1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Indian Architecture - Introduction. Buddhist Architecture - Topes.

(Part 23)

Indian Architecture

(a) I
ntroduction. (b) Buddhist Architecture - Topes.

Considerable light has been recently thrown upon the history of architecture in the East. The traditions as to the extremely remote antiquity of the rock-cut temples, the caves of Ellora, and the wonderful pagodas, have disappeared before the searching eye of critical investigation. In the time of Herodotus the Persian had no temples; and even in that of Tacitus, the great Indo-Germanic races " would not confine their gods within walls." The early religion, which appears in the Vedas, was Brahminism, but in the 6th century B.C., the first of the Buddhas seems to have commenced a perversion of the ancient faith. The struggle appears to have gone on for years, till three-quarters of a century after the time of Alexander the Great, about 250 years before the Christian era, when a powerful ruler named Asoka, a grandson of Chandragupta, who is supposed to be the Sandracottus of the Greek writers, abjured Brahminism, and made Buddhism the religion of the state. Certain Lats, or pillars, erected by him, and inscribed with his edicts, are the earlist extant archirtectural remains of India.

The Buddhist topes are supposed to have been erected at first to commemorate some event, or to show that the spot was scared; but after a time they were employed to contain relics, such as the tooth or collar-bone of one the Buddhas. The relics seem in some cases to have been preserved in a sort of box or case at the top of the tope, called a tee; in others, in regular relic chambers. Where there were relics, the place was called dagoba, or relic shrine, of which, perharps, our term pagoda is a corruption. A great number of these, the Sanchi tope, is described and figured by a stone fence. Other are partly cylindrical, and are finished with either a flat circle, or pointed terminals like a dome at the top. A fine example has recently been discopvered at Bharhut by General Cunningham.

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