            It was in 9th-1oth and 11th century that cholas and Hoysals siezed the temple, but the actual transformation of Maitreya to Vishnu took place over 3 centuries. The idol architecture, tonsuring, quadrangle layout, single figure, are all pointers to the Buddhist origins.

            References:
            1. “A Social History of India” by S. N. Sadasivan, pages 221-222.

            Those who are not modern “internet” Hindus are quite comfortable in the Vedic->Jain->Buddhist->Hindu-refined mahayanist->back to Hindu circle via Shankara/Ramanuja that India has went through. Confusingly, Mahayanist Buddhism itself was a variant of Brahmanical Hinduism as outlined in:
            2. “Racial Synthesis in Hindu Culture by S. V. Viswanatha”, Page 159.
            “Mahayana school of Buddhism which became permanent and fashionable from the time of Kanishka was in itself a testimony to the varying power of Brahmanical Hinduism. The newer form of Buddhism had much in common with the older form of Hinduism, and the relation is so close that even an expert often feels the difficulty in deciding to which system a particular image should be assigned.”

            At an younger age, I would have typed up pages and pages of the history and added references, but I have not been able to convince anyone then, why now?

          3. @Vijay (not VijayVan)

            What do you think of tonsuring ceremony and tonsure at other temples?

            Are they carryovers from previous conversions?

            The reasoning I heard from older people was that their family deity is Lord Subramaniya, and they are Ramanuja followers. Made no sense to me (perhaps my ignorance).

            Also, SV University is a confusing place even for those who studied there. Kind of unfair to ask visitors to find anything.😀

        2. I am replying to Violet in this comment on tonsuring, I apolofize Hoipolloi.

          Tonsuring is a universal concept that suggest renunciation in several religions. Tonsure was used in both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches for 2000 years until it was abolished by Pope Paul VI. Tonsure was the ceremony by which a man was initiated into the clerical state and became eligible for ordination to the priesthood. Nobody knows why but early Christians may have imitated the ancient religious practice among the Greeks and Semites that involved the cutting of some of the hair and offering it to a deity as a sign of dedication.

          In Buddhism tonsure is part of pravrajyā, the ceremony of ordination as a novice or as a monk called upasaṃpadā ceremony. I do not remember what it is called in Jainism, but Jain and Buddhist customs are imitation of the act performed by their teachers Mahāvīra and Gautama, who cut off their hair upon leaving their households to embark on the spiritual life.

          The earliest arrival of the Hindu tonsure that leaves a tuft of hair at the crown of the head, is circa 6th century AD but this is not related to giving up households to embark on a spiritual life. On the other hand, tonsure in temples, complete removal of hair as a practice in Thirupathi and several Murugan temples, is almost a direct copy of earlier Jain and Buddhist pilgrims. This practice was adopted by both Saivites and Vaishnavites. Regarding why it was adopted by Ramanuja into the Thirupathi temple tradition, there is a long history, but that will be a digression here, and it involves Cholas, Vijayanagara, Hoysalas, etc.

          1. Hello Vijay,

            I am very open to the possibilities you present but my only problem is with the reference to Venkatam and the Vishnu therein, in the Cilappatikaram of the surrounds of 3rd century AD. Combined with the fact that there probably existed an early theistic Tamil religious cult dedicated to Mal or Mayon, who is originally a Tamilised form of Sanskrit Krishna but probably sufficiently Tamilised, in the Tamil country of which Venkatam hills formed the northern extremities, some association of the deity of the hill with Mal sounds plausible, no? But anyway, this point about the existence of Mal cult in the ancient Tamil country is secondary and my major problem is about the Cilappatikaram reference; if not referring to the Venkateshwara deity at Tirumala, what was the author of Cilappatikaram referring to there? Also, I have been always curious about another thing- what in your view were the historical origins of the deity of the Varaha there and also are there any relationships between the deities on the hill like Varaha and Venkateshwara and the non-Vaishnava deities of village Mother Goddesses in Tirupati?

          2. I am responding to Santosh on the thirumal cult of Venkatam referenced in Silapathikaram here.

            I am completely unable to explain anything in Silapathikaram within the time context of the history. The discussion of temples, religion, people, almost everything in Silapathikaram (read in Silapadhikaram.com) are all outside and beyond the status of Hindu temple, sculpture, architecture, development of religion in second century AD. An example is it is written by who appears to be a Buddhist monk, but the book is entirely overridden with Hindu religious mores.

            Either the dating of history is wrong, or Silapadhikaram was reconfigured in the later centuries. In general, it is difficult to relate texts and the history, unless there is perfect clarity on the age of books.

          3. Continuing the response to Santosh, with an apology to Razib and Zach on spamming, the confusions regarding silapadhikaram has been outlined by Dr. Eric miller in:

            “Variations in and of the Story
            of the Silappathikaram (the Epic of the Anklet)”
            by Dr Eric Miller

            and in:

            Beck, Brenda, “The Study of a Tamil Epic: Several Versions of Silappathikaram
            Compared”, Journal of Tamil Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 23-38, 1972.

            Dr. Miller says that there is considerable variation on the age of the epic between 3rd and 7th century because of the depictions of Gods vary widely from Indra worhip to Brahmanical saivite discussions.

          4. @Vijay. You are getting the basic facts of Silappadikaram wrong by calling it’s author Buddhist. No, he was a Jain monk Ilanko Adigal , a prince of Chera kingdom. But Silappadikaram is not a religious tract , it is quite secular. Apart from referring to Thirumal in Venkata hills, he also gives a good snap shot of his society and culture.

          5. Hello Vijay,

            Thank you very much for the comment!

            Cilappatikaram appears to be typically dated to the first half of the 1st millennium AD by most experts on Old Tamil literature, except a minority. I also took a look at the original verses aided by a Telugu translation and it has phrases like milky white conch, etc. in reference to the idol at the Venkatam peak.

            Also, I intend no offence whatsoever to you but at least your first reference of author S. N. Sadasivan does not look so much balanced and looks quite a bit too anti-Brahminic on the first glance, to me personally. Just my personal view. The author also seems to make most temples of India Buddhist in origin- even mother goddess temples like those at Kodungallur. He posits that the supposed Buddhist Prajnaparamita at that place was vulgarised (? is that a word?) by the lower classes of Hindu society who were unleashed by the Brahmins/upper caste Hindus apparently! But how really likely is this possibility, realistically speaking? Such kinds of songs and literature with very vulgar references (I don’t know how the scale of vulgarity compares in both the cases) I read exist associated with the rites at village Mother Goddess temples in faraway Andhra such as that of Gangamma too. Is Gangamma a vulgarised Buddhist deity too? I personally lean towards the view that both these and many other such mother goddess deities were probably descended from common deities and forms of worship by some of the earliest natives of south India (possibly the Dravidians and/or the people before them), rather than straight away imagining a rather interesting but probably not really feasible Brahmin and upper caste Hindu conspiracy to drive away Buddhism lol. So yeah, his tendency to overly see Buddhist heritage in nearly every thing not excluding mother goddess deities (along with hypotheses about Hindu conspiracy) appears as equally problematic as what I perceive to be his unnecessarily high anti-Brahminism. But as I said, these are my personal views and what I got after spending not so high amount of time in this business. Sorry if I offended anyone.

          6. Vijay,

            Thank you for the new references.

            I will take a look at those books that you suggested when I find more time. As I said, I’m quite open to various possibilities; I should also look into what kinds of these supposed relationships existed between Tirumala and Amaravati, etc. Your suggestion about the plates (?) with Prakrit writings also seems interesting and worth looking into. When and how the Vaikhanasas came into picture in this business is probably worthy to be looked into too, in my view. Thank you very much again!

          7. This is the Eric Miller’s article, which relies heavily on Brenda Beck

            http://storytellinginstitute.org/22e.pdf

            Miller says “This text is attributed to Prince Ilango Adigal, and is linguistically dated as having been written approximately 1,600 years ago.” – that is the position of most literary and linguistic scholars on Silappadikaram.

            History of Tirupati done by professional historian is available free

            https://archive.org/details/historyoftirupat035504mbp
            https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.172417
            https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.82157

            There are quite a few others

  2. This is is another Vijay, not Vijayvan, an usurper, but now I get it. AC is saying that Jain and Buddhist art was well developed in the 7 centuries between, say 200 BC and 400 AD, with the first Gupta style architecture borrowing heavily from Kusana, Mathura, and Gandhara and borrowed doorways, decorated door jambs, sculpted panels with high-relief figures, laurel wreath, etc.

    Beyond the 4-6 century Gupta, architecture progressed as you explain “The carrying of images in processional cars is still an important featurej of Hindu ritual. The resemblance of the Aryavarta shikhara to the bamboo scaffolding ofa processional car is too striking to be accidental. More than that,’ we actually find stone temples of great size provided with enormous stone wheels (Konarak, Vijayanagar) and the monolithic temples at Mamallapuram (7th century) (fig. 83) are actually called rathas, that is cars, while the term vimana, applied to later Dravidian temples, has originally the same sense, of vehicle or moving palace.”

    It all makes sense when laid out by time and space. I borrowed the book from the library and started at the architecture chapter. May be the style is old, but a good editor would have helped this book.

  3. Out with usurper Vijays, starting with the Vijaya who “came” to Sri Lanka in 500bc. The Sinhalese claim to be descended from Vijaya, but he did not have children!!.

    are actually called rathas, that is cars, while the term vimana, applied to later Dravidian temples, has originally the same sense, of vehicle or moving palace.”.

    A carry over by peoples on the move? They take the gods with them to where they go.

    1. Another interpretation of ratha with gods is a chariot. Wheeled chariots with horses was an aryan innovation. The Aryan use of chariot was twoforth, both, a vehicle of conquest, and display of their kings and gods, even if the two forms of chariots do not resemble each other. The bhagavatgeetha has the overpowering presence of the chariot with a driver instructing the warrior. However, the chariot in south Indian temple culture has a different connotation of gods marching through streets in festivals, and this is from Orissa and below.

      Sometimes a chriot is a chariot, but surely, does this not suggest an usurper victory parade over the locals?

      1. Sometimes a chriot is a chariot, but surely, does this not suggest an usurper victory parade over the locals?

        Exactly, invaders bringing their gods along and parade the streets. Implies that the locals did not have the same gods.

        1. SbArkum, I have finished reading this book over the weekend and now i see why you recommend this. The book is a historical tract on the history of art and architecture and not readily influenced or partitioned by religion.

          And this is hard to find in modern India where history, literature, art is partitioned by religion and politics. Where people want to claim a non religious tract as silapadhikaram as a state of India in fist century AD. AC clearly lays out the history of art and architecture not overtly influenced by religion or politics. I wish more of your readers here will actually read this book.

  4. semi related from the days of sepia mutiny

    boston_mahesh on April 24, 2009 at 10:43 am said:

    3sbarrkum on April 20, 2009 11:47 PM · Direct link I see in the Indian List that at least one is of Ceylonese/Sri Lankan origin (part 1/4 I guess). Rama P. Coomaraswamy, a cardiac surgeon. From the wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rama_P._Coomaraswamy Rev. Dr. Rama Poonambalam Coomaraswamy, M.D., (1929 – 2006), was a cardiac surgeon, then a psychiatrist and later a Traditionalist Catholic priest and exorcist, besides being a prolific writer on Traditionalist Catholicism and Perennialist topics. Rama Coomaraswamy, of mixed Tamil, English and Jewish ancestry, was the son of the famous Indologist Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, and of his fourth wife Luisa Runstein, an Argentine-born woman of Jewish descent. He is the grandson of the Tamil-Ceylonese lawyer and social pioneer Sir Muthu Coomaraswamy and his English wife Elizabeth Beeby. As such, Rama Coomaraswamy hailed from notable Tamil and English families.

    I have actually visited Dr. Coomaraswamy back in ’04 in Wilton or Milton, Connecticut.! I met his son, Frank, who is 1/8 Tamil. Frank is a principal or a teacher at a school down there. Frank is married and has at least 2 kids, who are 1/16 Tamil. They were all very nice and gracious, and I’ll never forget how happy and old-world Frank’s blonde-hair daughter was to see us. It blew my mind that these kids – who are 1/16 Tamil – still have their old surname, and they carry it with a lot of pride. They are keenly aware that their great grandfather was the first Desi knight.

    http://sepiamutiny.com/blog/2009/04/19/from_the_depart/comment-page-1/#comment-238077

    1. sbarrkum,
      Thanks for that SM link above. I was mildly surprised to see my comment in the thread lovingly referring to Sunny Leone in famous Indian American list. I used to use any one of 6 to 10 handles. No need for email address to post in the Sepia Mutiny. Those were the days of our innocence. Keep up the good work, my friend. Cheers.

  5. He was, no doubt, an admirable art historian, and a credit to his family (on both sides).

    There are however a couple of things in this account which leave me wondering.

    “Many notices in the works of European traders and adventurers in the 15th and i6th centuries show that the Indian ships of that day were larger than their own ; Purchas, for example, mentions one met by a Captain Saris in the Red Sea, of 1 200 tons burden, about three times the size of the largest English ships then made.”

    But contemporary European accounts mention Portuguese galleons of over 1000 tons, the Manilla galleons of up to 2000 tons; Garret Mattingley’s account of the Spanish Armada of 1588 describes English warships of 1000 tons, Spanish even larger. No doubt Captain Saris met with a ship larger than his own: though my searches through online versions of Purchas have not yet provided a citation.

    “AC refused to join the British armed services in World War I and as a result he was exiled from the British Empire and a bounty of 3000 Pounds placed on his head by the British Government and his house was seized. Moved to USA in 1917.”

    This is quite often repeated among Indian websites, word for word, with no references cited.

    If we are to believe Wikipedia, Coomaraswamy went to America in 1917 to accompany his wife on a concert tour. According to the DNB, “In 1917, following the donation of the Dennison W. Ross collection to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, Coomaraswamy was invited to take up the post as the museum’s research fellow in Indian, Persian, and Muhammadan art, a position he held until his death”. Up to 1917, he and his wife would appear to have been based, very naturally, in India,

    It is important to note that Coomaraswamy was born in August 1877; that conscription for married men in the UK was introduced in May 2016, for those aged under 41; and that in India it was, for obvious reasons, never introduced at all. Also, that as from April 1917 the USA was actually at war on the same side as the UK.

    I suspect that the story of exile, bounty and so forth may be no more than a flight of patriotic fantasy.

    1. UK world War I conscription was introduced in 1916
      AC born in 1877 so in 1916 he would have been 39.

      Very eligible to be conscripted.

      Autobiography (if there is one) should clear up the issue.

      There seems to be indications that AC supported caste, or at the very least skilled craftsmen being within a community. Not seen outright endorsement of caste comments. But plenty of words to the effect “comfort of knowing ones place in life”.

      1. The Military Service Act, 27th Jan 1916, provided that every unmarried male British subject, aged between 18 and 40 and ordinarily resident in Britain as on 15 August 1915, or becoming so later, should be deemed to have enlisted.

        Coomaraswamy was married, but that exemption was removed later.

        He was, under current law, a British subject, having been born in Ceylon. Whether he was “ordinarily resident in Britain” at the relevant dates is uncertain: he seemed to have moved frequently between England, Ceylon and India.

        The First Schedule to the Act provided exemption to “men ordinarily resident in His Majesty’s dominions abroad, or resident in Great Britain for the purpose only of their education or for some other special purpose”. It is possible that such exemption would have applied to Coomaraswamy.

        There are complicated provisions in the Act for potential conscripts appealing to tribunals. I can find no reference for legal powers to exile anyone, or to put a bounty on their head.

        The story of his exile, and so forth, is unknown to reputable sources such as the DNB, and seems unlikely given his comfortable residence in the USA when that country was on the same side as Britain. It is echoed from one Indian blogsite to another, with no references being cited.

        I continue unpersuaded that the story of his exile, and so forth, is anything other than a patriotic myth. If anyone can produce solid evidence otherwise, I will of course accept it.

        None of this is in any way intended to detract from Coomaraswamy’s justifiably excellent reputation as an art historian.

  6. To those who TLDR the long article, read the following claim for Ananda Coomaraswamy:
    He claimed fluency in 36 languages, where his definition of fluency in a language is the ability to read a scholarly article without referring to a dictionary.

    Thanks to sbarrkum for introducing a real personality. My loss I never heard of AC before.

  7. @Vijay,

    Thanks for the commentary on tonsure.

    Although it could be a Buddhist/Jain renunciation tradition, tonsure ceremony for young children, and at death rituals (usually by sons or who participated in cremation) seems to indicate some kind of cleansing ritual too. I read somewhere tonsure is done at Varanasi too. Makes sense if it is related to cremation.

    Anyways, Tirumala has a very intriguing history. It was good to know this.

  8. Vijay

    “The earliest large tank dates from the 4th century B.C.”
    I see this claim everywhere without evidence. Lakes or tanks cannot be carbon dated.

    I think fired clay bricks can be carbon dated.

    Tanks in SL are dated by the year of reign of the King who is supposed to have commissioned building. Dating Kings reign from Mahavamsa is straightforward, as a single dating system, i.e from the year of the passing of Buddha.

    Fourteenth century book named “Pradhana Nuwarawal” (Major Cities) states that Panduwas Nuwara and Panda Wewa were built by King Panduwas Dev
    http://mahavamsa.org/2008/05/king-panduvasdev-king-lanka/
    From the Mahavamsa we know the year (474 bc) of Panduwas Deva’s (Vijayas brother) reign

    King Devanampiyatissa’s second brother, the vice-regent named Mahanaga, was dear to his brother. The king’s consort, that foolish woman, coveted the kingship for her own son and ever nursed the wish to slay the vice-regent, and while he was making the tank called Taraccha* she sent him a mango fruit
    http://mahavamsa.org/mahavamsa/original-version/22-birth-prince-gamani/

    Gamini=Dushta Gamini=DutuGemunu 161 BC.

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