Lumière et Obscuritè: l’Èvil de Śākyamuni et la victoire sur Māra des débuts à l’époque Gupta
Bautze-Picron, Claudine (1998) Lumière et Obscuritè: l’Èvil de Śākyamuni et la victoire sur Māra des débuts à l’époque Gupta. Annali dell’Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. Rivista del Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici e del Dipartimento di Studi e Ricerche su Africa e Paesi Arabi, 1998 (58). pp. 1-49. ISSN 0393-3180
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The very moment that Śākyamuni became a Buddha, light was victorious over Darkness. The combat is illustrated in the two relieves of Bhaja here discussed (pls. II-IV). In these the light (Sūrya) rising within the monument, i.e. the religious space, confronts Darkness (Māra on his elephant) advancing from outside the monument, the profane world. This confrontation is a permanent feature in the iconography of Bodhi. At Sanchi, where it is the only event to be depicted on each of Gates (pls. V-VII), in Andhra Pradesh (pls. VII-XV), and later on in other localities (pls. XVI-XX), other pregnant levels of meaning will superimpose themselves on this basic polarisation. From the amount of available images, it is evident that the sites of Andhra Pradesh held a major role into making the position of Bodhi crucial in Buddha’s iconography. The complexity of relieves in this region reflects also the deep concern of the artists to put into images an event which is beyond any verbal or visual description. The movement from left to right is a major element of these panels. The left (i.e. the proper right)/right (i.e. the proper left) respectively coincide with the arrival of Māra’s troops and the departure following the defeat as well as their acceptance of the Buddha underlined by the respect paid to the Holy Man. The space that came to be occupied by the Buddha led to an ontological change. M āra and his followers completely change their state of mind when passing in front of the Buddha. This is made visible through the gestures of respect which they show on the right pert of the panels. From a visual point of view, one notices that the appearance of the image of the Buddha provokes a change in the composition: the motifs (throne, tree) which used to “replay” his corporeal appearance, are shifted upwards, and space is created below, i.e. in front of him. In other words, the world turns around the Buddha: he is no longer a line separating the two distinct worlds, but a point around which the world turns. All these transformations, be they iconic or compositional, reflect a modification in the perception of the Bodhi, and through a simultaneous iconographic and stylistic study, it is possible to bring into light the meaning of the images. Other features of various nature are also noticed in the early period e.g. Sujātā paving the way to later Vasudharā and the close but evident relation between the art of Andhra Pradesh (where Bodhi held a major position) and the information provided in the Mahāvatsu, or between the sculptures from Gandhara and a text like the Lalitavistara.
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