The One Who was Against the - gko.uni- .sculptures in Ajanta and in art contemporary to Ajanta,

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  • The One Who was Against the PavvajjMonika Zin

    The pavvajj/supravrajy, nikkhama/abhinikramaa, or the act of leaving the worldly lifein favour of life as a wandering ascetic searching for enlightenment, as was done by allthe Buddhas, all the Jinas and all their followers, is the most saintly act of the highestreligious value. Could anybody dare to be openly against it? And could such a person berepresented in art, in the very paintings and reliefs in the same monasteries where themonks who had left the worldly life were living?

    The answer to this question is yes. A person meeting that description has beenrepresented many times. He is to be seen nearby in scenes where future ascetics areleaving the profane world, and he is against it, decisively and desperately against it: thejester.

    It was in 1998 when I identifed the court jester in numerous paintings andsculptures in Ajanta and in art contemporary to Ajanta, as well as in art that followed(Zin 1998 and 2003, vol. pp. 24246). Later on (ZIN 2015, forthcoming) I found him in stillearlier representations as well, in reliefs in Andhra and Mathura.

    The iconography of the jester in art corresponds quite precisely with descriptions ofthe theatrical jester, the vidaka, given in the Nyastra, the old Indian treatise on thetheatre. In Indian dramas the jester vidaka commonly appears as a companion of thehero. The Nyastra says that he has to carry the staf called the bent one (kuila orkuilaka) in the left hand;1 the staf is wooden and bent three times over. The head of thevidaka is described as bald but bearing the crow-foot (kka-pada).2 This strange idiombecomes understandable while reading with the foregoing verses of the Nyastra,which gives instructions regarding the appearance of children and servants on thestage: they should wear tufts of hair (ikhs) on their (otherwise shaven) heads. Also thekka-pada of the vidaka must be interpreted as a special sort of tuft. With these twomain attributes, the bent one-stick, reminding one of a snake, and the crow-foot onthe top of the head, the vidaka was not only described in the theatrical treatise butalso realized on stage, which can be discerned from several expressions in the oldIndian dramas.3 This is also how the court jester is shown in art (Fig. 1): holding thekuilaka in his hand and the appearance of his head with the kka-pada, is peculiar andreserved only for him. In earlier art, in Amaravati,4 Nagarjunakonda and Mathura (Fig.2), the kka-pada corresponds very well with its name and shows three whips of hair

    1 Nyastra XIII,143144; 179180 (ed. vol. 2, p. 21, tr. p. 231; ed. 164; tr.. pp. 43031);Nyastra XXIII, for quotations cf. Zin 1998 or 2015, forthcoming.

    2 Nyastra XXIII,151, ed. vol. 2, p. 161; tr.. p. 433.3 E.g. Mcchakaika I, ed. + tr. p. 48; ed. + tr.. p. 54.4 For example in the court scene from the Campakajtaka represented in a medallion form

    Amaravati in British Museum, no. 17; cf. Knox 1992, p. 65, no. 14; with references to foregoingpublications.

  • 438 Monika Zin

    falling from the crown of the head which look very much like a birds foot. Later, in 5 thcentury Ajanta and afterwards, the kka-pada gets a diferent shape: (Fig. 3ab) the tuftsof hair are arranged in tiny buns, which have often been decorated with fowers orpearls.

    The theatrical character of the vidaka has very much in common with the jester inreal life and his appearance was probably taken from the court jester or perhaps thecourt jesters were styled after the stage character of the vidaka. However, it is notonly the appearance of the jester which demonstrates his inherent afnity with thetheatrical vidaka. It is also the kind of humour that he displays. On stage the vidakais a Brahmin, though he speaks Prakrit, and his high social status clashes with hisunabashed gluttony. In art the amusing efect was evoked by showing him in a strangepose on bent legs, probably illustrating the fact that he limps (this is how the Ntya-stra directs the actor to portray him).5 Sometimes (like in Fig. 3) he is depicted withhands tied with a cord. Quite often he carries a bowl with sweets. All of this is portrayedin connection with the Brahmanical attributes he displays: the holy string yajopavitaand the rosary to recite the mantras (Figs 4a-b).6

    The kind of humour the theatrical vidaka puts on show illustrating his guzzlingand blundering ignorance of religious matters as in amusing dialogues in the dramas,in which he mixes up generally known literary titles or mythological tales obtains anew dimension in the context of Buddhist art: the jester is shown protesting against thedecision of his master or mistress when they are leaving the worldly life. Only thewhole context of our Fig. 4 demonstrates the mode of operation in which his characteris being applied in the representation (Fig. 5):7 the painting shows a wealthy coupleleaving their comfortable home to join the Buddhist order. The painter shows theprocession with two main personages characterized by honorifc umbrellas andsurrounded by an entourage progressing towards the (city?) gate on the viewers left. Itis only the jester who is moving in the opposite direction. He makes his opinion unmis-takably clear to the viewer as regards the scene unfolding around him, while he holds abowl of sweets under one arm, as if to protect them, and displays with his right hand agesture which can be read only as his loud shout no-no-no!

    Yet the picture shows us still more: the jester is placed in the very middle of thecomposition, in the front, and the difering direction of his body underlines the signif-cance of the personage and of his role in the representation. It appears as though he is apart of a visual language which should evoke the immediate understanding of thedepicted topic: it is the supravrajy that we observe here. It is quite possible that theprotesting jester is represented in such scenes to make the act of leaving the worldlylife appreciable.

    5 Nyastra XIII,137, ed. vol. 2, p. 20, tr. p. 230; the verse must be read with the foregoing. 6 Fig. 4: Ajanta XVII, veranda, left rear wall, for the references to the depicted story cf. the

    following footnote.7 Fig. 5: Ajanta XVII, veranda, left rear wall, copy Grifths 17c, illus. e.g. in: Grifths 189697,

    vol. 1, pl. 58; Yazdani 193055, vol. 3, pl. 66; Okada/Nou 1991, p. 168; Behl 1998, pp. 160, 162;Takata 2000, vol. 3, pl. 175; cf. Schlinglof 2000/2013, no. 69, vol. 1, pp. 399401, the narrative ofUdyin.

  • The One Who was Against the Pavvajj 439The visual message which the scene presents does not seem to be the invention of

    the Ajanta painters but rather appears to have been adopted from models dating some150 years earlier, in the reliefs of Andhra. In several reliefs from Nagarjunakonda, suchas in the one in the Muse Guimet,8 or the one in the depot of the ArchaeologicalMuseum at the site (Fig. 6), the jester is accompanying the hero to the monastery. Herehe is shown frst, while the hero (the story depicted has not yet been identifed, so wedo not know who he is) wanders to the monastery (right scene). He is shown againabove the hero, always holding his bent staf, when the hero has reached the monasteryand is praising the Buddha there and apparently asking for permission to join his order.

    The visual message of the representation as taking leave of the worldly life musthave been generally understood by the viewer, thanks to the person with the kuilaka inthe hand and the kka-pada on the head, the jester, as the embodiment of court life.

    It is a very interesting fact that the tradition of representing the jester was broughtover to the Buddhist paintings in Kucha on the northern Silk Road (cf. Arlt/Hiyamaforthcoming). The kka-pada there takes the form of round tufts of hair often decoratedwith fowers or beads, i.e. strongly recalling the paintings in Ajanta. Arlt & Hiyama callthe personage vidaka and that with good reason, considering the performancetraditions in the Kucha area which might have been of importance in the creation ofthe paintings, as well as the tradition of the Buddhist theatrical text in Tocharian (i.e.the vernacular language of the area) which also includes the personage of the vidaka.Interestingly, the jester was likewise represented among other scenes in Kuchapaintings demonstrating his dismay about the decision of his master or mistress to jointhe order, as we can see for example in the representation of the Udryanvadna fromthe cave 83 in Kizil (Fig. 7).

    It is very likely that representations of the jester at the moment when the hero isleaving the profane world had specifc connections to Buddhist theatrical literature outof which, however, rarely anything has come down to us. The vidaka appears in thosetexts as well, of course, from the earliest date, in the dramas preserved in manuscriptfragments found in Kizil, one of which is the riputraprakaraa of Avaghoa, where heparodies a Buddhist monk, talking how could it be otherwise about food: hungry, Iwander on my way..9

    But let us return to Ajanta. In cave XVI there is a much-telling representationdepicting somebody trying to impede the ordination of a monk. The story portrayed is afamous one about the conversion of Buddhas step-brother Nanda.10 The Buddha tookhis enamoured brother to the monastery against his will; it was only later that Nandaunderstood the wrongness of his opinions in preferring sensual love over the strugglefor spiritual perfection. He had not come to this realisation yet when he was ordainedas a monk in the monastery outside of the city of Kapilavastu. As the painting shows(Fig. 8) Nanda looks quite desolate when his hair is being sheared, preparing him for the

    8 Paris, Muse Guimet, no. MG 17069; illus.: Hackin 1931, pl. 1; Bachhofer 1934, pl. 2.5;Auboyer/Nou 1982, pl. 82; Zin 2015, forthcoming, fg. 16.

    9 Cf. Lders