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Quantifiable Aspects Of The Stūpas Essay

1840 words - 8 pages

There are six specific features of a stūpa that I am concerned with in this study. Figure 4.1 shows each of the features and only the railing is not labeled, but can easily be distinguished visually. These iconographic features are derived from actual features appearing on large actual stūpas, such as Sāñcī stūpa no. 1. The features appearing on the depicted relief stūpas mimic those found on their larger three dimensional brethren.


Figure 4.1

The first of the features is the railing, or balustrade. In the iconography of a stūpa image, the railing is depicted very similarly to how it appears at Sāñcī stūpa no. 1, with several crossbars connecting two rail pillars. On top, ...view middle of the document...

In some iconographic measurements later in this chapter the aṇḍa serves as the primary object of study, as it is large and easily measureable, thus an ideal candidate to determine size of stūpa representations.
On some stūpas, aṇḍas emerge from a raised platform, known as a drum. Drums appear to serve one primary function: to raise the aṇḍa above the ground. While each of the reconstructed stūpas at Sāñcī have drums, it is unclear as to whether or not they originally had them or not. Stūpa no. 3 at the very least has been reconstructed to match the appearance of a figural stūpa on its gateway. Therefore, the use of depicted relief stūpas to reconstruct the “real” stūpas remains an ongoing discussion. On the toraṇas of stūpa no. 1, only a few of the figural stūpas possess drums. Thus, the frequency of actual drums being built at open-air monastic sites such as Sāñcī is up for debate. At least in the reliefs, drums are decidedly unique feature reserved for only specific instances.
Topping the aṇḍas of stūpas are two features: the harmikā, an ornamental railing, and a chattra, or parasol. Depending on the type of harmikā, they usual surround the one or many chattras. A chattra sometimes occurred with three circular disks on top of one another. However, in the iconography of the stūpas in the reliefs, chattras occur either as a singular disk, or as separate disks peaking from the harmikā at different locations. As many as five chattras occur in the Sāñcī toraṇa figural stūpas.
Finally, the last iconographic feature of a stūpa that is relevant to this discussion is the toraṇa. Toraṇas are arched gateways that are architecturally attached to the railings. At Sāñcī, only stūpas nos. 1 and 3 have gateways. In the representations of stūpas, there is only one known occurrence in the Sāñcī reliefs of a stūpa possessing a toraṇa. On the east-face of the west pillar on the north toraṇa at stūpa no. 1, there is a peculiar stūpa with three railings (an irregular occurrence by itself). At the center of the bottom railing is a lone toraṇa with two architraves. It is unlikely this represents anything at Sāñcī because of the singular toraṇa and the two architraves. At Sāñcī, each toraṇa has three architraves. In the analysis below, I will not discuss the iconographic representations of toraṇas because there is only the singular occurrence in the Sāñcī reliefs.
Beyond these six iconographic features there are several other quantifiable aspects that are included in my analysis. First, is an important artistic ratio of width and height. I have measured each of the representations of stūpas and have come up with a number to represent the width to height ratio. For height, I measured from the top of the aṇḍa to the bottom of the drum or bottom railing, as shown in Image 4.2. For width, I measured from end to end the widest part of each aṇḍa. The final ratio is a simple equation: width divided by height (w/h). The resulting number...

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