Contributions of Buddhism in Architecture

Contributions of Buddhism in Architecture, Decline of Buddhism,Buddhism Stupas, Buddhist Architecture 

Contributions of Buddhism in Architecture

Buddhism Architecture
The Doctrine of Ahimsa is one of the main contributions of Buddhism. It gave India a religion devoid of complicated and incomprehensible rituals and symbols. It laid the foundation of image worship in India. The Mahayana Buddhists started the practice of worship-ping personal Gods and erecting temples.


Buddhism made perhaps the finest contribution in the realm of art and architecture. Sites known as the chaityas (with small shrines attached to them) came to be regarded as scared during the time of the Buddha. Buddhist literature, along with such chaityas, marked other places important as well e.g. Lumbini (where the Buddha was born); Bodhgaya (the place of his enlightenment);  Sarnath (where he gave his first sermon) and Kushinagra (where he attained nibbana).
Places where the relics of the Buddha got buried were considered important as well and were mounds, which came to be known as stupas. The Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Sutta pitaka mentions Buddha, on his death bed, asking for the erection of thupa (pali name for Stupa). Ashokavadana, another Buddhist text, mentions Asoka distributing portions of the Buddha’s relics to every important town and ordering the construction of stupas over them. Many Stupas e.g. at Bharhut Sanchi and Sarnath, got constructed by the 2nd century BCE. Inscriptions found on the railings and pillars of the stupas recorded donation made for building and decorating them and were mainly by the kings and also by certain guilds, common men and women and even by some Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis.
The structure of the Stupa evolved through various stages, which were originated as a semi-circular mound; later called Anda and gradually evolving into a more complex structure. Above the Anda was placed the Harmika, representing the abode of the Gods. Arising from it was a mast called the Yashti, often surmounted by an umbrella or a Chhatri. A railing around the mound separated the sacred space from the secular world. The path around the Stupa so surrounded with railings, came to be known as the pradakshina patha.
Gateways were built, that served as an entrance to the pradakshina patha. Devotees walked around the Stupa in a clockwise direction, as a mark of devotion. Both the Gateways and the railings came to be decorated with sculptures later as in the case of Amaravati and Shah-ji-ki-Dheri in Peshawar (Pakistan). Buddhist images began to be first made by the Mathura School of Art (which developed during the Kushana period).
Even the subject’s matter of the Gandhara School of Art, also called Graeco-Buddhist, was also predominantly Buddhist. Buddhism also enriched the pali language and led to the establishments of residential universities- Nalanda (Bihar), Taxila (North-West frontier region) etc. Buddhist missionaries aided in breaking India’s isolation and in connecting it with the rest of the world, besides promoting trade and commerce.

The Decline of Buddhism

By the AD 12th century, Buddhism became practically extinct in India. It became a victim to the evils of Brahmanism against which it had fought in the beginning. Gradually, the Buddhist monks were cut off from the mainstream of people’s life as they gave up Pali, the language of people and took to Sanskrit, the language of the intellectuals.
By the AD 7th century, the Buddhist monasteries came to be dominated and became the centers of corrupt practices, which Gautama Buddha had strictly prohibited. The new form of Buddhism was known as Vajrayana. Entry of women into the Buddhist sanghas and the attacks of the Huna kings in the AD 6th century and those of the Turkish invaders in the AD 12th century brought about a rapid extinction of Buddhism. 
Contributions of Buddhism in Architecture
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