Buddhists march in Thailand to raise issue of improper use of Buddha’s image

Thailand is a beautiful Southeast Asian nation with a tropical climate which as described by the U.S. Department of State has a population of about 66.7 million people in a nation which is equivalent to the size of France. It is estimated that about 94% of the people in Thailand are Buddhists with 5% Muslims, 1% Christians, Hindi, Brahmin and others. The government of Thailand is a Constitutional monarchy.

The King of Thailand is the Chief of State and the Prime Minister is the Head of Government. When visiting Thailand you get the feeling the King’s Buddhist religious belief system has a great influence on his impressive manner of dealing with national interests. The Buddhist Channel has reported “Buddhists march in Bangkok to speak out to the world to stop disrespecting Buddha.”

For the first time in history the Knowing Buddha Foundation is preparing a Buddhist march to speak out against the improper usage of Buddha’s image in the modern world. This march will take place on June 30 in one of the Bangkok’s most famous streets, Khao San Road. These Buddhists feel they have been silent for too long about the disrespectful uses of Buddha’s images and name by many people in many parts of the world. The message they are planning to bring to the world is “Stop Disrespecting Buddha.”

During this march signs will show that Buddhism is the father religion to Thailand and they will convey how the world should treat Buddha with respect. A highlight of the march will be large size signs depicting “Enough” on the Buddha Bar picture, and also the sign “No!” on the Disney movie “Snow Buddies” which use Buddha’s name as a Dog.

There are said to be many other businesses which use Buddha’ images in commerce, which will also be reflected in the march. It is hoped this march, which is called ‘Dharma Gratitude’ and which it will start at 5pm on Saturday June 30th, will successfully convey a message of distaste for anyone who shows disrespect for Buddha, who is the prophet of Buddhism.
Harold Mandel

This photo had been taken in Indonesia.

Of course there is NO BUDDHA BAR in Thailand.

Just imagine a Jesus Bar in Rome or in Jerusalem.

Just imagine a dog called Mahomet in a movie.


‘Connecting’ art

Tranquility in Green by Vijit Pillai

Tranquility in Green by Vijit Pillai

It is an art form that has been in existence since ages. Spiritual art has fascinated people and continues to fascinate many. Whether it was America’s propagation of the Tantrik art during the 1970s or the recent surge in the Buddha creatives — spiritual art is expanding beyond the niche circles of art market.

The recent art exhibition at Moment Mall in Delhi based on the theme of spirituality and Tarun Cherian’s exhibition A Piece of Heaven in Bengaluru — had many takers. Hyderabad-based Vijit Pillai is one such upcoming artist who is focused on creatives that connect with people’s inner self. Vijit’s Buddha created with mixed media is popular not just in the South but also in the capital, where he showcased some of his work. “I believe God and Goddesses are relevant to everyone’s life. But my creations had to cut across religion, culture and traditions. I chose to work on the Buddha because I am deeply inspired by Buddha Bar music and I haven’t seen much of Buddha creatives other than statues and sculptures,” says Vijit who creates layered pieces with photography, painting and graphic techniques.

But more important than the technique and process is what goes on in the artist’s mind. The optimism and the energy from the creator emanates through the artwork. Bengaluru-based Tarun Cherian is one such artist, whose work captivates the viewers and keeps them transfixed. “There have been instances when viewers have been overwhelmed by a deep sense of energy and power. A few have even termed it psychedelic but it isn’t. The idea is to let the energy flow to the person,” he says.

Though the art has been popular among new collectors and those who are spiritually inclined, art experts say it is not something that can be showcased at art symposiums. “It is not like contemporary art. A Buddha painting will not be sent to a biennale. But the icons are considered timeless and something that is evolving with time,” says Hemant Sreekumar, curator, W+K Exp. But these works are popular collectibles among all art enthusiasts. “The non-figurative, non-controversial, non-religious, apolitical and universal appeal makes the artworks exotic in some sense and that’s why this art form has remained popular,” says Johny ML, senior art critic and curator.


The art of Feng Shui

By Dilrukshi Fernando A journey into the mystique�a world where one gets to traverse the stars, planets and ancient mythology, even for a brief moment and has the chance to peer into one’s destiny� this would be the most apt way to describe the unforgettable encounter with Feng Shui consultant Neesha Rajwnaie at her suite at the Hilton Colombo Residencies.In Sri Lanka on her sixth visit, Neesha continues her tour through Asia, after a successful world tour promoting all streams of metaphysics. To be frank, my first impressions upon seeing her in her trendy attire were ones mixed with skepticism. Can she really see into people’s future? I wondered. My companion, a firm believer in the powers of Feng Shui was definitely more excited than me. It was plain curiosity that drew me into that room with burning incense sticks and a stunning view of Colombo from its huge glass windows. Instructed to remove our shoes we sat before Neesha, at a table which amalgamated the past with the present. Alongside a mobile phone and laptop lay four crystal prisms, a pink quartz pyramid and a pack of Tarot cards. The furniture in the room has been rearranged in accordance with Feng Shui principles the minute she entered it, a habitual practice she abides by all over the world.

Feng Shui which literally translates into ‘wind-water’ can be defined as the art of luck management which enhances the quality of life. It involves achieving the balance of positive energy around you which can impact your career, relationships, health and wealth. The secret lies in the orientation, layout and alignment within your property. Feng Shui is a step of other forms of metaphysics as it brings about tangible changes into lives of people. Despite the misconception that Feng Shui is only a Chinese myth, it actually has a scientific foundation. Its relationship with the four elements of fire, water, earth and fire contribute to a harmony revered in many cultures and civilizations.


“A beginner who wishes to learn the art should save up and take lessons form a Grand Master of Feng Shui,” advices Neesha. Although most Feng Shui instructors have a tendency to sell several trinkets as good luck charms, Neesha has none to offer unless a client wishes to place an order. She does not believe that the more money one spends on the charms has the power to bring you more luck. “It all depends on your luck. No one can rewrite another’s destiny. All we can do is to reduce the intensity of the negative forces and boost the positivism,” she adds. According to her Feng Shui is no longer confined to Asia and has extended even to the White House and the corporate world, the latter for which she constantly gets invitations to conduct workshops.

We are shown the various talisman, runes, compasses, Dzi beads; which have healing powers and are very expensive; voloos which are intended for homes and vehicles and 100 year old copper coins. All these implements are used in various activities such as healing rituals and prayer rituals. The elaborate designs worked in red, gold and green on the compasses fascinate me and I find myself asking “Can I have a Tarot reading?” for which Neesha complies and rewards me with some interesting insights into my future, with one revelation that startles me. Reduce my intake of salt and increase intake of water- so what? you might think. But having experienced a severe case of dehydration the previous day the advice was eerily accurate!

Having embraced the art ten years ago, Neesha’s entry into Feng Shui came as a diversion to a troubled personal life and financial difficulty. Her journey was long and arduous and required tutelage of several Feng Shui masters from all over the world. However a decade later, she stands tall as a professional who has the ability to do a complete Feng Shui reading for a two- roomed house in forty five minutes. “This is a record personally as earlier I took nearly three hours,” Neesha smiles. She is also teacher, a certified Gemologist, Reiki master and a Pranic healer, who is an ardent believer in the healing power of prayer.

She has arranged special rates for her Sri Lankan clientele, including a Do It Yourself variety of Feng Shui, where clients can participate in the process by drawing the respective property on paper for which Neesha charges only consultation fees. Though the charges are rather expensive, it is worth every penny as it becomes a long term investment for the betterment of one’s life.


Group to set up special Asian Heritage Museum

KUALA LUMPUR: With support from two ministries, a Kuala Lumpur-based group is formalising efforts to set up the innovative Asian Heritage Museum. It intends to start with 1,000 pieces of historical and geological artifacts, with several pieces going as far back as 5,000 years.

The group intends to apply multimedia, animation and live exhibitions to promote the varied aspects of Asian cultural heritage.

The group, which prefers to remain anonymous for now but is endorsed by distinguished and highly respected personalities, has secured the services of British museum and research experts, who visited Kuala Lumpur last month to verify the artifacts as authentic and historical.

Besides housing the artifacts and using them to link Southeast Asian history with the rest of Asia, there will also be educational galleries on Asian martial arts, costumes, food, and arts and craft. Also planned are major touring exhibitions and the hosting of arts and heritage events.

“The long-term vision of the group is to transform the project into a mega Asian cultural village with the participation of major Asian powers from Asean, China, India, Japan and South Korea,” a representative of the group said.

The main message, the representative said, was to convey Asia’s proud history. Both Asians and the rest of the world have much to learn about the diversity and dynamics of Asian cultural heritage, he said.

“This project should place Kuala Lumpur ahead on the world map for tourism and heritage. In addition to other benefits, the museum project is designed to also boost tourism revenue.”

The group intends to set up an advisory international heritage panel (much like the industry advisory panel for the Multimedia Super Corridor project), comprising respected personalities from the region.

“Another value of the project is in the promotion of Asian peace, especially in the light of conflicts in disputed islands and seas,” the representative said.

“Promoting cultural goodwill can be a positive influencer on peace.”

The museum project, if undertaken in Kuala Lumpur, would involve the tourism as well as information, communications and culture ministries, which have already given their backing, various agencies and foreign investments.

However, there is one concern: the group is unsure which ministry or agency should be approached for funding and a suitable venue.

The group recently pitched the idea to the Public-Private Partnership Unit (Ukas) in the Prime Minister’s Department where it made a presentation and submitted a formal request for a suitable venue and some financial support.

To set up a world-class museum overseas may cost as much US$500 million (S$638.7 million) or even more, depending on the quality of artifacts, but the representative said the group was seeking a one-time fund of RM50 million (S$20.1 million) to kick-start the project.

“The group does not mind taking a commercial loan. But will local banks give loans using artifacts as collateral?” the representative queried.

Alternatively, the group could entertain financial support from certain regional groups who are interested to take over the artifacts and concept and host the project in another country.

“However, we’d prefer that the project be set up in Malaysia, the country being the apex of the region,” the representative said.

Based on their business plan, the museum is commercially viable, targeting one million tourists in the first year of operations and 2.5 million tourists by the fifth year.

About eight million tourists visited Kuala Lumpur last year.

The representative said Malay-sians, made up of various Asian races, took their cultural diver-sity and need to promote it for granted.

“Despite 45 years’ of formation, the attitude is the same in Asean, where there seems to be a lack of economic integration,” the representative said.

“Understanding cultural sensitivities is a must before doing business in another country.

“Any grouping cannot achieve economic integration without promoting multicultural understanding and goodwill.

“That’s the problem that Asean or even greater Asia needs to address urgently.

“But a solution may already be available in Kuala Lumpur,” the representative said.


Researcher keeps watch on Cambodia’s Angkor Wat for half a century

For half a century, Yoshiaki Ishizawa, a former president of Sophia University, has studied and worked to preserve the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Ishizawa, 74, is now preparing to guide Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito when he visits the complex on Thursday.

Many of Ishizawa’s Cambodian colleagues were lost in the massacres perpetrated by the Pol Pot regime and the nation’s civil war. He has also seen the temples deteriorate, but he continues to offer assistance, saying, “I want Cambodians to preserve these great ruins.”

“I want to tell the crown prince about Cambodian Buddhism’s worldview, which is carved in a gallery,” Ishizawa said.

Ishizawa first visited Angkor Wat in 1961 as a university student. He was impressed by the size of each stone used to build the temples and wanted to know the wishes and prayers of the people who built them. To that end, he became an assistant to a French researcher.

In the 1970s, Ishizawa could not enter the country because of the Pol Pot regime’s atrocities and the country’s civil war.

In 1980, he received a telegram from fellow researchers in Cambodia seeking his help. Although there had been nearly 40 Cambodian researchers, the telegram told Ishizawa the number had fallen to three due to the violence.

That year, Ishizawa entered Cambodia for the first time in 12 years. Angkor Wat had not been destroyed, but the stones had deteriorated and the complex was in bad condition.

“I thought these great ruins inherited from their ancestors should be repaired by Cambodians themselves,” Ishizawa said. To this end, he recruited young people from nearby villages and began by mowing the grass in the complex.

Wishing Cambodians to take over the mission of the lost researchers, Ishizawa began fostering young scholars in the country. Some Cambodian students have studied at Sophia University on scholarships from the Japanese government.

With cooperation from Japanese companies, Sophia University established its Asia Center for Research and Human Development in 2002 near Angkor Wat. It offers Cambodians instruction in such expert fields as archaeology, geology and ecology in their home country.

Ishizawa has visited Cambodia more than 100 times in the last half century. He now spends at least three months a year there.

He has always told young Cambodians, “Observe the letters on these stone monuments,” which are written in ancient Cambodian. Ishizawa said he wants young Cambodians to be proud of their ancestors’ great achievements and contribute to rebuilding the country.

The Khmer Empire, which built Angkor Wat, also constructed excellent water-utilization systems, which supported a prosperous life for its people.

The crown prince’s academic life work is studying transportation by water, water utilization and other water-related affairs. He is said to be interested in water utilization at Angkor Wat.

The crown prince was to depart for Thailand on Monday and arrive in Cambodia on Wednesday.

Angkor Wat is a complex of stone temples near Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. The most prominent feature of the complex - the most famous remnant of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from the ninth to 14th centuries - is a 65-meter-high spire.

In 1992, Angkor Wat was registered as a World Heritage Site. On the surface of the gallery, there are letters in black ink that are believed to have been written by Japanese people who traveled to the country aboard trade ships in the initial years of the Edo period (1603-1868).


Pakistan: Buddha attacked by Taliban gets facelift

JAHANABAD, Pakistan (AP) — When the Taliban blew the face off a towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving of Buddha in northwest Pakistan almost five years ago, it fell to an intrepid Italian archaeologist to come to the rescue.

Thanks to the efforts of Luca Olivieri and his partners, the 6-meter (nearly 20-foot)-tall image near the town of Jahanabad is getting a facelift, and many other archaeological treasures in the scenic Swat Valley are being excavated and preserved.

Hard-line Muslims have a history of targeting Buddhist, Hindu and other religious sites they consider heretical to Islam. Six months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Taliban shocked the world by dynamiting a pair of 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in central Afghanistan.

The Jahanabad Buddha, etched high on a huge rock face in the 6th or 7th century, is one of the largest such carvings in South Asia. It was attacked in the fall of 2007 when the Pakistani Taliban swarmed across the scenic Swat Valley. The army drove most of them out two years later, but foreign tourists who used to visit the region still tend to stay away.

Olivieri himself had to leave in 2008 after more than two decades of tending to the riches dating back to Alexander the Great and the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim invaders who followed. The 49-year-old head of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan returned in 2010 and is back at work.

Taliban militants climbed ropes to insert explosives in holes drilled into the face and shoulders of the Jahanabad Buddha, said Olivieri. The explosives in the shoulders failed to detonate, but the others blew off most of the face above the lips and cracked other parts of the carving and surrounding rock.

Olivieri and his team began work this month on fixing the cracks and what’s left of the face. A full reconstruction is impossible because detailed documentation and fragments of the face are lacking.

“Whatever you do in the absence of perfect data is a fake,” said Olivieri, who says he has wanted to be an archaeologist since age 6 and still brings a youthful exuberance to his work even as his beard grows gray.

Arriving as a university student in 1987, he was fascinated by Swat, once an important center of Buddhist culture and trade. The monk credited with introducing Buddhism to Tibet, Padmasambhava, was born in Swat.

In more recent decades, the area was known as “the Switzerland of Pakistan,” popular with religious tourists from China, Japan and South Korea, and the hope is that restoration of the Jahanabad Buddha will spark a revival of tourism here.

Olivieri’s mission is funded by the Italian government, which works with local Pakistani antiquities authorities. It has uncovered over 120 Buddhist sites among Swat’s soaring hills and rushing rivers. Of roughly 200 Buddhist rock carvings in Swat, the Jahanabad Buddha was among the few to survive with its face intact for so long, said Olivieri. Most were defaced centuries ago by Muslim invaders who, like the Taliban, consider Buddha a false idol.

Maulana Shamsur Rehman, a leading Islamist politician in Swat, says the attack on the Buddha should never have happened. Islam preaches freedom and protection for followers of all religions, he told The Associated Press, and “in line with Islamic rules, nobody should have an objection to the repair work on the Buddha statue.”

In 2001, militants damaged the excavated ruins of a 7th century Hindu temple in Swat overlooking a stronghold conquered by Alexander in the 4th century B.C. Unable to protect the temple, the Italian mission had to rebury it.

Ironically, the site that Olivieri was most worried about during the Taliban’s violent reign in Swat was an Islamic one — the roughly 1,000-year-old Udegram Ghaznavid mosque, the third oldest in Pakistan. He feared the militants would occupy and damage it, but that never happened.

Pakistani security officials say the Taliban are again trying to infiltrate Swat, but militants are not the only threat to the archaeological sites. Looters are perhaps a bigger problem. Many relics looted from Swat are in private and public collections around the world.

In December police arrested several men in Swat and seized a roughly one-meter-(three-foot) tall, 1,800-year-old Buddhist statue that could have fetched tens of thousands of dollars on the international antiquities market.

The Italian mission has posted guards at the most important sites and is also training them to become guides by teaching them English, first aid and basic conservation techniques, said Olivieri.

The mission opened in 1955 in an office provided by the Wali of Swat, the one-time princely ruler of the territory. To furnish a taste of home, its first draftsman painted a mural of Rome’s Spanish Steps in the dining room.

The feeling of glimpsing Italy in the wilds of Pakistan’s northwest continues today. There’s espresso in the morning and Italian olive oil on the dining room table. A Fiat Campagnola jeep shipped from Italy in 1955 is due to end up in a museum in Swat.

SEBASTIAN ABBOT Associated Press


Associated Press writer Sherin Zada contributed to this report.


Saving Oakland’s ‘favorite’ Buddha (Community Voices)

The Buddha on 11th Avenue, by Dan Stevenson

The Buddha on 11th Avenue, by Dan Stevenson

When I first put out information about the 11th Avenue Buddha that I have had time to check my records, I found that Lu and I installed the Buddha in 2009 as an experiment to see if we could change the energy of our corner divide and keep the garbage and mattresses from being dumped there constantly.

At that time we were calling the city at least twice a week reporting illegal dumping. It usually took them a week or two to do a pick up and by that time another load had been left because the exiting pile was like a magnet for continued dumping. Besides the illegal dumping there was constant graffiti tagging which the city seldom did anything about. Another neighbor and I traded off cleaning it up. Add to that the drug activity and the urination problem and the traffic divide was a mess.

So I went to ACE hardware and found a concrete garden sculpture of the Buddha and brought it home. He sat in our basement for several weeks because I had to figure out how to install it so no one could steal him once installed. This is Oakland after all.

Once I came up with a plan we installed the Buddha. The Buddha sat there for several months and slowly we noticed slight changes in the garbage environment. The garbage and mattresses didn’t stop arriving but the dumping occurred on the other end of the street divide from where Buddha sat. Buddha just sat there and never said a word.

Within the first year the graffiti was reduced by 50% and the drug and urination problem was lessened as well. And all the Buddha did was sit there. It was well into the second year that someone painted the Buddha a beautiful soft white and a short time after that offerings started to appear.

At first, oranges and pears. Then flowers and candy. And then large flower arrangements and bowls of fruit and finally the incense.

For a long time I did not see anyone bringing the offerings. They just appeared. Along with all this new activity the area continued to change and the illegal dumping all but disappeared.

Many neighbors started to pick up and clean the area more. And due to people being present at different times of the day the drug and urination problem ended.

Buddha just sat there saying not a word. As time passed the immediate neighbors and extended neighborhood tended to stop and view the Buddha. Whether they were walking their dogs or taking an evening stroll they would stop and seem to ponder and many times get into conversations while viewing the Buddha. People talking to each other.

The Buddha just continued to sit there and never saying a word. About two months ago a Vietnamese fellow and his wife came to our door and asked if I would mind if he put a little house around the Buddha and I informed him that I had no issue with that and that he didn’t have to seek our permission because the Buddha we installed was a civic Buddha and didn’t belong to us but to the community.

Since then people come and pay their respects to Buddha in large numbers throughout the day. They sweep and tend the area everyday and their presence creates a people presence which in many neighbors’ minds makes the neighborhood feel safer.

Lu and I are not Buddhists and we installed this Buddha because we felt that he was a neutral being that denotes compassion, brotherhood, and peace. The fact that our experiment has proven more successful than we had ever imagined is a wonderful thing for us and our neighborhood. And to think that this Buddha has just sat there all this time and never said one word.

Contemplate that! Recently because of the increased activity around the Buddha someone called the City Public Works Department to complain about its presence.

It was a Monday morning when a neighbor called me and informed me that a Public Works supervisor from the City was in the neighborhood looking for information about the Buddha so I came out to see what the problem happened to be.

The supervisor informed me that the Buddha was going to be removed because an anonymous (single) complaint had been made about the Buddha. The supervisor explained that if I could get hold of the people who had installed the Buddha and have them remove the little house and the Buddha beforehand, his crew wouldn’t have to come out and dismantle it and throw it away.

I explained to the supervisor the history of the Buddha related above but he said that the Buddha would have to be removed. He also informed me that if mattresses and garbage appeared again after the Buddha had been removed that I had his assurance that the City would come out and pick them up.

The Buddha just sat there across the street from our conversation and said not a word. It wasn’t more than five minutes from the time the Public Works supervisor pulled away in his new clean pick-up truck until I was on my computer asking for help from the neighbors and the community as a whole to help save the Buddha.

There has been a remarkable outpouring of letters of heartfelt support asking for the Buddha to remain in his place undisturbed.

The Public Works Department with the input of City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, halted the dismantling of Buddha in order to “study the situation”.

This is a step in the correct direction. With all that Oakland needs to do to improve community just maybe not attempting to dismantle what is working may be a good starting point.

For the time being the Buddha is just sitting there and he hasn’t said a word.


Artist creates Yokohama bodhisattvas

Eleven bodhisattvas stand in formation, their heads crowned and their almond-shaped eyes and faces dusted with gold.

News photo
Eye-stopping: A symmetrical image of a volunteer bodhisattva created after artist Tetta’s making-up by flipping one side of a photo of her face to form the other side. © TETTA

The scene could be a reenactment of a painting, or a sculpture in a Buddhist temple or museum. But it’s not. It’s a scene beheld one recent Sunday afternoon at the shopping center in Yokohama’s Noge district — and the potential Buddhas are in reality just regular Earthlings.

For the last two years, a Japanese artist named Tetta has been working to re-create the 1,000 more than 800-year-old bodhisattva statues in the Sanjusangendo Hall at Rengeoin Temple in Kyoto using people made up and dressed appropriately — and that sunny Sunday she’d brought her workshop to Noge, where 11 volunteers awaited her. “Bodhisattvas are those who are undergoing ascetic training to attain spiritual enlightenment,” explained Tetta, of those frequent subjects of Buddhist art and sculpture. She said some people who have taken part in her workshops have described experiencing “instant enlightenment.”

“Spending hours for the makeup and then walking around the streets with the embarrassing stuff on” is akin to ascetic training, Tetta mooted.

The 29-year-old artist based in Kanagawa Prefecture asked the 11 participants, including a university friend and that friend’s friends at a Yokohama samba school, to meet in a municipal facility in Noge for a workshop on Buddha statues and how to make themselves look like bodhisattvas.

The mortal crew’s transformation to near-Buddhahood began with Tetta giving a lecture on four kinds of Buddhist statues — including ones of Tathagata (Nyorai in Japanese), who achieved enlightenment, and bodhisattvas (bosatsu), who are humans on the brink of attaining enlightenment. Tetta explained that each of the 1,000 bodhisattvas in Sanjusangendo Hall in Kyoto has a different face, so her plan is to help 1,000 people to transform themselves into bodhisattva lookalikes, then to photograph them and exhibit the pictures in Sanjusangendo-like lines in the future.

“Today, I want each of you to become one of the 1,000 bodhisattvas,” Tetta declared, adding that so far she has taken pictures of 853 people made up to look the part.

News photo
Transformed beings: A group of 11 of artist Tetta’s bodhisattvas pose in the street in Noge, Yokohama. Tetta aims to recreate in an artwork the famed 1,000 bodhisattva statues in the Sanjusangendo Hall of Rengeoin Temple in Kyoto. © TETTA

After finishing her lecture illustrated with slides, Tetta showed the group how to start their transformations by painting base cream and powdery foundation on the face of one of their group, a man named Kenji Suzuki.

Suzuki said he joined in because he had seen “The March of Human Bodhisattvas,” an installation-like event organized by Tetta and performed at the Yokohama Triennale last October. “I am interested in Buddhism, but I also thought this workshop would be a rare chance to ‘become’ Buddha,” said the 48-year-old welder.

Next, still using Suzuki as a model, Tetta showed how to apply thick eyeliner around the eyes and then paint in the space between the lines and his eyes in black.

“You need to do your makeup so your eyes look three times bigger than your own,” Tetta said, pointing out that bodhisattvas’ faces are strikingly three-dimensional.

Then it was time for the audience to act on their own and go for those big, big eyes. First, they had to apply heavy black eyeliner, then an outer wide swath of eye shadow in whatever favorite color they chose — whether green, pink, blue, purple or whatever.

Susumu Fushimi, meanwhile, said it was his first time to use makeup. “But it’s fun having a makeover and I want to do it again,” he said — while struggling valiantly to daub himself in just the right places.

But Tetta and some of the women would-be bodhisattvas spotted Fushimi’s struggle, and the other male participants’ futile efforts to eyeline themselves, and came to their rescue — so doubtless gaining points for a better reincarnation in the process.

Finally, after 2½ hours of struggle, all 11 members truly had eye-popping eyes — and the final stage of their transformation was upon them. Tetta showed them how to realize their cosmic goal, brushing golden powder on Suzuki’s face to cheers from the rest of the group. “You look divine! I feel like I want to worship you,” they said.

To top off their transformations, the golden-hued, big-eyed humans then donned golden paper crowns, swathed themselves in robes, and — good heavens ! — there they were: Yokohama bodhisattvas.

Tetta then took everyone’s picture for her art project and explained how, for the Sanjusangendo montage images, she would use software to flip the left side of the faces over the right side, too, so that the finished countenances were — unlike almost all humans’ faces — perfectly symmetrical.

“The faces of the bodhisattva statues are symmetrical, though humans’ are not,” Tetta said. “By composing symmetrical faces, even humans look divine.”

For the workshop’s grand finale, all 11 participants hit the streets of Noge. This part of the proceedings, Tetta said, was important so that, among the public, her bodhisattvas “could feel they had become different people.” The artist also said she of course hoped those only looking on would enjoy her living street-art display.

News photo
Old guard: Some of the 1,000 bodhisattva statues in the Sanjusangendo Hall of Rengeoin Temple in Kyoto. WIKI COMMONS

On that occasion, since many of the 11 volunteers were members of a samba music and dance team, parading in public was for them nothing new. Indeed, one of that team, Kimiko Nagasaka, said she felt passersby looked at her and the other bodhisattva cosplayers in a more casual manner than the intent way in which they watched the dancers’ every move during a samba parade.

One of those passersby, Binosu Mohan, an Indian employee of an IT company in Tokyo, said he came to Noge to watch a movie with some Indian friends, and was amazed to stumble across a group of Japanese bodhisattvas.

“I am very impressed by them,” the Chennai native said, after taking pictures with his mobile phone. “They somehow look like Hindu gods, too.”

Meanwhile, Ryota Yamakami, one of the volunteers who works for an event-organizing company, said the workshop had certainly been quite an experience for him.

“I felt like I could see the world in a different way, and I am sure that people on the street saw us as being very different from ordinary people,” the 26-year-old said. “I was also attracted by the mysterious beauty of Buddha statues. Their attraction has never faded even after thousands of years.”

After walking around Noge for half an hour, and featuring in countless photos, Tetta’s doughty dozen-less-one returned to the room from where they’d set out on their roads to enlightenment.

Looking happy as she removed her makeup, Kiyo Furusaki, a staffer at a music magazine, said she really enjoyed the day and had become interested in Tetta’s artwork.

Though by her own admission still a whisker or two off a state of enlightenment, she said she would recommend others to join a workshop — and declared, with wonderment in her eyes: “I feel like I am open and enlightened.”


Steeped in history, the cities of Songkhla and Phatthalung have a thriving culture not to be missed

The lesser-known towns in the south are charming, and Songkhla and Phatthalung are great examples, being rich in history, culture and religion.

The Chedi Tri Phob Tri Mongkol (meaning three worlds and three auspicious things) was built in 2006 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the King’s succession to the throne. The bright stupa looks like crystal, but is actually made of stainless steel. Located on Hong Hill in Hat Yai district, the stupa houses beautiful Buddha images. Locals believe that paying respect to the pagoda will also bring an auspicious life.

Songkhla has been home to Chinese Hokkien Thais and Muslim Thais for centuries. Although the old town of Songkhla does not have an outstanding road fully dotted with Sino-Portuguese buildings like the old town in Phuket, there are some old Sino-Chinese houses and shophouses to be found scattered in the old quarter, especially on three major streets _ Nakhon Noak, Nakorn Nai and Nang Ngam. Muslim communities also live their peaceful lives in the same area where their mosques can be seen not far from old Chinese shrines and Buddhist temples.

“We call our town ’small, but lovely’,” said Vudhichai Phetsuwan, a local and member of Songkhla Heritage Society, which was set up to promote tourism in the town.

“If you have time [to wander] around the three major streets, you will be able to spot old Sino-Portuguese shophouses while enjoying selections of local food and snacks in several Chinese restaurants in this old town,” he said.

Some shops also have a small information sign telling tourists about the history of the buildings, such as the noodle shop set up under a raised Chinese opera stage where customers must bend down to be seated, or stories behind their meals such as khanom khang khao (deep fried dole stuffed with sweet ground and dried shrimp or sweet taro), or khanom boak (glutinous rice pancake steamed in a tube and rolled over with mixed coconut and sugar).

However, some old houses are abandoned and the city municipality has offered to help restore the heritage buildings.

“There are 266 old houses which need to be restored, and 22 houses must be fixed immediately,” said Mongkol Chanintornsongkhla, head of city planning at Rajamangala University of Technology, Srivijaya. He formed a team with his students to survey the town and roll out a plan for the renovations.

With funding from a private company, the team suggest which houses are to be repaired and for what cost.

“On principle, we can fix only the exterior, because the project is for the preservation [of the charm] of the city,” he said.

Walking around this part of the old town is recommended in late afternoon or early morning when the sun is not too strong. But if you arrive in the middle of the day, an alternative is to take a tourist tram. The service is available daily from 9am to 3pm, starting from the city’s tourism office on Jana Road where the old house of privy councillor, Prem Tinsulanonda, now a museum, is located.

The tram will also tour Samila beach, the most popular beach in Songkhla. This coastline is about 6km long and the beach does not have any chairs or restaurants.

“You can sit anywhere you want and no one can charge you for the space,” said Vudhichai, who also acts as a guide.

In addition, there are many sculptures along the beach. Apart from the 46-year-old bronze mermaid sculpture, the Naga sculpture, right, is also the must-see.

Built in 2006, the mystical creature was recreated to bring good fortune and wealth to locals. It comprises of three parts. First is the head located on Laem Son On. Standing at 9m tall, the head symbolises intelligence and wisdom. The second shows a half-circle shape of the Naga’s body to symbolise prosperity. At 5m long and 2.5m high, visitors can pass under it. Last is the tail sculpture at 4.5m high and located at the other end of the beach to symbolise strength.

“[The] Naga sculpture is not only the gimmick of the town, but also the city icon,” Vudhichai said.

After the tour of Songkhla, you may want to travel a little further north to Phatthalung, a nearby province.

Along the way, there are several stops worth making, including Wat Khutao in Bang Klam, which houses a 100-year-old pavilion that was awarded an honourable mention at the Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2011. Another stop is at Wat Sathing Phra where an old stupa stores a relic of Lord Buddha.

It takes about one-and-a-half hours to travel between the two by car.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Phatthalung is well-known for Manora dancing and shadow play. Here you can find samples of shadow play at the Learning Centre and Art Gallery of Shadow Play located not far from the city pillar. The centre also has Manora dancing from 1pm to 2pm on Sundays.

Another popular stop in the town is the Thai-style wooden house of Phatthalung’s old ruler. Called Wang Kao (Old Palace), the property is preserved by the Fine Arts Department and open as a museum.

Of course, there are more attractions in both small towns. As a local intellect at Wat Khutao in Songkhla once said: ‘’Something might not have to be most beautiful, but it can be [valuable] because it is full of stories.'’


- Songkhla is located about 950km from Bangkok and connected to Kedah state in Malaysia. The centre of transportation and business is in Hat Yai, which also has an international airport serving direct flights between the town to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

- Bus, public van, songthaew, taxi and motorcycle taxi are means of transportation within Hat Yai and Songkhla or from those towns to Phatthalung.

- For more information about Songkhla and Phatthalung such as accommodation, restaurants and maps, visit www.tourismthailand.org or call 1672.

This century-old pavilion in Wat Khutao in Bang Klam district of Songkhla received an honourable mention in the 2011 Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. For decades, the pavilion served as a classroom for children living near the temple before a school was set up. About eight years ago, the temple was badly flooded, which made the pavilion lean to one side. It was left untouched until a teacher at Arsom Silp Institution of the Arts, a private institution of postgraduate programmes, lent a hand. The institute held several meetings with locals to ask them to restore the pavilion. ‘‘We did not know the value of what we had until someone told us. But we did not want to deal with strangers, especially those from Bangkok. We were afraid of being cheated by them,’’ said Plueng Suksawat, a local teacher and community leader. ‘‘But they made a great effort to show us that they were sincere by offering 15 students to stay and work with us for a month-and-ahalf until we did not have any doubt about their intentions.’’ Funding was supplied by the temple, and locals contributed their labour. Every detail was photographed and the repair work was done under the supervision of a technical specialist and participation of the institute. It took them two years to finish the renovations. ‘‘Our pavilion looks simple, but it is filled with our efforts to restore and conserve the old monastery structure. We want the world to see it,’’ Plueng said. Their effort earned them the Unesco award, which was a happy surprise for all. At present, the pavilion is also open for locals to use for monkhood ordination ceremonies. In addition to the pavilion, Wat Khutao also houses a unique style of murals inside its ubosot. The painting tells the story of Phrawet Sandon, the last life of Buddha before enlightenment, in characters of southern-style shadow play. ‘‘The paintings are also our pride,’’ Plueng said, adding that they were made by both temple monks and locals.
This white bell-shaped pagoda is located in Sathing Phra Temple, named after the district in Songkhla. Built in 939AD, the stupa is 25m high and 20m wide. Renovation was finished last year by the Fine Arts Department. In addition, the temple also houses an ancient 14m reclining Buddha believed to be built during the Srivichai kingdom.
Kittitat Sorawong, or Ta (Grandpa) to his students, has collected thousands of leather puppets used for nang ta lung (southern-style shadow play). He is not only a collector, but also produces the characters and teaches those who are interested in learning how to make the puppets to become puppeteers. ‘‘My students come from various provinces and different generations. The youngest one is four years old, while the oldest ones are retirees,’’ said Kittitat. He keeps his puppets in a small house in Muang, Phatthalung province, but is waiting for a museum of shadow play to be built not far from the city pillar. He said puppeteers must learn to tell stories, which are mostly based on a prince who has to leave his town and learn new skills from a hermit in a forest, in order to come back to save his town or his lover. Along the way, the prince must meet good and bad characters as well as comedians. ‘‘One scene can have two to seven characters played by one puppeteer. He must know how to handle dialogue in different voices, as well as be able to sing,’’ he said, adding it normally takes a person one year to build the skills, starting from step one — knowing the 18 main characters of 100 puppets. Kittitat has also set up an open-air stage where his students can practise shadow play and also puts on a performance at 1pm every Saturday. If you visit his house, which he calls the Learning Centre and Art Gallery of Shadow Play, you will be able to see how he and his team makes a puppet into a keychain.
The white pagoda in Wat Khien Bang Kaew in Khao Chaison district in Phatthalung is under renovation. It is believed to be one of the three ancient pagodas in the South alongside Phra Barommathat Chedi in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phra Barommathat Chaiya in Surat Thani, according to the present abbot, Phrakhru Kadem. Although it is not as big as the one in Nakhon Si Thammarat, this pagoda houses relics of Lord Buddha and is a sacred place for locals. Also seen in the picture is an ordination ceremony where an elephant carries three men who are to join monkhood.
Krid Rakprasut, who is 103 years old, poses in front ofWang Kao , or the Old Palace, which belonged to the ruler of Phatthalung, Phraya Apaiborirak, after whom the road from town to the palace is named. Founded during the period of King Rama V, the house was built as a traditional raised wooden house comprising two bedrooms, a porch connected to an outdoor living space, and a kitchen. Behind it is a white concrete structure calledWang Mai — or New Palace — which was built for Phraya’s son to succeed him as ruler. Khun yai (Grandma) Krid used to serve in the New Palace so she occasionally visits it to remind her of the good old days. The New Palace also housed a prison on the ground floor. The complex was renovated using a mix of wood and concrete for easy maintenance. At present, both Wang Kao and Wang Mai are maintained by the Fine Arts Department and open as a museum. The opening hours are daily (except Monday and Tuesday) between 8.30am and 4pm. The entrance fee is 10 baht.
housands of people participate in an annual festival at Wat Tha Kura in Songkhla at the beginning of May. The event is traditionally kicked off on the first Wednesday of the waning moon to celebrate the highly respected seated Buddha. Made of pure gold, the image is only 6cm high. It is normally wrapped and kept in a golden container for the whole year, except for the days of celebration when only the abbot can unwrap the Buddha and put it out for the public to water and pay respect. During the two-day event, people queued up in long lines to pay their respects to the small golden statue. They came from many places around the South because people believe that the statue can fulfil their wishes. Those whose wishes were previously granted must visit the temple during the festival to make an offering. The most popular offering is to do Manora dancing, a southern-style performance where dancers dress like a bird with wings, tail and a crown. Seen in the picture are locals who travelled to the temple to make their offerings. The queues were long and the stage always crowded with Manora dancers from the early morning until late afternoon.
A group of housewives packaging a local crispy snack. Each piece is made from the skin of seabass and is deepfried to serve as a snack or put into noodles or congee. Pongsawatt Yodsurang, a business owner, turned the formerly worthless skin into a million-baht business. ‘‘Songkhla is a big base for the frozen food industry for export. They take out the skin and deliver only frozen fish meat to Europe or Japan. Those skins were later sold for food for livestock at a cheap price. I thought we could do something with it, so I deep-fried them and sold it,’’ he said. Starting the business proved difficult for Pongsawatt. People did not dare to buy it because of the look of the fish skin, which was like a snake’s. ‘‘Fortunately, when the government announced the Otop (one tambon, one product) policy, I applied for the certification and got a chance to sell it at Otop City in Bangkok. Within 10 days, I earned 50,000 baht and got contacts from giant chain stores such as Top, Carrefour (which today is BigC Extra), Phufa and other distributors,’’ he said. Starting with a 5,000 baht investment in 2002, the deep-fried skin became popular and now brings in more than 10 million baht a year as orders top more than 12 tonnes of skin each month. Pongsawatt ploughs a part of the profits back into his village in tambon Koh Yo to improve water resources and other activities so people do not have to ask for funds from the government. Pongsawatt’s business hires local people and opens its door for public visits — especially from students — to learn how to start a successful business.
A coin-sized sweet is one of the Otop products from Muang Songkhla. Locals call itnam tan wan or sliced sugar. It is made of the sap from wine palm, which is boiled until it becomes gluey. The secret to making the sugar palm into the thin, small coinshape is adding sugar while boiling the sap. ‘‘We add sugar to make the texture firm, which makes it easy to put inside the dried leaf rings,’’ said Lamyong. The price of 1kg ofnam tan wan is 30 baht.


Asian antiques: Thanks to new donation, Berman collection now worth more than $1 million

Oliver Foo and his late wife Pei-hwa have been donating Asian artifacts to the Berman Museum of World History since 2001. Last month a final donation was made bring the total to more than $1.1 million. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

Oliver Foo and his late wife Pei-hwa have been donating Asian artifacts to the Berman Museum of World History since 2001. Last month a final donation was made bring the total to more than $1.1 million. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

In the basement of the Berman Museum of World History, collections of treasures are stacked on shelves, the floor, hung on the wall and packed in boxes.

Colorful cloisonné tables gleam in front of dusty shelves holding weathered architectural pieces salvaged from Asian buildings. A clay soldier kneels between two crowded shelves, and intricate Asian screens lean against the walls.

There is a lot of beauty in that basement, much of it donated by a couple from Maryland, long-time museum benefactors Oliver Foo and his late wife, Pei-hwa.

Since 2001, the Foos have been donating Asian artifacts from their personal collection, many of which have been on display in the Arts of Asia exhibit hall on the second floor of the Berman.

Last month, the Foos gave a final donation of more than 700 items, bringing the total worth of the Berman’s collection to $1.1 million.

The narrow aisles in the basement are dark and crowded, but regardless of their method of storage, Susan Doss, collections assistant at the museum, knows the value of the treasures. As she works — cataloguing, photographing and labeling each piece — it sometimes makes her nervous.

Wednesday morning, she and some of her teenage volunteers were wrapping up some 200- and 300-year-old chocolate pots. Doss pantomimed how she gingerly handled the fragile pots, holding her hands well away from her body and using only her fingers. One of her volunteers, a teenage boy well over 6 feet tall, wouldn’t even attempt it, she said, laughing.

Foo said his wife collected Asian artifacts over some 25 years. The two decided to donate the bulk of the items in preparation for a move from their home in Maryland to California, where their daughters live.

“We have a whole houseful of things, and what’s going to happen to that?” Foo said. His wife said to “pick some good ones” and call the Berman Museum.

Pei-hwa Foo died last year, before the donation could be completed.

The Foos considered several things when they chose where to donate the collection, including what would happen to the items after their donation.

His wife loved Asian art and culture, and she wanted other people to learn to appreciate it as well, Foo said.

“A lot of people do not know the Chinese furniture, the Chinese art and that kind of thing, and it would be good to let them know it is different,” he said.

Although their home in Maryland was close to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Foo said that if they donated the items there, they would most likely end up in the basement.

“My wife and I would like the things to be seen,” he said. “That made a lot of difference.”

The couple met some people from the Berman Museum at an antiques show in Atlanta and hit it off. The Foos knew a donation to the Berman would be displayed immediately. But much of the reason they chose the Berman was the personality of the people they met, Foo said. His wife ultimately made the choice.

“It all depends on personal feeling, where you go,” Foo said. “They are very, very nice and straightforward people.”

Cheryl Bragg, executive director of the museum complex, said she is grateful to the Foos for their generosity. The Berman board decided to name the Asian exhibit hall after the couple, and has already installed a brass plaque with their names at the entrance.

The Foos were careful in choosing the items they donated, creating a well-rounded exhibit for the museum, Bragg said.

“They would give us some porcelain, some pottery, some furniture, some tapestries and all of the different media,” she said. “It gives us really, truly, a world-class collection.”

It will take several years to cycle the pieces through display in the gallery, but that is a nice problem to have, Bragg said.

This latest donation includes about 500 books, valued at about $40,000, Doss said.

The museum hopes to create a research library in a room across the hall from the Asian gallery. The collection contains some books written in Chinese, but about 75 percent are written in English and many are reference books that are now out of print.

“We have a nice reciprocating program with Jacksonville State University,” Bragg said. “We could make that available to them if they’d like to use that.”

But anyone who is interested in learning more about Chinese history, or an item they might have, would be able to use the library to do some research, she said. The library should be open by January.

Some of the newest items are already on display, said Margie Connor, marketing manager for the museum complex. But others will have to wait as the museum works out the best way to display them. One such exhibit is a collection of about 100 puppets.

Right now, the museum is trying to work out how to display the puppets, showing off their costumes but not putting stress on the strings, which have become fragile.

The museum already knows it will be displaying the puppets on a rotating basis, about 18 to 20 at a time, in an area that now displays swords.

The museum plans to have the first of the puppets on display in time for Museum Day on Sept. 8.

Read more: Anniston Star - Asian antiques Thanks to new donation Berman collection now worth more than 1 million

by Laura Camper


Buddha at the crossroads

  • Thiyaganur buddha. Photo: A. Srivathsan
    The Hindu Thiyaganur buddha. Photo: A. Srivathsan
  • Their own Sami: Buddha with an angavastram. Photo: A. Srivathsan
    The Hindu Their own Sami: Buddha with an angavastram. Photo: A. Srivathsan
  • The Hindu
What explains the large number of Buddha statues in and around Thiyaganur, a nondescript Tamil Nadu village? We may never know, says A. SRIVATHSAN, after taking in some unusual forms of the Shakya Muni.

In most ways, Thiyaganur is a typical village in Tamil Nadu. Matchbox houses with gleaming white walls and red earth tiles, fields with irregular patterns, a provision store that sells garishly coloured beverages, and the occasional bus chugging through. The lime-washed temple, in this village 80 km north-west of Tiruchi, has a familiar air about it too. Until one gets closer.

Inside this modest structure, framed by four granite columns, is a six-foot Buddha — cross-legged, contemplative and smiling. The hitherto unnoticed peepal tree on the roadside, shading the temple, suddenly draws venerable attention.

This is not the only Buddha that the villages of Thiyagnur are familiar with. Around them, in their fields, on their roads and in the many villages nearby, lie scattered centuries-old Buddha sculptures — seated calmly and smiling benignly.

How did they come here?

The dense presence of Buddhas in this far-flung region is intriguing. Though Buddhism was widespread in Tamil Nadu, this region is not among the well-known Buddhist centres. The sculptures are a puzzle, and probably hold the key to an important part of history that is yet to be written.

The Buddha, as the Buddhist texts describe, is strikingly handsome, serene and radiant as “a palm-tree fruit just loosened from the stalk”. His calm appearance, topped with coal-black hair, is profoundly impressive. Villagers in Thiyaganur have not read these texts nor do they know about Buddhism, but they still vouch that these Buddha idols are kindly, attractive and bestow the boons one wishes for.

This is not surprising. To these villagers, He is not Shakya Muni — as the rest of the world knows the Buddha — but one of their Hindu gods. They fondly wrap Him with a silk angavasthram (an upper garment worn by the Tamil upper class), apply a streak of sandal paste on his forehead, and make offerings of coconut, plantain and camphor. They often beseech Him with prayers for good luck, well being and quick cure for their ailments. They call Him Buddha Sami (Buddha god).

G. Pandurangan, 71, the retired livestock supervisor now in charge of the temple, says, “People from a Buddhist monastery near Bangalore visited this temple sometime back. They wanted us to go to Bangalore and undertake training in the proper way to conduct rituals. They promised to bear the expenses. But we were not interested. He is our Buddha Sami and we want to worship him in the manner we know. We take good care of this temple and offer him sakarai pongal (sweetened steamed rice) and sundal (steamed and fried chick pea).”

Buddhism reached Tamil country during Emperor Ashoka’s reign — Third Century BCE. Its emphasis on moral values and egalitarian ideals were widely embraced. For 700 years, Buddhism flourished and coexisted peacefully with Jainism, Ajivikas and various sects of Hinduism. During the Sixth Century CE, the Bhakti movement and its Tamil saints seriously challenged Buddhism; royal patronage shifted and Buddhism’s influence became limited. When Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese traveller, visited South India in the Seventh Century, it was well past its prime.

A long presence

But contrary to popular perception, Buddhism did not completely disappear after this period. The discovery of many 13th Century Buddhist bronzes in Nagapattinam, the presence of Virasoliyam (an 11th Century grammar text composed by a Buddhist), and references to eminent scholars such as Anuruddha and Dharmakirti in later Buddhist texts establish that the religion thrived at least until the 14th Century. Nor was Buddhism limited to big urban centres like Kanchipuram or Madurai.

The sculptures of Thiyaganur offer ample proof. These statues — described more appropriately as Perambalur Buddhas, after the nearest well-known town — are stylistically datable to approximately the 11th Century. They are the last of the few in-situ evidences that speak of the wide presence of Buddhism. Protecting them is critical for any attempt to restore and rewrite a balanced history of South India. But they are perilously close to being lost. Apart from half-a-dozen Buddha stone sculptures found in villages around Thiyaganur — and worshipped by villagers — the others have been either decapitated or are close to destruction.

One such headless Buddha can be found amidst wildly grown thorns and vines in the backyard of a house in Kuzhumoor village. “Though not worshipped, He was at least intact when I last saw him,” lamented M. Selvapandiyan, a research scholar interested in the history of the Pachamalai tribal belt, hills that border Perambalur, who spotted this sculpture about six years ago. The photographs in his collection showed a serene Buddha with a profound smile. The villagers suspect two strangers who were roaming the streets a few months ago. “The two must have cut the head and taken it away. Perhaps they were idol thieves,” a few villagers living nearby speculated. However, none filed a complaint.

Not enough

Of the two Buddhas in Thiyaganur, the villagers worship one and ignore the other — a stunning, broad-shouldered Buddha, framed by a lone thin tree and seated under a canopy of blue sky — located in private property, amidst fields. The property owners continue to farm around the statue, without damaging it, but that may not be enough to safeguard it. The base of the sculpture is dangerously inclined, and it holds on to the earth precariously.

A relatively small-sized Buddha, overlooking a four-way junction in the nearby village of Paravai, fares somewhat better, as He is firmly cemented to a platform. But barring a few locals who garland Him before leaving abroad to work, this Buddha is barely attended to. He has no canopy or cover over the head.

This is not the case with the Buddha in a Dalit colony in Veeraganur. Lakshmi and her husband Muthuswami, a retired schoolteacher, regularly clean the statue, sweep the street in front and apply sacred ash on the forehead and arms of the statue. There are no elaborate pujas or rituals, but often, in the silent night, people come to place a stone on the idol’s head. To them, it is an offering that will help get rid of headache and related body pain.

Among all the Buddhas in the Perambalur region, the one in Ogalur is very popular, particularly with the `Friends in Dubai,’ a loose group of locals who work in West Asia. Members of this group pooled their money and raised Buddha from the sidewalks of the street to a higher platform. On the eve of their departure, they climb the flight of steps to garland him without fail. They believe that this old practice brings luck and protects them.

These appropriations have not disfigured the icons nor have they forced a name change. The villagers address and know these sculptures as Buddha — the curled hair, the tuft, the long ears and robes are still identifiable. But this is poor consolation. The question is whether these historical treasures survive to see the future. Art alone is not at stake; historical geography is too.

Nagapattinam Buddhas

Apart from stone sculptures, more than 400 Buddhist bronzes have been unearthed in Tamil Nadu. More than 350 are from the ancient port of Nagapattinam.

This historic city was an active Buddhist centre during the Chola period. During the 11th century CE, the Sailendra kings of Sumatra built a large vihara here, which was visited by Buddhist monks from different countries. A 15th century Pali inscription discovered at the old city of Pegu in Burma attests to this. Ruins of a ‘Buddhist pagoda’, till the Jesuit missionaries demolished them in the 19th century, were visible in Nagapattinam.

The Theravada or orthodox form of Buddhism, which views the Buddha as a great ascetic rather than a god, was widely prevalent in Tamil Nadu. However, many of the Nagapattinam bronzes belong to the the opposing tradition – the Mahayana, which views the Buddha as a superhuman. Along with the Buddha, images of Boddhisatvas such as Avalokitesvara were also discovered. These images, like the other Chola bronzes, are of appreciable artistic merit.

Many of these bronzes are now part of the Chennai Government Museum collection. Unfortunately, only a small number is currently on display.

For further reading: The Nagapattinam and other Buddhist Bronzes in the Madras Government Museum, T.N. Ramachandran, Museum Publication, 1954.



Hug the foot of Buddha statue ahend of gaokao

Yaoshan Mountain Scenic Area, a park in Pingdingshan, Central China’s Henan province, said on its website that college entrance examination sitters this year can visit its Buddha statue for free from June 6th to June 8th, to “hug the foot” of the 200m high statue.

The “hug” is a traditional Chinese saying for those who hope to get good luck before cramming for an exam instead of studying on a regular basis. The park tweeted the advertisement on weibo on June 5th, and it has been forwarded about 1,700 times.


azibaza.com advice: better to have a Buddha to hug at home. Less traveling.


Ancient Statue Reveals Prince Who Would Become Buddha

In the ruins of a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, archaeologists have uncovered a stone statue that seems to depict the prince Siddhartha before he founded Buddhism.The stone statue, or stele, was discovered at the Mes Aynak site in a ruined monastery in 2010, but it wasn’t until now that it was analyzed and described. Gérard Fussman, a professor at the Collège de France in Paris, details his study in “The Early Iconography of Avalokitesvara” (Collège de France, 2012).

Standing 11 inches (28 centimeters) high and carved from schist — a stone not found in the area — the stele depicts a prince alongside a monk. Based on a bronze coin found nearby, Fussman estimates the statue dates back at least 1,600 years. Siddhartha lived 25 centuries ago.

The prince is shown sitting on a round wicker stool, his eyes looking down and  with his right foot against his left knee. He is “clad in a dhoti (a garment), with a turban, wearing necklaces, earrings and bracelets, sitting under a pipal tree foliage. On the back of the turban, two large rubans [are] flowing from the head to the shoulders,” writes Fussman in his new book. “The turban is decorated by a rich front-ornament, without any human figure in it.”

The monk stands at the prince’s right side, his right forearm shown upright. In his right hand the monk holds a lotus flower or palm (now broken), and in his left is a round object of some kind.

Based on the iconography of the stele, particularly the pipal leaves, Fussman believes the prince is Gautama Siddhartha Sakyamuni, who is said to have achieved enlightenment, become a Buddha — someone of divine wisdom and virtue — and founded the religion of Buddhism. This stele shows him at an early moment in his life, when he has yet to start his fateful journey of enlightenment.

Siddhartha’s story

According to the story, Siddhartha’s father wanted him to follow a worldly path and tried to keep his son cloistered in a palace.

“Lotus pools were made for me at my father’s house solely for my use; in one, blue lotuses flowered, in another white, and in another red,” says Siddharthain ancient writings attributed to him. “A white sunshade was held over me day and night so that I would not be troubled by cold or heat, dust or grit or dew.” (This translation is from Rupert Gethin’s “The Foundations of Buddhism,” Oxford University Press, 1998.)

The prince’s life would change when he ventured outside the palace and saw the real world. “As soon as he left the palace he became pessimistic,” Fussman told LiveScience, “because by meeting these people, he knew that everybody is to work, everybody may become ill, everybody is to die.”

He grew disenchanted with palace life and left, becoming a poor ascetic.

Tibetan clues

Fussman said that this stele supports the idea that there was a monastic cult, in antiquity, dedicated to  Siddhartha’s pre-enlightenment life. This idea was first proposed in a 2005 article inthe journalEast and West by UCLA professor Gregory Schopen. Schopen found evidence for the cult when studying the Tibetan version of the monastic code, Mulasarvastivada vinaya. [Religious Worship: Top 10 Cults]

It’s a “cult focused on his image that involved taking it in procession through the region and into town,” Schopen wrote. “A cult tied to a cycle of festivals celebrating four moments, not in the biography of the Buddha but in the pre-enlightenment period of the life of Siddhartha.”

One section of the code authorizes carrying the image of Siddhartha (referred to as a Bodhisattva) on a wagon.

Whether or not the newly discovered stele went on a wagon ride, Fussman said the depiction of Gautama Siddhartha Sakyamuni before he became a Buddha provides further evidence of the existence of this cult. “Here also you have an instance of it,” he said in the interview, “the Buddha before he became a Buddha.”

Excavations continue at the Mes Aynak site as scientists explore the complex in an effort to save the artifacts before the area is disturbed by copper mining.

More here: http://www.livescience.com/20799-ancient-statue-reveals-prince-buddha.html


Secretary Defence unveils Buddha Statue at ‘Sandahiru Seya’

Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa unveiled the Buddha Statue placed in the precincts of the ‘Sandahiru Seya’, the triumphant Stupa at Anuradhapura today (5th June).

The five feet tall Buddha statue gifted by the Burmese government is made of marble and weighs three tons.

Participating in a series of religious events during the Poson Poya period the Secretary Defence also declared open the commemorative plaque. Afterwards he was invited to lay the foundation stone of the ‘Salapath Maluwa’. The Secretary Defence planted a ‘Nuga’ sapling to mark the occasion.

Under the government decision to erect nine monumental Stupas in nine provinces in appreciation of the noble services rendered by the Armed Forces and Police to defeat terrorism and bring lasting peace to the country the first ‘Sandahiru Seya’ is being built at the southern entrance of Jayasrimaha Bodhi in Anuradhapura.

The construction of the first Stupa is underway on the directions of Secretary Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The extent of the Stupa will be 255 feet while its height is 285 feet. Around 30 million bricks would be required for the construction together with 9.5 million lime stone, 50,000 cubes of granite, 20,000 cubes of ABC (Granite Powder) and 500,000 kilos of cement. Construction of the Stupa is estimated to take around four years. His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa had donated Rs.25 million for the construction.

Chief Prelates of adjoining Viharas, Chief Minister of the North Central Province, Commanders of the tri forces, Police chief, Director General of Civil Security Department, Mr. Lakshman Hulugalle, Defence Ministry officials Mr. S Hettiarchchi, Mrs. Indu Rathnayaka, Maj Gen (Retd) Palitha Fernando, Maj Gen (Retd) Kapila Hendawitharana and a large number of distinguished guests and pilgrims were present at the occasion.

The public can also join in to show their gratitude to the war heroes by generously contributing towards this meritorious deed. Every single cent donated will be utilized towards the worthy cause. Those interested in witnessing progress of the construction can visit the site at Anuradhapura (near to the southern entrance of Sri Maha Bhodi and opposite the Sarananda Pirivena).


Rare Rhinoceros Horn Cup Graces Asian Sale

Lot8096 a RhinoCup.

Michaan’s Auctions is excited to have acquired an exceptional example of one of the most coveted forms of Asian works of art in the marketplace. Lot 8096 is a carved rhinoceros horn ‘lotus’ libation cup, a jewel in the crown of the Fine Asian Works of Art Auction to be held on June 17, 2012 ($40,000-60,000). The piece is an extraordinary testament to the traditional art form. It is one of those rare objects whose intrigue and value continue to attract many different types of collectors, progressively reaching new levels of value, importance and desirability. Rhino horn works are estimated at a total number of less than 4,000 worldwide. The scarcity of these works of art as well as the rhino itself explains why well-preserved rhinoceros horn carvings of the finest craftsmanship are extremely sought after in today’s market. Rhinoceros horn carvings have been historically regarded as national treasures and the rhino horn itself as one of the most precious materials known to man.The exquisitely carved cup from the 17th to 18th century is fashioned in the form of a furled lotus leaf. A ribbon-tied cluster of high-relief lotus flowers with lotus leaves, seed pods, lychee fruits and branches issue from elegant reticulated stalks at the base of the piece. The horn displays an overall deep, rich honey tone whose highly polished surface holds a beautiful luster as well. The cup is then held by a custom made reticulated lotus theme hardwood stand, a lovely compliment to the masterwork. Measuring 6 1/2 inches in height and weighing 219 grams, the cup is a substantial piece in stature as well.

Lot 8136 - a bell.

Acquired in Hong Kong in the 1970s by a private Los Angeles collector is an exceptional gilt-bronze archaistic ritual bell (lot 8136, $20,000-30,000). The bell displays a rare decorative scheme that makes it quite an unusual find. It appears that only two other comparable examples are known; one sold at Christie’s, London on March 29, 1966 as lot 171 and the other sold at Sotheby’s, Paris on June 9th, 2010 as lot 43.Bells of this type were known as bianzhong and were usually assembled in graduated sets of sixteen, providing twelve musical tones with the four repeated notes in lower or higher octaves. They were also suspended in two tiers of eight attached to tall wooden frames. This arrangement is depicted in a Court painting by Guiseppe Castiglione titled “Imperial Banquet in Wanshu Garden” (illustrated by Chuimei Ho and Bennet Bronson, Splendors of China’s Forbidden City, The Field Museum, Chicago, p. 52, pl. 42). The bells were arranged in accordance to their thickness and their respective musical note. An example of such a set is illustrated in “Life in the Forbidden City of Qing Dynasty” (The Forbidden City Publishing House, 2007, p. 50, no. 50, see fig. 1). When struck this bell resonates a musical note of “A.”

These bells were also essential in conducting Confucian ritual ceremonies at the Imperial alters, at formal banquets and during military processions. In 1741, Qianlong set up a Music Division for court music and specified melodies for various court functions prevailed into the early 20th century (op. cit., the Field Museum, p. 52).

Michaan’s are also very pleased to have the opportunity to present a third offering of fine Chinese glass from the Ina and Sandford Gadient Collection. The thirteen lots for sale reflect over forty years of the Gadient’s passion for the sophisticated art form. Recognized as some of the most prominent Chinese glass collectors in the world, their pieces have been exhibited nationally as well as internationally. Their glassworks are also held in permanent museum collections at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, the Lowe Museum at the University of Miami, Florida, the New Orleans Art Museum in Los Angeles, the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida, the Honolulu Academy of Art in Hawaii and the Lentz Center of Asian Culture at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The quality and variety of their glass acquisition sets the collection above many others and includes rare pieces from Ming and earlier dynasties.

The collection is largely based on the Gadient’s diligent study and careful, focused selection of glass from the United States and abroad. The Gadient’s typically followed their own research conclusions when choosing pieces, but occasionally sought expert advice before securing major acquisitions. One of their primary advisors was Dr. Clarence Shangraw who served as chief curator emeritus at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum for many years. Dr. Shangraw’s expertise and guidance helped form the couple’s outstanding glass group and in turn he discussed the Gadient Collection in his essay, “Treasures of Chinese Glass Workshops.”

Lot 8078 - Four Color Overlay Glass

Highlighting the Gadient Collection lots are three glassworks from the late Qing Dynasty, each exceptional in their own right. Lot 8078 is a four-color overlay-decorated blue glass jar, displaying superb carving workmanship. The bulbous body is adorned with fine yellow, pink and red roses blossoming from lush, translucent green branches. Butterflies flutter amongst the blooms, set upon a backdrop of exquisite turquoise glass ($13,000-18,000). Lot 8080 is a bottle vase bearing the Qianlong mark, vibrantly shaded in a turquoise-blue hue. The multiple layers of lively blue glass display a varying translucence, creating a remarkably beautiful effect ($13,000-18,000).

From the same period is lot 8076, an imperial yellow ‘lotus flower’ bowl ($4,000-6,000). The lotus is regarded as an auspicious symbol, carrying strong significance in the Asian culture and Buddhism. When this flower, recognized as one of the Eight Sacred Symbols, is used in Buddhist art the representation conveys a message of purity. The structure of the plant also carries meaning with its dense root and abundant blossoms, seen as signifying prosperity and a strong, solid foundation. The brilliantly hued bowl features layers of incised lotus petals cradled by an undulating lotus leaf rising from the foot of the bowl. The bowl is also accompanied by a finely carved wood stand depicting a lotus pond.

Sure to peak strong collector interest from the Gadient offerings is a rare ‘snowstorm’ multicolored, tiered glass vase. The lower body of the baluster form is speckled with shades of aubergine, turquoise and green glass. The mouth of the rim is an opaque aubergine as well, wonderfully complimenting and echoing the color scheme. A four character Daoguang reign mark is evident upon the base and the piece measures slightly over 8 inches in height. It has also been recognized as being quite similar to a choice vase held in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing. Although not identical, it is noteworthy that many striking, comparable characteristics parallel the two pieces (lot 8081, $3,000-5,000).

The breadth of the June Fine Asian Works of Art Sale is evidenced in the selection of offered lots, presenting a valuable opportunity for our clients to add a variety of top tier pieces to their collections. Lots include a rare aloeswood brushpot (lot 8185, $6,000-8,000), huanghuali folding chairs (lots 8335, 8336, $4,000-6,000 each lot), a silver Pancharaksha Kalachakra mandala (lot 8104, $4,000-6,000), a yellow-glazed vase with Jiaqing mark from a prominent San Francisco estate (lot 8262, $10,000-15,000), Pu Ru (1896-1963) pair of small paintings (lot 8376, $3,000-5,000) and an enamel decorated silver Shibayama Koro with cover (lot 8396, $3,000-5,000). The caliber of the property in the sale is sure to entice bidders from around the world and draw interest from personal collectors and dealers alike. The auction will be held on June 17, 2012 with bidding to commence at 10 a.m. Previews will begin on June 1st until the day of sale.


The victory of the void, a defeat for the Taliban

The Bamiyan Buddhas will not be rebuilt, says Unesco. The architect Andrea Bruno proposes a scheme that focuses reverently on their absence
The empty niche of the Great Buddha in 2010. “The void is the true sculpture,” says Andrea Bruno (inset), Afghanistan’s most seasoned conservation architect

When Andrea Bruno, an architectural consultant to Unesco for the past 40 years, went back to the Bamiyan Buddhas, blown up in March 2001 by the Taliban, he immediately scrapped all ideas he might have had about some sort of replacement. “The void is the true sculpture,” he says. “It stands disembodied witness to the will, thoughts and spiritual tensions of men long gone. The immanent presence of the niche, even without its sculpture, represents a victory for the monument and a defeat for those who tried to obliterate its memory with dynamite.”

Two years after the destruction, the Japanese National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, working through Unesco and the Afghan authorities, began putting money into clearing up the site and consolidating the surfaces of the niches. The aim at this point was to recreate the Buddhas, an immensely ambitious project since the larger of the two was taller than the Tower of Pisa.

But there were doubts from the first whether this was the right approach. There have been other proposals, from laser projections of Buddhas onto the cliff face—unrealistic in a part of the world that barely has electricity—to a plan from the University of Aachen to attach the remaining fragments to the niche wall on a metal frame—unsatisfactory because hardly any of the stone carving remains intact, the Buddhas having been hewn all in one piece out of the living rock, which was therefore reduced to rubble by the explosions.

What is more, Andrea Bruno, who knows the country intimately, having led the conservation of the fort at Herat and the minaret of Jam over many years, believes that such solutions do not take the sensibilities of the Afghans into account. Rebuilding the Buddhas would inevitably be politically loaded, he says, besides causing religious offence. “Here the Muslims strictly oppose images; to recreate the Buddhas would be an insult even to non-Taliban Afghans. We must show good manners,” he says. In fact, after ten years, the Unesco meeting on Bamiyan held in Tokyo in December 2011 announced finally that the Great Buddha would not be recreated, and the smaller Buddha was unlikely to be.

Bruno has a proposal, however, which he describes as ecumenical, and which, above all, aims to enhance the emotional and aesthetic experience of viewing the empty niche. His idea is to create an underground viewing space at the foot of the Great Buddha. He calls this a sanctuary, alluding to the numerous sanctuaries within the cliff. For the two Buddhas were part of a complex extending over a kilometre of cliff-face, honeycombed by passages connecting hundreds of decorated caves once inhabited by Buddhist monks, and now lived in by the poorest of the local villagers. Stairs leading up and then down into the sanctuary would enhance the feeling of entering a concealed sacred space, like a Bronze Age barrow. At the end of the chamber, there would be a small replica of the Great Buddha, with light streaming in on it from a circular opening above, through which the visitor’s gaze would be focused on the grandeur of the void, in the same way as James Turrell frames the sky and makes you see it with particular intensity.

The other part of the visit would take you into the tunnels inside the cliff, up to a circular aperture above where the head of the Buddha used to be. Pilgrims travelling along the Silk Route used to come here and look out over the Bamiyan Valley, so Bruno has designed a small viewing platform, which would be completely dismountable. He emphasises that nothing in his design would be environmentally or visually intrusive, and could all be built with local skills in a matter of months rather than years.

The local people are Hazaras, Shia Muslims who were persecuted by the Taliban, and while enjoying relative peace at present, they have seen their already low standard of living reduced further by the loss of the Buddhas, which used to bring them travellers. They had no hand in their destruction and would like to have something to offer tourists when travel becomes possible again.

Bruno’s sanctuary would be the centrepiece of a much broader programme, announced at the last Unesco meeting on the subject, in December 2011 in Tokyo, which includes de-mining, archaeological excavations, conservation of the cave sanctuaries and their wall decorations, instructing the population on the importance of archaeological remains, and creating a Museum for Peace and a museum for the few fragments of carved stone that survived the dynamiting. Bruno sees all this as the very least the developed world can do to make up for the cultural damage it has done to the Afghans, from broadcasting rubbishy, consumerist TV channels into their homes to having failed to give them alternatives to bad modernist architecture. He estimates that his sanctuary project could be built for under €400,000 and would be a considerable boost to local morale as well as homage to the majesty of the figures that presided over the valley for one and a half millennia.

As for the decision not to recreate the Buddhas, it can be seen as the wheel of history turning full circle. In the first century AD, it was this part of the world, ancient Gandhara, that with its Hellenistic sculptural tradition first gave Buddha his physical form. Until then, Buddha had been represented by his absence—an empty throne or a footprint—and now in Bamiyan he is present once again in an empty niche.


Secret caves with a view

  • Carved wealth: Kanheri caves. - CHITRA RAMASWAMY
    Carved wealth: Kanheri caves. - CHITRA RAMASWAMY
  • The chaitya cave with a stupa. - CHITRA RAMASWAMY
    The chaitya cave with a stupa. - CHITRA RAMASWAMY
A rich slice of Buddhist history shelters in the well-preserved Kanheri Caves in Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Deep in the forests of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, West Borivili, is a well-kept secret of suburban Mumbai. Hidden in the cliffs here are the unique, enchanting Kanheri Caves that offer a commanding view of the region nestling between Mumbai harbour and Bassein Creek.

The word ‘kanheri’ perhaps derives from Prakrit and means black mountain or krishna giri in Sanskrit, so called for being carved out of a mammoth dark basaltic rock outcropping. According to a ninth century inscription, the caves were referred to as Krishnagiri Maharaja Mahavihara, meaning ‘the great king of great monasteries’ and are believed to date from the first century BCE to the ninth century CE.

The best way to get to the caves situated five km from the park on a scenic route, is by one’s own conveyance or by hopping on to a bus run by the park on an hourly basis. Climb a long flight of steps cut in the basalt slope and you are in the cave complex. From a height of 460 metres above sea level where the highest of the 109 caves is located, you get a captivating view of Mumbai, the greenery jostling for space with towering apartment buildings.

Most of the caves are spartan with little or no adornment. The inscriptions on pillars, most of them in Brahmi, express the spirit of Buddhism while recording the donations of philanthropists towards its development and the progress of Buddhism, which was a dominant religion from the early first century BCE to the second century CE. This period, according to historical records, coincided with thriving trade between western India and the outside world, mainly the Roman empire. The western Indian ports of Chaul, Sopara and Kalyan witnessed a lot of activity and philanthropic traders ensured the progress of the cave complex, and with it the blossoming of artistic, cultural and religious trends.

It is believed that the Kanheri cave complex was inspired by the Sravasti monastery built under the brilliant supervision of Sariputra, one of Buddha’s most intelligent disciples. The complex is replete with dwellings for monks, retiring rooms, assembly and service halls, bathrooms, canals and conduits for water storage and even a cemetery. Many of them are still preserved in a good state and reflect the ingenuity of the architects and builders of the time. The complex, patronised by the then rulers, testify to the progress of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.

Cave 1 is the only storied cave, perhaps used by the monks. Cave 2 served as the dining area for the monks while Cave 3 is a chaitya cave, the construction of which, according to inscriptions on twin pillars outside the cave, was undertaken in the reign of the Satvahana ruler King Gautamiputra in the second century CE. A stupa dedicated to Sariputra, worn by the ravages of time, stands in front of the cave and is believed to have been built of dressed stones and bricks. The doorway of the chaitya is flanked by idols of mithuna couples, their hairstyle, robes, and ornaments chiselled to aesthetic perfection.

The chaitya cave is the most sculpted structure in the entire Kanheri complex and holds aloft two huge statues of Buddha in varamudra or ‘donating’ posture and measuring 22 ft. Embodying 32 signs of great men as enunciated in Digha Nikaya, a Buddhist scriptural work, the statues are supposed to be the only mammoth idols of Buddha in India. It is widely believed that with these statues, the trend of building large idols of Buddha began to spread in Asia. The main hall of the cave is adorned with 34 columns portraying sculptures of kneeling elephants in an act of worshipping the stupa.

Impressive carvings include the intricately sculpted figurine of Dipa Tara, the goddess of the west, holding a torch in her right hand and a fully bloomed lotus in her left. The stunning idol of the eleven-headed Avalokiteswara in Cave 41 is eye-catching. This figure apparently has no parallel in India – it portrays ten additional faces of Buddha arranged in a three-tier formation over his head, symbolic of the gradual ascent to enlightenment. Unfortunately, I am unable to get a good photograph of the idol with the midday sun blazing on it. A frieze portraying the double-humped Bactrian camel is indicative of trade and cultural interactions between the Kanheri region and Middle East and Central Asia where these creatures are found. An unfinished painting of Buddha adorns the ceiling of one of the antechambers, the only such art we spot anywhere in the complex.

Walking almost a kilometre away from the main chaitya, we come upon the hilltop with its cemetery that is actually a portion of a terrace under the rock shelter. Further away is a sixteen-sided stupa with many sculptures, including one of Buddha seated on a lion throne. For historians, archaeologists and academicians interested in Buddhism, Kanheri Caves is a veritable treasure trove presenting endless opportunities for exploration and research.