Persistence of Buddhism in South India (was Advaita-Chandran)

Michael Rabe mrabe at ARTIC.EDU
Sun Mar 7 11:39:57 UTC 1999

On Sat, 6 Mar 1999 12:40 Elliot Stern wrote:
>.... The 11th
>century Indian Buddhist writers jJAnazrImitraH and his student ratnakIrtiH
>name vAcaspatimizraH, these two works, and present sometimes extensive
>extracts from these works, which they then refute from a Buddhist point of
>view. Their works evidence the persistence of a vigorous intellectual
>tradition within Indian Buddhism even centuries after zaGkaraH, that
>suggests that Buddhism had neither disappeared at or before zaGkara's time,
>nor was it then on its last legs in India.

I have an art historian's interest in this question of the longevity of
Buddhism, particularly in South India, at such places as Kadri/Mangalore and
Nagappatinam to name but two examples.

At the former [a place I didn't dare mention as another possible Potala], there
is the well known set of bronze images in the Manjunath temple, the finest of
which bears a Kali date equivalent to  968 CE.  But it remains unclear when, in
the 11th century or much later, it was _rechristened_ to represent BrahmA, due
to its 4 heads (while a standard, monastically attired Buddha image is
currently said to represent VyAsa).

But evidence from Nagapattinam may date from much later still: the Art
Institute of Chicago possesses a large seated image of the Buddha (h. 63
inches, 1200 lbs.) that  bears a Tamil inscription.  Fron an imperfect
eye-copy, epigraphers of the ESI have told me that it appears to date from the
15th c.  Thus far, the museum's conservation department has been reluctant to
permit either an inked estampage to be made or for chalk to be used to
temporarily enhance the characters before photography.  However, they have
recently given me a detailed grid of close up photographs, armed with which I
hope to return to Mysore this summer.  Perhaps the unnamed informant of guest
curator, Pratapaditya Pal's, is correct in surmising that the late inscription
is unrelated to the image itself, whose date has been presumed to be 11th
century or so on stylistic grounds. But even so, naturally, it will be
interesting to learn whether or not any Buddhist sentiments are expressed in
this Nayak period edict.

Michael Rabe

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