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Volume 50 Number 4, June 1999

Volume 50 Number 4

The Art of Burma

From the General Editor’s Desk

The Art of the Pyu and Mon
John Guy

Vishnu in Burma
Pamela Gutman

Between India and Burma: The “Andagu” Stelae
Claudine Bautze-Picron

Pagan Bronzes: Fresh Observations
Donald M. Stadtner

Mahayana Buddhism in Sri Lanka
Ulrich von Schroeder

A General’s Act of Piety: A Newly Discovered Buddhist Monastery of Ancient Bengal
Gautam Sengupta

Newsletters

Book Reviews

From the General Editor's Desk [Editorial]
Pal, Pratapaditya
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 10-11
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The Art of the Pyu and Mon
Guy, John
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 12-28 [Also in The Art of Burma: New Studies edited by Donald M. Stadtner; Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999; ISBN: 81-85026-44-0, pp. 13-28]

The cultural history of pre-Pagan Burma is fragmentary and essentially the story of two peoples -- the Pyu of upper and central Burma and the Thon of lower Burma. This essay, though, is heavily weighted towards a discussion of the Pyu, as far more archaeological data found relates to the Pyu settlements. The most substantial artistic legacy of the Pyu is sculpture -- both Buddhist and Hindu. Along with monumental stones, early Pyu art is distinguished by the use of precious metals. With the Mon having left behind fewer inscriptions than the Pyu, it is difficult to define the limits of their realm with confidence.

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Vishnu in Burma
Gutman, Pamela
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 29-36 [Also in The Art of Burma: New Studies edited by Donald M. Stadtner; Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999; ISBN: 81-85026-44-0, pp. 29-36]

The Hindu deity Vishnu was known in Burma from the middle of the 1st millennium of the present era. It is the concept of royal identification with the god that was particularly important in early Burma and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. In Arakan, the region in closest direct contact with India, the images of Vishnu almost invariably represent Vasudeva, the style and iconography initially following Gupta art of the late 5th and early 6th centuries. As rituals absorbed traditions brought over two millennia from different Indian traditions, Vishnu as an independent deity was reduced to a series of attributes illustrating the royal function.

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Between India and Burma: The "Andagu" Stelae
Bautze-Picron, Claudine
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 37-52 [Also in The Art of Burma: New Studies edited by Donald M. Stadtner; Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999; ISBN: 81-85026-44-0, pp. 37-52]

Referring to the connections between the art of Pagan and that of Bengal and Bihar, the writer identifies small stone slabs carved in a fine-grained soft phyllite called "andagu" in Burmese. This term is usually applied to stelae depicting Gautama Buddha attaining Enlightenment at Bodhgaya, with seven further major events of his life all around, constituting the cyclus of the "Eight Great Events". The "andagu" slabs are divided into three groups based upon stylistic and iconographic considerations. The author presents certain comparisons which suggest that some of these examples were very likely manufactured in India. The need to perpetuate the Buddhist faith elsewhere might have fostered its production outside India.

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Pagan Bronzes: Fresh Observations
Stadtner, Donald M.
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 53-64 [Also in The Art of Burma: New Studies edited by Donald M Stadtner; Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999; ISBN: 81-85026-44-0, pp. 53-64]

Compared to its abundantly evident sculpture and painting, Pagan's bronzes are little known. The "Pala style" of India was far more influential for metalwork than for Pagan's stone sculpture. The patina of Pagan bronzes varies widely, from a rich glossy brown to a dull bluish-green. The bulk are standing or seated Buddhas, the latter almost universally disposed in the "earth-touching" gesture. Three important Pagan bronzes are isolated for discussion. The Burmese today continue to dedicate metal objects for insertion into new stupas, to turn metal into merit in a spiritual experience.

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Mahayana Buddhism in Sri Lanka
von Schroeder, Ulrich
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 65-76

Though Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the third century BCE by Indian missionaries, the popularity of Mahayana teachings here flourished during the Late Anuradhapura period (circa 300-1000 CE). This is well documented by numerous sculptures cast in bronze, made of stone, or carved into rock cliffs. Ascetic and jewelled forms of the Bodhisattvas Maitreya, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani are described along with other spectacular male and female Mahayana sculptures. Once Hinduism started to penetrate Sinhalese society, including the Buddhist order, the gods Brahma, Vishnu, Saman, and Skanda found an abode in the Buddhist temples, marking the gradual transformation of Mahayana deities in Sri Lanka.

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A General's Act of Piety: A Newly Discovered Buddhist Monastery of Ancient Bengal
Sengupta, Gautam
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 77-86

Extensive remains of Buddhist antiquities spread over the northern districts of West Bengal and Bangladesh relate to several viharas and mahaviharas. The recent discovery of an ancient Buddhist monastery at Jagjivanpur in Malda district, West Bengal, is seen as an important cultural event. Constructed under the patronage of General Vajradeva for the increase of religious merit of all living beings, the excavation of this impressive establishment has brought to light a large number of terracotta plaques. Sensitively modelled, the human and animal forms depicted in these plaques are derived from Gupta-period conventions and are vibrant with human warmth.

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Newsletters
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 87-92

Monisha Ahmed reports from Mumbai on revival of heritage walks and art spaces, exhibitions, the Kala Ghoda Art Festival, Khajuraho millennium year celebrations and lectures by George Michell as part of the educational outreach of Christie’s. John Siudmak reports from London on the exhibition The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms that opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum, adding a critical review on the eponymous publication that accompanies the exhibition and informs of an exhibition on Tipu Sultan being planned by the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh.

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Book Reviews
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 93-98

The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand by Hiram W. Woodward, Jr. with contributions, reviewed by Forrest McGill; Tibet: Tradition and Change, essay and catalogue entries by Pratapaditya Pal reviewed by Hira Paul Gangnegi; From the Ocean of Painting. India's Popular Paintings, 1589 to the Present by Barbara Rossi reviewed by Pratapaditya Pal; Ganesh Pyne: His Life and Times by Ella Dutta reviewed by R. Siva Kumar.

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Noteworthy Books
Vol. 50 No. 4, June 1999, pp. 98-101

Synopses of Philip Ward’s travel guide on Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Alexandra Soteriou’s book on hand papermaking, Journal of Indian Textile History, edited by John Irwin, Experiencing a Museum, by Dashrath Patel and a book on artist Tarlochan Oberoi by Teddy Brunius.

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