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    The Great Stupa at Nagarjunakonda in Southern India
    [ 作者: A. H. LONGHURST   来自:期刊原文   已阅:6951   时间:2007-1-9   录入:douyuebo


    ·期刊原文
    THE GREAT STUPA AT NAGARJUNAKONDA IN SOUTHERN INDIA.

    BY A. H. LONGHURST.


    The Indian Antiquary,


    October, 1932, p. 186-192

     

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                   p. 186

                NAGARJUNAKONDA, or Nagarjuna's  hill, is the name
            of a big rocky hat-topped  hill on the right  bank of
            the Krishna  river in the Palnad  taluk of the Guntur
            district  of the Madras Presidency, and 15 miles west
            by north of Macherla railway station, the terminus of
            the new line  from Guntur  opened  in 1931.  The hill
            stands  in a valley completely  shut in by at ring of
            hills, an offshoot  of the Nallamalais  (Black Hills)
            of the adjoining  Kurnool  district, on three  sides,
            with   the   Krishna,  river   on   the   fourth   or
            north-western  side,  where  it  forms  the  boundary
            between  this part of the Madras  Presidency  and the
            Nizam's  Dominions.  The annexed  site plan (Plate I)
            shows the geographical  features  of the area and the
            positions of the monuments discovered.

                Nagarjunakonda  is about  60 miles  distant  from
            Amaravati as the crow flies, but considerably further
            by river.  It is a wild and desolate spot, and being
            shut  in by the surrounding  rocky  hills  is usually
            very hot during  most months of the year.  There is a
            rough  cart  track  from  Macherla  to Nagulavaram, a
            distance of 10 miles, but the remaining  5 miles over
            the hills  and through  the valley  to Nagarjunakonda
            has to be performed  on foot, as no cart  traffic  is
            possible.

                The hill was once fortified, and remains of brick
            and stone fortifications  still remain  all along the
            rugged cliffs surrounding  the plateau on its summit,
            showing  that it was once used  as a citadel;  but no
            ruined buildings  of interest were discovered  on the
            hill.  At the eastern  foot of the hill and scattered
            throughout  the valley are a number  of ruined stupas
            of  all  sizes, from  little  structures  8  feet  in
            diameter to large ones like the Great Stupa, 106 feet
            in diameter.  There are also many ruined  monasteries
            and apsidal  Buddhist  temples, showing  that, at one
            time, there  existed  here  a large  and  flourishing
            Buddhist  settlement, far larger in fact than the one
            at  Amaravati  lower  down  the  river.  A number  of
            important  inscriptions  in  Prakrit  and  in  Brahmi
            characters  of about  the second  century  A.D.  were
            discovered in connection with the Great Stupa and two
            apsidal.   temples.   Professor   Vogel   of   Leiden
            University  has  published  an account  of these  old
            records  in the Epigraphia  Indica, volume  XX, 1931.
            Besides   a  number   of  inscriptions   end   ruined
            buildings, many lead coins of the Andhra period, gold
            and  silver  reliquaries, pottery, statues  and  over
            four  hundred  magnifi  cent  bas-relief   sculptures
            similar  to  those  from  Amaravati,  were  recovered
            curing   the  excavations   which   I  conducted   at
            Nagarjunakonda  during  the cold  seasons  of 1928 to
            1931, when  T  completed  the  explorations, A  brief
            account  of these discoveries  appears  in the Annual
            Reports  of the  Archaological  Survey  of India  for
            those years, but a fully illustrated  account  of the
            remarkable  discoveries   made  would  fill  a  large
            volume, and has yet to be written.

                The  historical  information   furnished  by  the
            inscriptions  is somewhat  meagre, and  the  careless
            manner  in which  some of them were engraved  adds to
            the difficulty of interpreting the precise meaning of
            certain  words and sentences.  The records  belong to
            the Southern  Ikhaku dynasty, who were ruling in this
            part of India between  the second and third centuries
            A.D.  It is clear  from these inscriptions  that they
            were kings  of considerable  importance, but also wih
            they formed matrimonial  alliances  not only with the
            rulers of Vanavasa  (North Kanara), Ikhakus  revealed
            by the inscriptions, is that  while  the rulers  were
            followers   of   Brahmanism   and   performed   Vedic
            sacrifices,  their  consorts  were  devotees  of  the
            Buddha  and  erected  buildings   for  the  Buddhists
            settled at Nagarjunakonda and made pious donations to
            the  stupas.  Most  of  these  buildings  owed  their
            existence   to  the  piety  of  certain   queens  and
            princesses  belonging  to the royal house  of Ikhaku,
            the  principal   founder   being  a  princess   named
            Chamtisiri, who is praised  for  her  munificence  in
            many  of  the  inscriptions  belonging  to the  Great
            Stupa, or Mahachetiya, as it is called  in the piller
            inscriptions belonging to it, and which was founded
            ____________________

                Note.--The copyright of the photographs reproduced
            to illustrate this article gioal Survey of india.


                                   p. 187

            or perhaps  rebuilt, when the pillars  were added, by
            the lady in question  in the sixth  year of the reign
            of king Siri-Virtapurisadata  between  the second and
            third  centuries  A.D.  The same royal  lady built  a
            monastery  and an apsidal temple close to the eastern
            gate of the Great  Stupa, the ruins  of which remain.
            Another important  inscription  was found engraved on
            the stone floor of an apsidal  temple  situated  on a
            rocky  hill  about  two furlongs  to the east  of the
            Great Stupa, and known locally as Naharallabodu. This
            temple and a monastery standing alongside  of if were
            built by a lady named Bodhisiri and dedicated  to the
            fraternities    of   Ceylonese   monks   settled   at
            Nagarjunakonda.  The inscription  relates  that these
            Ceylonese  Buddhists  had  converted  the  people  of
            Kashmir, Gandhara, China, Ceylon, Bengal, Kanara, and
            other  places  in  India.  The  latter  part  of  the
            inscription  mentions other pious works by Bodhisiri,
            including  a pillared hall or mandapa at Kantakasela,
            which, as Dr.  Vogel  points  out  in his account  of
            these  inscriptions,  must  be  identical  with  "the
            emporium Kantikossula," mentioned by Ptolemy as being
            situated   "after   the   mouths   of  the   Maisolos
            (Krishna)."  The Periplus  speaks  of "the region  of
            Masalia," stretching a long way along the coast," and
            adds, "a great quantity of muslins is made here." The
            ancient  name by which the Krishna delta was known to
            the Greeks  is preserved  in that  of the seaport  of
            Masulipatam.

                In the same inscription (F of Dr.  Vogel's list),
            the name of the ancient city that once existed in the
            Nagarjunakonda valley is given as Vijayapuri, and the
            hill now known  as Naharallabodu, on which  Bodhisiri
            erected  the temple  and monastery  for the Ceylonese
            monks, is called  the Lesser Dhammagiri  situated  on
            Sriparvata.  The hill in question  is an offshoot  of
            the surrounding  Nallamalais of the adjoining Kurnool
            district.  These  hills  extend  in  a south-westerly
            direction  all  along  the  river  into  the  Kurnool
            district, where, on the top of a wooded  hill some 50
            miles  south-west  of Nagarjunakonda  and facing  the
            river, stands the famous  Srisailam  temple sacred to
            Siva and a great place  of pilgrimage  in the spring,
            when a  big annual  festival  is held there.  It thus
            seems from this inscription  that in early times  the
            Nallamalais  were  known  as Sriparvata.  This  is an
            interesting   point,  because  there  is  an  ancient
            tradition preserved in Tibet that the famous Buddhist
            divine  Nagarjuna  ended  his days in a monastery  on
            Sriparvata  in Southern India.  If this monastery  is
            the same as the ruined  one on the Lesser Dhammagiri,
            if would  follow  that  the association  of Nagarjuna
            with  this  locality  has  been  preserved  up to the
            present  day in the name Nagarjunakonda  (Nagarjuna's
            Hill).

                The fact that a monastery and a temple were built
            specially  for the benefit  of Ceylonese, monks shows
            that very cordial relations must have existed between
            the Andhra, Buddhists  and their  co-religionists  in
            Ceylon  at  that  period.   The  existence   of  such
            relations   can  be  readily  accounted  for  by  the
            sea-borne  trade  which  was carried  on between  the
            ports of Ceylon and the great emporium Kantakasela of
            the Krishna  delta.  It was no doubt this trade which
            was mainly responsible  for the flourishing  state of
            Buddhism  in  this  part  of  Southern  India,  which
            enabled  the  Buddhist  merchants   and  their  royal
            masters  to raise monuments  of such magnificence  as
            those at Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati.  As Dr.  Vogel
            mentions,  the  decline  of  Buddhism  in  the  lower
            Krishna  valley may have had other causes besides the
            general  wane of that religion  all over India, there
            may have been economic  factors  at work, such as the
            decline  of the sea-borne  trade with the West, which
            had caused vast quantities of Roman gold to pour into
            Southern  India.  There was also the conquest  of the
            south by the Gupta Emperor Samudra Gupta and the rise
            of powerful dynasties devoted to Brahmanism, like the
            Pallava dynasty in the South and the Chalukya  in the
            West.

                The ruined  buildings  discovered, represent  the
            remains of stupas, monasteries, apsidal temples and a
            palace. They were all built of large bricks measuring
            20'  x 10' x 3", the  same  dimensions  as the bricks
            recently  found  at Bulandibagh  near Patna in Bihar,
            the ancient  site of Pataliputra.  It is strange that
            at two sites so far distant  both should  yield large
            bricks  of the same dimensions.  The pillars, floors,
            statues and important sculptures were executed


                                   p. 188

            in white  or grey  limestone  resembling  marble.  No
            other stone was used, and it was brought  to the site
            by means  of the  river  and landed  at a stone-built
            wharf that still remains (see Plate I, 12). The wharf
            is about  250 feet in length, 50 feet wide and 6 feet
            in height  along  the river  front  and at both ends.
            Three rows of broken stone pillars extending from end
            to end show  that it was originally  provided  with a
            wooden  roof, probably  thatched.  It seems  to  have
            served  as a kind  of Customs  House, with  a row  of
            shops or godowns on either side. Here, the Krishna is
            more than half a mile  wide, with numerous  sandbanks
            and huge rocks in its bed, but during the rains it is
            a very large river  and navigable  for country  craft
            right down to the sea.

                On plan  and in construction, the  Andhra  stupas
            differ from those found in the North.  They are built
            in the form of a wheel with hub, spokes  and tire all
            complete and executed in brickwork (see plan of stupa
            On Plate III).  The open spaces between the radiating
            walls  were  filled  up with  earth, and the dome  or
            brick casing  built over the structure.  As no traces
            of structural  stone  tees  have been  discovered  in
            Southern  India, we may presume  that they were built
            of brick  and plaster  and decorated  with  the  rail
            ornament  in the latter  material.  The  stupas  were
            covered with chunam, or fine shell-lime plaster, from
            top  to  bottom,  anti   the   moulding   and   other
            ornamentation  was  usually  executed  in  stucco  or
            plaster.  The dome rested on a circular  platform  or
            drum from 2 to 5 feet in height according to the size
            of the monument. On top of the drum was a narrow path
            encircling  the foot  of the dome, and on each of the
            four  sides,  facing  the  cardinal   points,  was  a
            rectangular platform resembling an altar and the same
            height  as  the  drum.   In  the  inscriptions  these
            platforms  are described  as ayaka-platforms, because
            they usually supported a group of five stone pillars,
            called  ayaka-khambhas  (ayaka-pillars).  The precise
            meaning  of the word  ayaka  is not known, but  it is
            used  much  as we use  the  word  'altar.'  From  the
            has-relief  representations  of stupas recovered from
            the   Nagarjunakonda   and   Amaravati   stupas   the
            ayaka-platform  appears  as an altar, on which  pious
            -donors are portrayed  depositing  their offerings of
            fruit  and  flowers.  All  Andhra  stupas  had  those
            platforms, but  only  those  belonging  to large  and
            important  monuments  were provided with pillars.  As
            each  group  consisted  of  five  pillars, the  total
            number  of pillars  for each stupa  so decorated  was
            twenty.  The inscriptions  show  that  these  pillars
            represent  gifts  made to the stupa in honour  of the
            Buddha  and to the  merit  of the  pious  donors  who
            provided  the money for the work;  hut no information
            is  given  as to the  meaning  or  symbolism  of  the
            pillars.

                The  chief  scenes  portrayed  in the  sculptures
            recovered from these Andhra stupas represent the five
            great 'miracles,' or chief events  in the life of the
            Buddha, namely, the Nativity, Renunciation, Sambodhi,
            First  Sermon, and  the Buddha's  Death.  These  five
            incidents  are portrayed  over and over again, either
            as beautifully executed bas-relief scenes, or else as
            mere conventional  symbols, such as a tree, wheel and
            stupa.  In this form they are found engraved  on some
            of the bases  of the ayaka-pillars  belonging  to the
            Amaravati  Stupa  now  in the Madras  Museum;  and  I
            discovered   at   Nagarjunakonda    four   bases   of
            ayaka-pillars   each  ornamented  with  a  bas-relief
            representation of the 'First Sermon.' The presence of
            these  symbols  carved  on the  bases  of the pillars
            seems   to  indicate   that  they  were   set  up  to
            commemorate the five great miracles;  just as we know
            Asoka erected  pillars to mark the sacred spots where
            these events  are said to have occurred  in Nepal and
            Bihar.  As it was impossible  for those living in the
            Krishna  district  to erect the pillars an the aotual
            spots  in Northern  India, they seem to have hit upon
            the idea of conventionslising the pillars into groups
            of five  for  the  sake  of convenience, so that  the
            events  could  be  commemorated  locally,  and  also,
            perhaps, with a view to adding  to the splendour  and
            importance  of  the  stupas, as in the  case  of  the
            Amaravati  Stupa, where the stone casing to the dome,
            the  ayaka-platforms   and  pillars,  and  the  stone
            railing, were all added to the monument in the second
            or  third  century   A.D.   This  we  know  from  the
            inscriptions  belonging to that monument.  In earlier
            times  the ayaka-pillars  were unknown, and they only
            occur in the Andhra stupas of that period.


                                   p. 189

                The platforms and pillars vary in size and height
            according  to the  dimensions  of the stupa  to which
            they belong.  The pillars  vary from 10 to 30 feet in
            height, with square bases and octagonal  shafts.  The
            tops  are round, showing  that  they  could  not have
            supported capitals or any other kind of ornaments. In
            some  of  the  bas-relief  pictures  of  stupas,  the
            pillars are shown crowned with trisula ornaments, the
            centre  pillar  often  with  a  miniature   stupa  as
            capital.  This is incorrect and purely decorative, as
            they never supported  anything and could not do so as
            the  tops  were  round, so that  any ornament  placed
            there would fall immediately  to the ground.  In this
            case the ornaments  merely indicate  that the pillars
            were  dedicated  to the Buddha, and  the inscriptions
            confirm this.

                In  the  sculptures   two  kinds  of  stupas  are
            depicted--one  a plain  brick  and plaster  structure
            like the stupas  of the Asokan age;  and the other is
            similar  in  all  respects,  except  that  the  brick
            surface  is faced  with  richly  carved  stone  slabs
            embedded  in mortar.  This stone  casing  was applied
            only  to the  face  of the drum, ayaka-platforms  and
            lower portion of the dome.  The upper portion  of the
            domes of all Andhra stupas was executed  in brick and
            plaster and decorated  with a characteristic  garland
            ornament  encircling  the dome.  This ornament always
            appears in the has-relief representations  of stupas,
            and is in the form of a broad festoon decorated  with
            big lotus medallions executed in plaster.

                The stone casing was applied  only to the base of
            the  dome, as it is obvious  that  flat  stone  slabs
            could not be fixed to the curved surface of the upper
            portion of the dome.  In order to do this, each stone
            would  have to be specially  cut with a convex  front
            and a concave  back, and even then  it would  be very
            difficult  to keep  the  stones  in position, so this
            part  of the  stupas  was  always  in plaster.  These
            decorated  stupas  were faced partly with stone slabs
            and  partly  with  plaster   ornamentation,  the  two
            materials  being used together, and when the work was
            completed   the  stupa   wits  given  a  coating   of
            shell-lime  plaster  from  top to bottom, to hide any
            defects  or  inequalities   in.the  work.   For  this
            purpose, the white  limestone  used for this work was
            specially suitable, as it was of the right colour and
            takes  whitewash   or  plaster  readily,  being  very
            absorbent.  It was no doubt these considerations  and
            the  fact  that  it is soft  and  easy  to work  when
            freshly  quarried, that led to its general use in the
            Krishna  valley.  From  the  remains  of  slate-stone
            bas-reliefs  and plaster ornament recovered  from the
            ruined  stupas  of Gandhara, it seems  that they were
            decorated  in the same manner as those erected by the
            Andhras.   The  inscriptions   show  that  there  was
            considerable  intercourse  between  the Buddhists  of
            Gandhara and their co-religionists  in the South, and
            in all probability  the Andhras  adopted  the  custom
            from  the Gandhara  builders  in the  second  century
            A.D., or  thereabouts.  Gandhara  influence  is  also
            strongly marked in many of the Andhra bas-reliefs and
            statues in the round.  Traces of Roman influence  are
            also manifest  in a few of the sculptures  and in two
            small gold medallions  recovered from Nagarjunakonda.
            This is not surprising, as we know that in the second
            and third centuries of our era there was considerable
            sea-borne   trade  between  Rome  and  this  part  of
            Southern India.

                When complete, the Great Stupa  at Nagarjunakonda
            must have been a perfect  example  of a plain  Andhra
            stupa (Plate II, fig. 2). It is built of large bricks
            measuring  20' x 10' x 3", and in the usual form of a
            wheel  (Plate  III, fig.  2).  It  was  covered  with
            plaster  from top to bottom, the dome being decorated
            with the usual garland  ornament, and the drum with a
            few simple mouldings  executed  in plaster.  No stone
            was used in its construction, the ayaka-pillars alone
            being  of that  material, end, as  at Amaravati, they
            probably  represent  a later  addition  to the stupa.
            They were gifts, as their inscriptions show, and were
            erected  between the second and third centuries  A.D.
            The diameter  of the stupa including  the drum is 106
            feet.  The drum  is raised  5 feet  above  the ground
            level,  and  the  total   height   of  the  monument,
            excluding  the tee, must  have  been  about  70 to 80
            feet.  On top of the  drum  is a narrow  path, 7 feet
            wide, extending  all round  the base of the dome.  No
            traces of steps

                                   p. 190

            up to this path were  found, but it is possible  that
            they may have existed.  No steps are depiotep redepio
            ed in the  has-relief  representations  of stupas, so
            perhaps  there  were none to any of these  monuments.
            The ayaka-platforms  are 22 feet in length and 5 feet
            in width, and the bases  of the  five  stone  pillars
            were  securely  built  into  the  brickwork.  In  the
            stone-faced stupas, the ayaka-platforms were the most
            highly  decorated  features  of the stupa.  Here  the
            Andhra  sculptor  exhibited  his best  works  of art,
            partly because these platforms  were regarded as very
            holy structures  resembling  altars  on which  votive
            offerings  were  placed, and mainly  perhaps, because
            they  faced  the four open gateways  of the stupa, so
            that  they  were  the first  objects  seen  by anyone
            entering  the sacred precinct  around the stupa.  The
            stupa was surrounded  by a processional  path 13 feet
            in width, and enclosed  by a wooden railing  standing
            on  brick  foundations,  which  still   remain.   The
            gateways   were  formed  by  extending   the  railing
            outwards  so as to form a screen  on each side of the
            entrance,  but  there  were  apparently  no  transoms
            spanning  the  entrance, like  those  of  the  Sanchi
            toranas.  No traces  of stone  rails or toronas  were
            found  at Nagarjunakonda, and it is quite  clear that
            none existed there.

                As a rule, the fails  and gates  were constructed
            of  carved  woodwork,  no  doubt  resting   on  brick
            foundations,  to  protect  them  from  damp  and  the
            ravages  of white  ante.  It was only in very special
            cases that they were ever executed in stone, and then
            they  were  merely  stone  models  of  carved  wooden
            originals.

                When  first  discovered,  the  Great   Stupa   at
            Nagarjunakonda was a large mound of earth and broken
            brick  overgrown  with  grass  and  jungle, with  two
            ayaka-pillars  standing erect, the remaining eighteen
            pillars  having  fallen.  As the whole of the dome of
            the stupa had been demolished, the ayaka-pillars  and
            platforms thrown down and broken by treasure seekers,
            the  chances  of finding  any relies  in the  edifice
            appeared  very remote indeed.  The first thing was to
            remove  the  debris  and trace  out the  plan  of the
            structure  and recover the broken pillars.  When this
            work was finished and the excavations  completed, the
            appearance  of the Great  Stupa may be gathered  from
            Plate II, fig. 2.

                Fortunately, instead of piecing the relies in the
            centre of the Great Stupa, they were deposited in one
            of the outer  chambers  on the north-western  side of
            the  stupa, where  they  escaped  the  notice  of the
            treasure seekers who wrecked the monument (Plate III,
            fig.  1).  As the slupa contained 40 chambers, all of
            which had to be excavated  down to the natural ground
            level, the excavation  of this  monument  was  a very
            laborious  task  that  took a month  to complete.  At
            last, when  we had  given  up all  hopes  of  finding
            anything  of interest, one of the coolies  noticed  a
            small broken ]pot in the north-western  corner of the
            chamber  marked with a, cross on the plan (Plate III,
            fig.  2).  The pot had been crushed  when the chamber
            was filled  with earth by the Buddhists, and all that
            remained is shown in Plate IV, fig. 1. On the surface
            were a few white crystal  beads and a, tiny gold box.
            After carefully  sifting the contents  of the pot the
            following  objects  were  found:-a fragment  of  bone
            placed in a small round gold reliquary three-quarters
            of an inch in diameter.  This was placed  in a little
            silver casket, shaped  like a miniature  stupa, 2 1/2
            inches  in height, together  with a few gold flowers,
            pearls, garnets and crystals. The three large crystal
            beads and the round  earornament  were placed  in the
            pot and not in the casket.  The latter  unfortunately
            was very corroded and broken, but a replica was made,
            which  appears  in the photograph  showing  the finds
            recovered  from  the tomb  (Plate  IV, fig.  2).  The
            earthenware  pot containing  the casket and reliquary
            was placed originally  in the corner  of the chamber,
            which  was  filled  up  with  earth  as soon  as  the
            consecration  ceremony  was over.  The brick dome was
            then built  over the remains, and the plastering  and
            decoration  of  the  stupa  completed.  No traces  of
            ornamental plaster were found in the debris round the
            monument, except  portions  of simple mouldings  that
            once decorated the plinth and cornice of the drum. It
            must have been a perfectly plain structure like those
            of the Asokan age before the ayaka-pillars were added
            in the second century A.D. (Plate II, fig. 2).


                                   p. 191

                In the inscriptions belonging to the Great Stupa,
            the monument is called the "Mahachetiya  of the Lord,
            the Supreme  Buddha," clearly  showing  that the tomb
            was consecrated  to the Great  Teacher  and to nobody
            else.  The  discovery  of the  dhalu, or bone  relic,
            proves that the monument  was a dhatugarbha, or 'tomb
            containing  a relic,' and  that  it  was  not  a mere
            'dedicatory' stupa.  The latter were memorial stupas,
            which contained no relics, and, like Asoka's pillars,
            were  erected  on  celebrated  sites  sacred  to  the
            Buddha, such  as his  birthplace, and  so on.  It is,
            therefore, obvious  that  the  Great  Stupa  did  not
            belong  to  this  class  of  memorial  monument.  The
            inscriptions  do not definitely  state  why the stupa
            was built;  they merely  state that the ayaka-pillars
            were dedicated  to the Buddha, and that they were Bet
            up by the princess Chamtisiri  and other royal ladies
            of the same house.  Supposing  the stupa to have been
            already  in existence  prior  to the erection  of the
            pillars,  it  would  have  been  necessary  first  to
            enlarge  the drum  and build  the ayaka-platforms  to
            accommodate  the  pillars,  and  then  replaster  and
            decorate the stupa from top to bottom to complete the
            work.  In fact, it would  have meant  rebuilding  the
            whole of the exterior of the monument.  Dr.  Vogel is
            of  opinion  that  the  inscriptions  show  that  the
            Mahachetiya  was " founded " by Chamtisiri, but it is
            by  no means  clear  whether  she  built, rebuilt, or
            merely contributed to the structure. If she did build
            the stupa, then it was she who enshrined the relic
            found in the chamber;but  it is impossible to believe
            that so great  an event  as this could  have occurred
            without  the fact being  recorded  in at least one of
            the many inscriptions referring to the stupa. We know
            that the monument  was consecrated  to the Buddha, as
            the  inscriptions  are  quite  clear  on this  point.
            Therefore, it is reasonable  to assume that the relic
            recovered  from  the  tomb  represents  a  dhatu,  or
            corporeal relic of the Great Teacher, otherwise there
            could be no possible  reason for calling the tomb the
            " Mahachetiya  of the Lord, the Supreme Buddha." That
            the Mahachetiya  was regarded as a particularly  holy
            shrine  is obvious  from the tone and wording  of the
            inscriptions  found  at the site.  Again, the size of
            the  tomb, the  number  of pious  donations  made  by
            ladies  of royal  blood, and the fact  that  pilgrims
            came from ail over India and Ceylon to reverence  it,
            afford testimony of this.

                Unfortunately, the meaning  of some  of the words
            and  phrases  met with  in the  inscriptions  is very
            obscure.  Commenting  upon  this, Dr.  Vogel  says-"A
            considerable  difficulty  in the  way of interpreting
            the  Nagarjunikonda   inscriptions  is  the  want  of
            precision   of  which   they  show  ample   evidence.
            Considering that these inscriptions  were meant to be
            perpetual  records of pious donations  made by ladies
            of royal  blood, the careless  manner  in which  they
            have  been recorded  is astonishing.  Not only single
            syllables  but whole  words  have  been omitted," Dr.
            Hirananda  Sastri, Epigraphist  to the Government  of
            India,  who   has  also   made   a  study   of  these
            inscriptions,  found  the  same  difficulty, and,  as
            might   be   expected   in  the   circumstances,  his
            interpretation  of the  precise  meaning  of  certain
            words differs from Dr. Vogel's. The records belonging
            to the Mahachetiya  open  with  an invocation  to the
            Buddha, who is extolled in a long string of laudatory
            epithets. Dr. Hirananda Sastri is of opinion that the
            style  and wording  of the invocation  shows that the
            Mahachctiya  has been specified in these inscriptions
            as " protected by the corporeal remains of the Buddha
            and  that  the  genitive   case   is  used   here  to
            discriminate   this  stupa  from  others   not  larly
            consecrated.  Nine ruined stupas  were discovered  at
            Nagarjunakonda, four of them  highly  decorated  with
            stone bas-reliefs  similar  to those  recovered  from
            Amaravati,  but  the  Mahachetiya  is  the  only  one
            bearing   inscriptions   indicating   that   it   was
            consecrated to the Buddha.

                The discovery  of the relic  and  the  fact  that
            inscription  B.  2 of  Dr.  Vogel's  List, definitely
            gives the name of the monument as the Mahachetiya  of
            the  Buddha,  seem  conclusive   evidence   that  the
            monument  was  originally   built  to  enshrine  some
            corporeal  remains  of the  Buddha, as Dr.  Hirananda
            Sastri maintains.  The stupa was probably  built long
            before Chamtisiri  set up the pillars and rebuilt the
            structure  in  the  second  century  A.D.,  or  there
            abouts, which

                                   p. 192


            would   explain   why  the   inscriptions   give   no
            information  about the consecration  or how the relic
            was obtained.  If the Mahachetiya  did exit prior  to
            the second  century  A.D., the fact that it contained
            corporeal  remains  of the Great  Teacher  would have
            been known throughout  India  and Ceylon, thus making
            it  unnecessary   to  record   this  information   in
            inscriptions added to the monument in later times.

                We know  from  the  inscriptions  recovered  from
            Sanchi, Sarnath  and Amaravati  that the great stupas
            that existed  at these three  famous  sites  were all
            rebuilt in later times.  These inscriptions  give the
            names of some of the pious donors who found the money
            for the additions  to these  monuments, but, like the
            Nagarjunakonda,    inscriptions,   they    give    no
            information  concerning  the  purpose  for which  the
            stupas  were built, or when  they  were erected, just
            the very points which we should so much like to know.
            The  Amaravati  inscriptions   show  that  the  stone
            casing, ayaka-pillars and stone railing were added to
            the Great Stupa at that place in the second  or third
            century  A.D., that is, at the same period as that in
            which Chamtisiri  set up the pillars and rebuilt  the
            Mahachetiya   at   Nagarjunakonda.   Originally,  the
            Amaravati  Stupa seems to have been a,plain brick and
            plaster stupa similar to the Mahachetiya, and it must
            have been a particularly  holy shrine, else  it would
            never have been enlarged and decorated in so costly a
            fashion.  Perhaps  when Chamtisiri  learned  what was
            taking place at Amaravati, she felt it incumbent upon
            herself, as the  leading  devotee  of the  Buddha  at
            Nagarjunakonda,  to  redecorate   and   improve   the
            Mahachetiya.

                Personally, like Dr.  Hirananda  Sastri, I do not
            think there can be any doubt that the Mahachetiya was
            originally  built to enshrine some corporeal  remains
            of the Buddha, and that the fragment of bone found in
            the gold  reliquary  represents  a genuine  dhatu, or
            relic, of the Great Teacher.  There is no reason  why
            such  a relic  could  not  have  been  obtained  from
            Northern India long before the days of Chamtisiri.


     

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