Amaravati: Buddhist Sculpture from the Great Stupa

By Douglas Barrett | Go to book overview

South from Suvarnagiri, the site of which is unidentified, no archaeological evidence of the presence of the Mauryas, apart from the Edicts, has yet been discovered south of the Vindhyas. It seems that the Maurya conquest was as fruitless as it was brief, and left undisturbed the cultural pattern of the peoples to the south of the Aryan settlements. Excavation at Brahmagiri, the site of three groups of the minor Rock Edicts and of the ancient town of Isila, has shown that the local inhabitants were in a comparatively lowly stage of culture, using microliths, ground and polished stone axes and a little metal. It was probably about 200 B.C., when the weakness of the Mauryas loosened their hold on the South, that Brahmagiri was overrun by a megalith-building people with elaborate iron equipment. The archaeological evidence, such as it is, suggests that in the following two centuries this people, which had been established in South India some time before the middle of the first millenium B.C., continued its expansion northwards, until it was halted by a dynasty which had lately imposed its power on the Aryan states of the northern Deccan. The history of this dynasty forms the main subject of this chapter.

There are several quite different theories of the origin, direction of expansion and chronology of this dynasty, which is known in the Purānas as Andhra or Andhrabhyritya, in all other literary sources and in its inscriptions as belonging to the Sātavāhana4-kula or family. One theory identifies the original home of the Andhras with the country between the mouths of the rivers Krishnā and Godāvarī, which is now known as Andhradeśa and, as early as the 4th century A.D., as Andhrāpatha. The main objection to this theory, which has to assume that the dynasty extended its power across India to the north-west Deccan at the very beginning of its history, is that no evidence of the presence of the Sātavāhanas before the 2nd century A.D. has yet been discovered in the Andhradeśa. Some scholars, however, deny any connexion between the Sātavāhana family and the Andhra tribe, and place the home of the former either in the Bellary region or in Berār. According to this theory the Sātavāhanas are called Andhra by the compilers of the Purānas because the remnant of their dwindling power was confined to the Andhradeśa. Bellary, it is true, appears to be referred to as the Sātavāhanīya province, but in inscriptions no earlier than the 2nd century A.D. Berār's candidature rests on little more than the fact that a hoard of Sātavāhana coins was found at Tarhāla in the Akola district of the Central Provinces.

A third theory, the one followed here, accepts the Sātavāhanas as the ruling family of the Andhras, and places the original home of both in the north-west Deccan. According to this theory the Andhradeśa is so called because it was the last province

____________________
4
There are several variants of this name, but Sātavāhana will be the form used here.

-12-

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Amaravati: Buddhist Sculpture from the Great Stupa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • The Early History of the Deccan 11
  • The Discovery of the Amarāvatī Stūpa 21
  • The Form of the Stūpa 27
  • The Date and Style of the Sculptures 40
  • Appendix: The Buddha Image at Amarāvatī 57
  • Catalogue 63
  • Concordances 75
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