Numata lecture on Nalanda, Reading group on Ajanta

Buddhism Buddhism around the World Buddhist Studies Education Hamilton History Toronto

The University of Toronto / McMaster University
Yehan Numata Buddhist Studies Program presents:

NICOLAS MORRISSEY (University of Georgia)

LECTURE: Reflections on an Enigmatic Structure at Nalanda and Visual Eclecticism in the Buddhist Art of Medieval Bihar and Bengal
THURSDAY, January 23, 2014, 3-5 pm, UTSG, JHB 317

The monument identified as ‘Stone Temple Number 2’ within the remains of the Buddhist monastic complex at Nalanda has proven to be a persistently inscrutable structure. Unfortunately only the plinth has survived, and consequently the original architectural form of the monument remains unknown. No provision in the structure’s plan for residential quarters can be recognized, and as a result it has become common – though perhaps not necessarily accurate – to refer to the structure itself as a ‘Temple’. Significantly, however, there are some 200 extant sculptures placed in niches surrounding the base of the extant plinth. As a number of these sculptures have been identified as depictions of so-called ‘Brahmanical’ or Hindu subject matter, there has been considerable speculation with regard to the original religious orientation of this structure. It has, for example, been variously identified both as a Hindu, possibly Shaivite, shrine as well as a possible Esoteric or Tantric Buddhist ritual site. This paper seeks initially to revisit the merits and limitations of these previous identifications. The goal of the paper, however, will be to interpret the art and architecture of Temple No. 2 at Nalanda in light of a comparative analysis with seemingly parallel Buddhist monuments, sculpture and inscriptions from Pala-period Bihar and Bengal, such as Antichak (Vikramashila), Paharpur (Somapura) and Jagjivanpur (Nandadirghi). It is hoped that this analysis will help shed some light on this poorly understood structure from Nalanda, and perhaps more broadly on the prevailing religious culture of medieval Bihar and Bengal which may have engendered its construction.

READING GROUP: On the Cult of the Lotus Sutra in India: A New Interpretation of a 5th Century Painting from Ajanta
FRIDAY, January 24, 2014, 4-6 pm, McMaster, University Hall 122

Nicolas Morrissey is currently an Assistant Professor of Asian Art and Religion in the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. He completed his PhD in Asian Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles and an MA in Sanskrit and Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. His present research focuses on the history of Buddhist Visual Culture in early medieval South Asia. His most recent publication, Shakyabhikshus at the Brazen Glen: A Note on the Mahayana Reoccupation of an old Monastery at Pitalkhora can be found in the volume Living Rock: Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Temples in the Western Deccan (Marg Publications, 2013).

For additional information or to obtain the reading group materials please contact Christoph Emmrich atchristoph.emmrich@utoronto.ca.

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