Tracing the Classical Art in Sri Lanka in Buddhists Paintings Online

The period between the eleventh and the twelfth century marks the culmination of the Buddhist art in parts of Sri Lanka and Bengal. Buddhism was founded by Lord Buddha in the Fifth century on the borders of Nepal. Buddhism was sprouted because of the intricacies in the Brahmanical religions. It found its refuge in the folds of eastern parts of India. You may find the lores surrounding Buddhism and its evolution in Buddhist manuscripts in available paintings online.

Buddha paintings online

Features of Manuscripts from Pali (11th to 12th century)

  • The rulers of the Pala dynasty ruled from 750 B.C. until the twelfth century. They are known for having vehement interests in art and religion. Palas were well aware of the conflicts between Brahmanism and Buddhism. But, they were clear in their allegiances to the latter religion.
  • In the conflict of the political control, they built their legacy on the ruins of the previous empire i.e. the Gupta Empire. But, when it came to art, they continued to imitate their features in their style. They reached insurmountable heights in the field of architecture.
  • With the tide of time, most of the wall paintings belonging to this period have been washed away. Whatever we know of art in this era comes from the illustrated manuscripts. They were made and created in the famous and most sought after in those times, the Nalanda University. It attracted thousands of knowledge seekers from the parts of South-east Asia.

Material used in the Manuscripts

These manuscripts were inscribed with natural pigments on palm leaves. The format in which they were written was elongated. They were compiled together through a thread that ran through holes made in the leaves. These compilations were then held into a wooden casket for safekeeping. However, the surviving manuscripts are low in number and they are small in size. Their dimensions are three into two inches only. The outlines of both the manuscripts and wall paintings were done with a combination of black and red.

Colors were made of natural extracts

The dominant colors are white, green, blue, and yellow. The test of the illustrated manuscripts are simple and often that is accompanied by a godly figurine, mostly a Buddha or his disciples. Sometimes, a feminine force of nature or Shakti was depicted. She is depicted as a force that occupies the desires and consciousness of the realm.

This shows that there was an influence of tantric Buddhism and Mahayana sect in these paintings. Although they appear to display the emotions of calm and rest, there is a hint of eroticism and enchantments in the illustrations.

The oldest manuscripts belong to the 11th century. These interests archeological and historians the most because they reveal the ultimate classical form of Buddhist art in India.

In the latter half of the twelfth century, Bengal came under the control of Muslims and consequently Islam. The effect of this was brutal. Monasteries and landmarks of other religions were destroyed completely. Consequently, Buddhism lost its followers in the area.

All its followers now migrated to Nepal and Tibet in search of new homes and shelters. The effect of this on their art and culture was impressive. The Buddhist diaspora here developed a concrete and complex form in their iconography. Although, there was an influence of their origin in them i.e. the art of Pali.

Features of Polonnaruva Art of Sri Lanka 

There is another Story when it comes to Buddhism. Sri Lanka was occupied by the Cholas for two centuries. They belonged to the Brahmanical religion. Even though the Sri Lankan Island was under the control of some other religion, Buddhism thrived in the hindsight. While they regained independence in the twelfth century, the art and culture of the country grew.

According to a legend, the capital of state i.e. Polonnaruva was filled with places of worship and palatial spaces. The structures were beautified with paintings and other artworks. They have been lost. What remains are the exotic and mesmerizing frescoes that adorn the small Tivamka temple. Unfortunately, their shine has been lost due to neglect. Still, they help us to study the development and evolution of paintings under the influence of Buddhism.

Despite the fact the region was dominated by the Cholas, the frescoes didn’t reflect the Tanjore style of art. Here, the Brahmin influence was consciously ignored and the Buddhist line of thought was accepted and acknowledged. The art in these paintings reflects the style used by artisans in Buddhist paintings of Ajanta and Ellora. They reflect the latter’s sensual appeal and calmness. The difference is apparent if you compare these paintings online.

The difference between them and paintings at Polonnaruva is that artwork displayed in the latter part is more contracted, ethereal, and religious. Jatakas are also depicted with much rigor and enthusiasm. The peculiar feature of these paintings is that some people are painted as green and floras has been drawn in synchronicity with dense Sinhalese forest. Their sensitivity is well connected.

So, all the Buddhist art around the world are interconnected and inspired by the common source.