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3 The Visual Language of Meditation

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Chapter Summary

On account of the structural and decorative dissimilarities, in this chapter the author focuses on central pillar caves and on monumental image caves, specifically, on images and imagery which derived from meditation. In a central pillar cave, the overall decor celebrated the historical Buddha in the following way: the façade of the central pillar showed the post-Enlightenment Indrashailaguha episode, while the side walls of the main chamber carried preaching scenes; the barrel vaulted ceiling was divided into two sections by the ceiling's axial strip embellished with cosmic symbols and additional images of Buddha or monks; the two sections of the vault were filled with avadanas, a kind of moral story, and jatakas, stories of Buddha's previous lives. Paintings of the Parinirvana cycle, the final release, the cremation and the distribution of the relics and their deposit into stupas, covered the walls of the rear areas of the cave.

Keywords: avadanas; Buddha; cave; Indrashailaguha episode; jatakas; meditation

10.1163/9789004279391_005
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