BY- Jitendra Nath Banerjee, M. A.




Introductory Remarks.


       The Indian Artists, like the artists of other countries, followed from a very early time some definite canons of proportion in the carving of images. The Puranas, Tantras, Agamas and Silpasastras contain these details which were worked out by the sculptures. It is very difficult to determine the exact date of many of these texts; it is probable, however, that the Silpasastras in general were compiled at a comparatively late period, though a very considerable portion of the materials they contain is much earlier in point of date that the age of their compilation. Of these texts on iconometry, a section of the chapter 57 of Varahamihira's Brhatsamhita (MM. S. Dvivedi's edition Vizianagram Sanskrit Series) is extremely interesting ;as in dealing with the various measurements of the different parts of images, the author refers to previous writers on the subject such as Nagnajit 2 and Vasistha. Bhatta Utpala, while commenting on his work, actually quotes from these writers, most of whose works have, up till now, been lost to us. Varahamihira flourished in the middle of the 6th century A. D. or somewhat earlier; and the authors mentioned by him evidently wrote some time before that date. It is probable that iconological and other silpa works in general were composed in the early centuries of the Christian era when there was a great impetus to image-making due to the systematic development of the doctrine of bhakti, the growth of sectarianism in religion and other causes. But texts bearing iconometrical rules though apparently general in their application, that have so far been noticed and some edited by scholars, are mostly in connection with images of the Brahmanical divinities. Information about the icons of various Buddhas, Buddhasaktis and Bodhisattavas (both male and female) are collected in the Sadhanamala of the Vajrayana literature, mostly compiled in Tibet and Nepal. But those which have so far been edited are mostly iconographic in character; very few of them, if any, contain any detailed reference to the various measurements of the different bodily parts of these Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. So, any text which deal with the iconometry of these types of images, is certainly of unique interest for the purpose of studying Buddhist iconography.

         In the introduction to his edition of Citralaksana, Dr. Laufer refers to the fact that in Tanjur under the title 'the art of representation' (Darstellende Kunste) are included the following four works, piz., (1) Dasatalanyagrodhaparimandala buddhapratimalaksananama, (2) Sambuddhabhasita pratimalaksanavivarananama, (3) Citralaksanam, (4) Pratimamanalaksananama, all of which were translated into Tibetan from Sanskrit. He further remarks that the Sanskrit originals of these texts are in all probability lost to us. Mr. Phanindra Nath Bose, however, writes that among the manuscripts (Sanskrit?) which were represented to the Visvabharati Library by the Nepal Durbar, were found the first three of the four mentioned above; he chose to edit Pratimalaksanam (Pratimamanalaksanam) with its Tibetan version, promising at the same time that the two other Silpa MSS, would also be edited by him in due course. The text which is being edited here may not be exactly the same as the second in Laufer's list mentioned above. In its colophon, it is described as Samyak Sambuddhabhasita (Buddha) -Pratimalaksanam whereas in the Tibetan list, name is slightly different. There were evidently two manuscripts, one a commentary on the other, as we know from Dr. Cecil Bendall's Catalogue of Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts (p. 200) in the Cambridge Unversity. Nos. III IV under Add. 1706 (about which Bendall remarks " A collection of palm-leaf fragments and volumes of works chiefly on ritual, the construction of images, etc.) in that Catalogue are described in their colophons as Samyak Sambuddhabhasita Buddhapratimalaksanam, and Sambuddhabhasitapratimalaksanavivarana, respectively. Dr. Bendall informs us that the latter is a commentary on the former. The Visvabharati MSS. as referred to by Mr. P Bose is probably another copy of the same commentary as is the case with that which found place in the bsTangyur. It may be noted, however, that there is no mentioned of this text either in Dr. R. L. Mitra's Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal or in MM. H. P. Sastri's Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Durbar Library of Nepal. Another interesting point to be taken notice of in connection with this text is that is has been elaborately commented on by the author of the treatise called Kriyasamuccaya, an elaborate work on Buddhist rituals, in its pages 186b-189b ( the work is unpublished). A few more words about the general features of this short text will not be out of place here. It begins with a salutation to Buddha; then partially imitating the manner of the much earlier Buddhist sutra works, it introduces Buddha himself as the expounder of the details about his own images to his chief interlocutor, Sariputra ; and the other characteristic feature of sutra writings, viz. the words, evam  maya srutam, in the beginning, though absent in our copy,  is present in the Cambridge University original. No mentioned, however, is made either of the author or its date of composition. Another peculiarity of the earlier sutras is imitated; there are a few lines of prose in its beginning, by way of introducing the subject and then the gatha portion of the text begins. There is some doubt as to the exact spot where the prose portion ends and verse commences; but on a comparison with its Chinese translation, it appears that 'svenanguli- pramanema satam vimsatyuttaram' is probably the first line of the latter. Again, many are the lines of the verse which do not find their place in the Chinese rendering; it is very likely, if not certain, that these were interpolated in the body of the original text after it had been translated into Chinese. The portions which are not in Chinese are put inside brackets, in the body of the text. Grammatical mistakes and unintelligible terms are very few many of which can be explained as copyist's mistakes. Thus, the term salalitatvam which is unintelligible in this context occurs in the 5th line of the prose portion; similarly, the enigmatic term kukuni is found in the 25th couplet; but both these have been satisfactorily emended with the help of another text called Ktiyasamuccaya, referred to above, the correct words substituted being salilatvam (the commentator explains it by adding tribhangatvadi gunena) and kaphoni respectively. The couplet-Etani ca samastani laksanani vicaksanah Atyantasantakayartham yathasau (o)-bham prakalpayet-which occurs in the end of the Cambridge University original, is absent in our copy. Five couplets, however, which have no define and organic connection with the subject matter of this text, though occurring in the end of our copy, have been given to place in the body of text, edited here. Lastly, this small manuscripts of about 50 verses not only deals with the rules of measurements to be adopted in making the Buddha figures, but also, in connection with the delineation of the general features of the images, incidentally refers to some of the more important beauty marks or characteristic signs which are always to be found, according to the canons, in a great man's person.

           The problem of the date of composition of this text is very difficult to be solved. The fact that it or its commentary has been translated into Tibetan and Chinese definitely proves that it is not of a recent date. The collection of palm-leaf fragments and volumes of works chiefly on ritual, the construction of images, etc., described by Bendall in his catalogue (referred to above) has only one amongst them, Khadgapujavidhi by name, which has got the date 381 N. S. (1261 A. D.) in its colophon. From the similarity of the characters in which Sambuddhabhasita- pratimalaksana was written with those of the above-mentioned dated work, Bendall fixed the age of the former in the 13th century A. D. There is no doubt about that being its later limit; but that does not preclude the suggestion that the work might have been composed a few centuries earlier. It is very likely that the work was originally composed by some pious Buddhist silpacarya in Eastern India and later it found its way to the adjoining country of Nepal. Some definite internal evidences which are to be discussed in our notes also tend to the conclusion that the work was composed some considerable time earlier than the 13th century A. D.



Om, Salutation to Buddha.

          Buddha, the Holy One was staying (then) in the Jetavana. When he had come back from the noble Tusita heaven after initiating his mother into the dharma, Sariputra said to the Worshipful One, "Oh Lord! When you go (else where) or attain parinirvana, how will you be honored by the noble and respectable disciples (of yours). The Master replied 'Oh Sariputra! When I go (elsewhere) or attain parinirvana, my body (image) of nyagrodhaparimandala type should be made; (i. e.) the full height of the figure should be equal to its width across the chest along the arms fully outstretched. The image should be made for worship and reverence; and it should have all its main and subordinate limbs (marked by proportionate) stoutness, loveliness, beauty, and grace. Its head and shoulders should be like an umbrella (i. e. rounded like it at the top) and Usnisa and other things should also be well-placed (on its head). It should be of (proportionate) length, breadth, and thickness and (should bear) joints, sinews or tendons (bandha) and orifices (nirgama). (Now, listen to what I say about the (height) measurement of (the figures of)the Bodhisattvas and Sugatas; thus the height of the former should measure 120 times its own angula, while that for the latter 125 times the same.)        


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