Buddhist Symobls in Sihalese Art

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WILLIAM E. WARD: SELECTED BUDDHIST SYMBOLS IN S[NHALESE DECORATIVE ART I T HE GOD SAKKA (INDRA) APPEARS TO MAHINDA AND COMMANDS HIM TO SET out on his journey (this being at the time the monks had invited Mahinda to go to Lanka (Ceylon) to preach the faith of the Buddha). "Mahinda, arise into the air like a swan and flyaway from Jampudipa to alight on the Missaka mountain".l Thus from the ancient chronical of Lanka we are told the story of the introduction of Buddhism onto the island of Ceylon. It was Mahinda, son of Asoka, who brought the faith of the Mahayana Buddhism to Ceylon in the year 307 B. C2 The Missaka mountain is today called Mihintale and is located but a few miles outside Anuradhapura, first capital of Buddhist Ceylon and the seat of the government ruled by King Devanampiva Tissa. The legends tell us of how, while King Devanampiva Tissa was out hunting one day, he met Mahinda and was converted at that moment to Buddhism together with forty thousand of his followers. Keeping in mind that since the landing of the "Sinhalese" in the sixth century B. C, the greatest landmark in Ceylonese history was the conversion of the inhabitants to Buddhism in 307 B. C, we shall attempt to trace decorative elements and symbols back to their origins wherever they may be. We shall see how the craftsmen and artists of Ceylon must have been influenced by various contacts with other countries and their artists, e. g. Burma, Siam, and India. In fact, there was an active exchange of Buddhist priests between India and Ceylon at various times as were there actual visits made by priests of Burma, Arakan, Siam, China and Cambodia. Also there is made mention in the chronicles of Ceylon of several missions being sent from Ceylon at various times to the countries mentioned above, when the order had died out or had been weakened by invasions and non-Buddhist rulers. 1 Wilhe1m Geiger, Dtpavamsa and Malziiva11lsa, (Colombo, H. C. Cottle, 1908). Dtpavamsa 36-37. 2 S. M. Burrows, Buried Cities of Ceylott, (Colombo, A. M. & J. Ferguson, 1885). An interesting note is that copper plaques with inscriptions, 7 th & 8 th century A. D., found at the Vijayarama monastery Dagaba give proof of the presence of adherents of the Mahayana School of Buddhism on Ceylon. 270 There was a great deal of travel on the part of both the laymen and Bhikkhus between Ceylon and the mainland of India. The most important pilgrimage being to Gaya to worship the Sacred Bodhi-tree. Dr. Coomaraswamy, writing in his Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon, informs us that the Sinhalese are Dravidian and had already possessed a highly developed civilization when first Aryan teachers reached them sometime before the Birth of Christ.3 Supporting this View, we note that a Dravidian inscription was found near the pokuma in Anuradhapura.4oIt is stated in the itfahavansa that King Prakrama Bahu, A. D. II 15, "brought Damilo artificers" from the opposite coast of India to decorate Polonnaruwa. No comment is made of this as an unusual proceeding.5 Certainly then there is no question of whether or not there was influence from India. One has but to look at the Lankatilaka in Polonnaruwa today and he can see clearly the evidence ofDravidian workmanship and Dravidian influence. Note also the striking resemblance between the Seven Pagodas at Mamallapuram and the architecture of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, especially the latter. Today the Sinhalese willingly agree that sculptors from Southern India were employed at both Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Evidence of this is to be found in the many existing villages of Tamil, (Hindus from Southern India), "gal-7vaduwas" (stone carvers). This interesting question is asked by Mr. Burrows; "If the Sinhalese were the artists that produced much of this architecture and sculpture, etc., why do we not see traces of their art among them today?" He then goes on to comment that" We have but to look at the great "Madura" temple to see proof that the Tamil is still a great builder and artist." I agree with Mr. Burrows for I have seen work being carried out at the new Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy and true to tradition the craftsmen working on this Buddhist temple were Tamils. But there is a good reason for this. The Sinhalese are agricultural and consider it degrading to work for hire, yet they will do any form of work so long as it is for themselves or their family using their own land and products of that land. It follows then that such a people would "import" craftsmen to build and decorate their great temples. In Ceylon a man may be the architect of his own house, a jeweler, painter and ivory carver.6 Knowing 3 A. K. Coomaraswamy, Arts and Crafts of India and Cey!on, (London, FouIis, 1913), p. 5. 4 Burrows, oj. cit., p. 34. :; Ibid., p. 40. 6 Coomaraswamy, oj. cit., p. 35. .all processes for his personal use. Regrettably, European influence is changing this position of the Siilhalese "landowner". It is important to keep in mind that since Buddhism is the "form" of Buddhist art it is necessary to understand Buddhism and its history. As Dr. Coomaraswamy points out; An understanding of Buddhism is indispensable, not only for a rarional interpretation of the iconography, in which the logic of the work is expressed, but also as prerequisite to aesthetic experience.7 I feel it will be valuable therefore to consider a brief discussion of the history of Buddhism on Ceylon. Noting especially the various exchanges made by the Siilhalese Buddhists with the faithful of other countries. In pre-Buddhist Lanka there were no elaborate temples or buildings, likewise there were no elaborate rituals for religious assemblies. In each city there were but two places of worship, one devoted to Vessavana, guardian of the city and the second, Vydhadeva the Siilhalese guardian god of the aboriginal population, who was placed under and symbolized by a tal a (palm) tree. Mention is made of the Entrance to the sacred Bo-tree in Anuradha-pura as having two palm trees growing on either side. This is supposed by some to be a remnant of phallic worship. 8 Buddhism on Ceylon begins with the arrival of the Elder Mahinda, son of Asoka. Here, there is a slight discrepancy of dates. Codrington calculates the event as having taken place eighteen years after the coronation of Asoka and 236 years after the death of Buddha.9 This reckoning would bring the date to 247 B. c., a difference of 54 years from the date given in the legends of Lanka. The important point being that the Elder Mahinda arrived on Ceylon and met the king, who was hunting at the time near a hill afterwards known as Mihintale. The sovereign had already become interested in Buddhism but lost no time after the arrival of Mahinda in establishing the religion on Ceylon. As tradition has it, the sacred teachings and sermons of the Buddha as well as the Elder Monks had been handed down from generation to generation of monks orally. However in the first century B. c., 500 Rahats assembled at Alulena (present day Aluvihare) and put 7 A. K. Coomaraswamy, Elements of Buddhist Iconography, (Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), p. 52. 8 Burrows, op. cit., p. 43. 9 H. W. Codrington, A Short History of Ceylon, (London, Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1939), p. 13. 272 down in writing the text of the three Pitakas beginning with the Buddhas "In many a birth of being" which He attends in His felicity while seated on the Vajra throne at the root of the Bo-tree on the day He scattered the hosts of Mara and attained Buddhahood and ending with the last words, "Oh Bhikkus, since all things are impermanent, be diligent," spoken by Him at His final emancipation.1O Thus due to the efforts of the Siilhalese we have in writing all that Gautama preached during His 45 years as a Buddha, "His discourses to Devas, Brahma's, Nagas, Suparnas, men, Yaks as, Raksasas, Siddhas, and Vidyadharas for their edification, the same in the number of letters, words, granthas, and bhanavaras leaving nothing, adding nothing, free from all hearsay, upheld by the three convocations of monks, pure as a stream of the heavenly river, free as a crystal from all impurities, comforting the whole world like a great shower of nectar, great straight path to the threefold knowledge and the names for the attainment of all happiness desired by men, the same which had been brought down orally in succession of the great Monks." Thus in the words of the Nikiiya Sangraha, we have clearly presented the work of the counsel who, encouraged by the king, held a great convocation, recited the Blessed One's teachings, while scribes carefully set down their words in writing. By the 5th century A. D., Ceylon had become the center of Buddhism with the fame of its literature established throughout India. At this time Siilhalese Buddhist monks traveled to foreign lands, India, China and others, to introduce the literature as preached in Cey-Ion. It is also noted that Buddhaghosa Maha Thera made a pilgrimage to Ceylon in the 5th century. By the 1I th century troubled times weakened Buddhism in Ceylon and King Vijayabahu, 1I64 A. D., sent an embassy to King Anuruddha of Arakan requesting for monks to enable the restoration of the ordination in Ceylon. Theras were sent to Ceylon and "thousands of Siilhalese joined the Order and the Sasana was established again to the great joy and satisfaction of the people". In the 13th century A. D. agam the Bhikkhus were disorganized but monasteries were established and learning encouraged by bringing monks from Soli in South India. The Order in Burma fell into decay in the 15th century A. D. and the King of Burma, 10 Bimala Churn Law, Editor, Buddhistic Studies, (Calcutta, Thacker, Sprints & Co., Ltd., 193 I), P.482. 273 Dhammaceti, sent 22 Bhikkhus to Ceylon to obtain and bring back to Burma the tradition of the island. At a later period (c 16th century) the ordination of the Nikaya was carried to Siam from Burma. "Books that existed in Ceylon were taken to Burma, Siam and Cambodia and the Maha Nikaya was established in these countries. These countries helped Ceylon get back the books and the ordination at a later period when the ordination had disappeared from the island and when the books were lost". Prince Rajasimha was an internal enemy to Buddhism on Ceylon. We are told that in 1592 A. D. he killed his father and began to destroy the Buddhist religion by "slaying its priests, burning its sacred books and breaking down its temples". Many priests, however, stripped themselves of their robes through fear of the king, others fled to the mountains taking with them some of the sacred books. With the priests gone and the books and temples destroyed, it was necessary for Vimala Dhammasuriya to bring Bhikkhus from Arakan (Northern coast of Burma) and again institute the ordination. In 1734 the king sent ministers to Pegu, Arakan and Siam. Due to rough seas and the death of the Sinhalese king the plans had to be abandoned after the ships had reached Batavia. Later, however, in 1750, an embassy was sent to King Dhammika of Siam. The next enemy of the Buddhists were the Portuguese with their over-active missionaries who made every effort to convert the Sinhalese to the Roman Catholic Church. There was for a time wholesale conversion on the part of the Sinhalese Buddhists to the Catholic Church. This mass conversion, it follows, was only on the surface. At heart the Sinhalese remained Buddhist, keeping what few sacred books they had and practiced their true faith in secret. The Dutch were little better in regard to the religion of the Sinhalese. Then came the English in 1815 and attempts were made to restore Buddhism as the national religion of the island. "Buddhism in Ceylon today is a continuation of the traditions of the Mahavihara Nikaya formed by Mahinda Maha Thera in 306 (307) B. C. The ordination of all three Nikayas of the Buddhist Bhikkhus now active in the island is a continuation of the Mahavihara fraternity, for Burma and Siam had received their ordination from Ceylon at different times and the continuity of the ordination is preserved by bringing this ordination back to the island from these two countries". 274 With this picture before us there can be little doubt that there was much outside influence upon the arts and crafts of Lanka. It would be impossible for monks being sent from Siam, for example, to spend years upon this island without leaving some of their own inherited traditions and artistic abilities especially since "art" (and here I use the term referring more to the decorative aspects of their art) is carried on as part of the Buddhist church. Decorative art 11 in the Orient is not pure and simple decoration but carries vast meaning and signi-ficance. Not forgetting, of course, that with each embassy to Ceylon or from Ceylon there would be sent vast cargos of fine gifts, made of precious metals and enriched with precious stones for which Ceylon is so famous. Indeed books and images used in the church were sent in quantity. Also pilgrims carried back to their homes small votive plaques and images obtained at the place of worship: As do the faithful pilgrims today. We find evidence of Siamese influence in the fact that in a small vihare in Anuradhapura there is a small recumbent figure of Buddha that had been brought by devotees from Siam. I have myself seen in the Lankatilaka temple near Kandy a 14th century Buddhist temple housing a statue of Vigm as well as the Buddha, a small bronze standing Buddha presented by the people of Siam. The Siamese style is very evident. Mr. Codrington in his A Sho'rt History of Ceylon suggests that it is possible that there is some Siamese influence on late Siilhalese decorative art because in 1753 priests from Siam arrived in Ceylon to re-establish the Buddhist sect forcibly lost during the Portuguese and the Dutch occupations of Ceylon/2 Inside the temple of the Great God (Vi{1Ju) at Dambulla there is a gigantic recumbent figure of Buddha and at His feet is a small wooden polychrome statue of Vigm who, legend tells us, helped in carving the gigantic Buddha. During my visit to this temple I was told that money for the temple had been contributed by Buddhists of Burma. Also that at various times pilgrims from Burma would bring gold leaf to aid in the restoration of the polychrome of the Buddha. Other legends, and perhaps with more truth, tell of King Walagam Bahu (80 B. G) who took refuge in the caves at Dambulla at the time Anuradhapura was in-11 Dr. Coomaraswamy divides the "decorative art" ofIndia by their chief component parts, e. g.: I) animal style, 2) plant style, 3) geometric style. The arts of Ceylon likewise might be cataloged under these same three headings. 12 Codrington, op. cit., p. I4I. 275 vaded by the Malabars. Later after his return to Anuradhapura he had the caves built into temples in veneration of the Buddha. 18 It is important to keep in mind that the true Sinhalese (Buddhist) art is that of the Kandyan country. The arts and crafts of Northern Ceylon, of Jaffna, belong distinctly to Southern India. The arts of the low country, coastal regions and Colombo are EuropeanH and most " impossible" . Although Ceylon is today a centre of Buddhism and contains many great monuments in good repair, still much of the architecture and colossal sculpture has been damaged by the iconoclastic zeal of the Tamils (Hindus) as well as by the destructive tropical fig tree. Polonnaruwa is an example of such damage by fig trees and Anuradhapura an example of destruction by invading Tamils. The danger of "reading too much" into symbols and decorative elements is always present. I therefore ask the reader not to accept my comments as final but merely as an introduction to this vastly interesting and important subject, that of symbolism and meanings in the decorative art of India and Ceylon. I am particularly indebted to the late Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy upon whose wisdom I have drawn heavily. "It is necessary to remember also the continuity and vitality of the indigenous tradition, and to give to the Sinhalese people the full credit for the fact that their art, taken as a whole, is perfectly distinct in style and feeling from that of Southern India, and preserves clearer and more numerous examples of the early Indian, and especially the early Buddhist style, that can be easily found in India itself". - A. K. Coo'l11oroswo'l11Y 15 11 BO-TREE AND BO-LEAF " The Bodisat sitting at the foot of the tree... the whole tree (became) in colour like gold from the rays issuing from his body".16 Bo-kola, Bo-Pata, are but two of the more important Sinhalese names used when referring to the sacred Tree of Enlightenment and the leaves of the Tree. The Tree under which 18 Burrows, op. cit., p. 59. 14 A. K. Coomaraswamy, Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon, (London, Foulis, 1913) P.39. 15 T.V. de Silva, Decorative Sfhhalese Art, (Colombo, The Ceylon Daily News, 1940), p. 14. 16 Translated by T. W. Rhys Davids, Buddhist Bz'rth Slories, p. 185. the Bodhisat attained the supreme knowledge of a Buddha. From The Ceylon Compiler's Introduction to the Jatakas called the Nidana Katha we have the words of the Buddha as He chose the sacred tree: May skin, indeed, and sinews, and bones wilt away, may flesh and bone in my body dry up, but till I attain to complete Enlightenment this seat I will not leave! Thus firmly resolved the Bodisat turning His back upon the trunk of the Bo-tree, and with his face towards the East "sat Himself down in a crosslegged position, firm and immovable, as if welded with a hundred thunderbolts ".17 The twO names, Bo-kola and Bo-Pata, refer more specifically to the leaf of the Bo-tree which is so important to the Siilhalese. This form (bo-Ieaf) is not only the most important but the most persistent in Siilhalese Decorative art (fig. 1).18 According to Dr. Coomaraswamy the Bo-Ieaf form itself did not come into use as early as the Bo-tree; however, it did appear before the decline of Buddhism in India.19 We still find traces of it in Southern Indian Art. It is important to note that the Bo-Ieaf form has influenced other forms i. e., the lotus flower. We are told in the sacred chronicles of Ceylon that the desire of Princess Anula to enter the Second Order, that of nuns, led to an embassy to the court of Asoka re-questing that Mahinda's sister Sanghamitta, a member of the Order of Nuns, be sent to Ceylon to establish an Order there. Mahinda's sister was sent to Ceylon with her eight Fig. I brothers and the right branch of the tree under which Drawing of leaf of the Sacred Bo-tree Gautama had attained Buddhahood. This branch which "miraculously severed itself from the Parent tree" was conveyed down the Ganges together with Mahinda's sister and arrived in Ceylon at the port of Jambukola (present day Sambilrural in the Jaffna Peninsula). Here it was received with much pomp and ceremony, carried by Devanampiva Tissa to Anuradha-pura and was planted in the Mahamegha garden,20 where it can be seen today covered with 17 IbM., p. 190 . 18 A. K. Coomaraswamy, Medieval Sz'izhalese Art, (Broad Compden, Essex House Press, 1908), p. 98. 19 Loc. cit. 20 H. W. Codrington, A Short History of Ceylon, (London, MacMillan & Co., Ltd., 1939), p. 14-277 its rich golden brown and bright yellow green leaves sacred to pilgrims who come from all over the Buddhist world to worship this tree. Blessed indeed is the person who leaves Anuradhapura having in his possession a leaf from this sacred tree. This is the oldest authenticated tree in the world.21 Are we to wonder then that this sacred tree with its leaves should be so important in the decorative arts of so religious a people as the Siilhalese? The Bo-tree of Gautama Buddha has become as important, if not more so, to the Buddhists as has the cross to Christians. Each is a symbol of a Man. The Bo-tree is the symbol of Buddha and His Enlightenment as is the cross a symbol of Christ and Christianity. In the earliest of Buddhist art the Blessed One was not portrayed anthropomorphically; thus the Tree of His Enlightenment served as an object of worship. Although the Buddha taught a " Way of Life" to be lived by all ,,,ho wish to end their endless cycle of rebirth on this plain, He rejected image worship. Still in Buddhism as in all religions the masses soon forget (those who are fortunate enough to have the knowledge of the true philosophy of their religion) and fall into the effortless task of mechanical ritual and blind, ignorant following. This, I must admit however, is less true with the Buddhists than with the other religions of the world. Especially Buddhism as practiced in Ceylon today. Buddhists carry flower offerings to the temple not so much in worship of the Man Buddha but rather in worship and endless thanks for the "Way of Life" He taught. The Bo-Ieaf has been adopted by the Sinhalese kings as a symbol denoting that Ceylon was and is a Buddhist kingdom. We note that most Siilhalese royal banners carry on them the Bo-Ieaf motif.22 It is interesting to note that during the 13th century there arose in Ceylon the Siri Sangll Bo Family from a Siilhalese prince Vijaya Malla, who was descended from the princess who brought the Bo-tree to Ceylon in the 3rd century B. C. "From henceforth all the kings of the medieval period styled themselves Siri Sanga Bo". 23 'Trees of Life' are commonly seen in Siilhalese Temple decoration. Mal-gaha, suggesting 'tree of life' actually meaning 'Flower tree', is the name given to small jeweled trees found 21 Loc. cit. 22 Edward Perera, Memoirs of tile Colombo lWuseum, (Siilhalese Banners and Standards), (Colombo, H. C. Cottle, 1916), p. 7. 21l Codrington, op. cit., p. 76. on the hats of the Kandyan Kings. The Mlll-gaha usually springs from a low triangular mound, representing earth or rock.24 The tree of life in some cases in Ceylon is treated almost pictorially as on the Kelaniya Vihare ceiling. The symbols of life are emphasized by the many forms of life seen living under the tree, e. g., animals and man associated with the tree and living under it. Dr. Coomaraswamy suggests that perhaps there is a Tamil influence, however he also states; "or may belong to an older stratum common to both races 'Sinhalese and Tamil', the likelihood of which must always be remembered when considering the origin of particular decorative forms".25 Artificial trees often of gold decorated with precious jewels - rubies, star sapphires, diamonds, etc.-may be placed before an image as an auspicious symbol of the 'tree of plenty'. For the poorer classes, trees of silver decorated with bits of glass, glass beads, bits of cloth and bright coloured paper will answer the same purpose. But always an auspicious symbol of the 'tree of plenty'. 26 III THE MOONSTONE, THE ELEPHANT, BULL, HORSE AND LION Perhaps the finest of all relief sculpture found in Ceylon is that on the Moonstones, so called because they are the shape of a half moon (fig. 2). Actually these moonstones are the first steps to temples, viharas, palaces, etc. These stone steps with the four sacred animals are characteristically Sinhalese for they are not found elsewhere in India. It is interesting to note, however, that in the Representation of a Stiipa: Detail from Amaravati, there is a lotus step in the shape of a half moon: this is dated between 150-300 A. D. The early moonstones in Anuradhapura date back to the 3rd century B. C. The four sacred animals found on the moonstones, the elephant, bull, horse and the lion are also found on the Asokan capitals. At the Vijayarama monastery in Anuradhapura we see these same four animals supporting the four porches of the monastery. The elephant 24 Coomaraswamy, Of. cit., P.97. 25 Loc. cit. 26 A noteworthy comparison may be made here of the 'Tree of Jesse' of Christian symbolism with the Mal-gaha. I refer the reader to Dr. A. K. Cooma-raswamy's article, Tree of '.Jesse and Indian Parallels or Sources, (Art Bulletin, XI, 2, 1929), p. 217. 279 Fig. 1 Moonstone from Anucidhapura, Ceylon. 1 nd c. A.D. Carved in relief on this moonstone are the four sacred animals of the Buddha; one the lion, symbol of the lion race of the Sakya clan of which the Lord Buddha was descended; two, the bull sign of the zodiac for July and August, the time of the Lord Buddha's birth; the elephant, symbol of the conception of Lord Buddha; and the horse, symbol of the great departure. supportS the East porch, the horse supports the South porch, the lion supports the North porch and the bull supportS the West porch. Here these animals probably represent the Sotorovoron Deviya, or the four guardian gods of the four quarters.27 Likewise on the Asokan capitals the same four animals are assigned to the quarters of the earth. Alfred Foucher points Out that these four animals typify, respectively, the elephant, the conception of Buddha, the bull, the date of the Nativity, the horse, the Great Departure, and the lion, generally, the "Lion among the Sakyas", Sakyamuni. 28 This explanation Dr. Coomaraswamy tends to favor. A note of interest in passing is, "The Hindus feign that the four holy rivers of Eden 29 27 Archaeological Survey of Ceylon, 1891. 28 A. C. Foucher, The Beginnings of Buddhist Art (Paris, P. Geuthner, 1917), plate I. 29 It is interesting to note here the comparison of the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with their animal symbolism and the four sacred animals of the Buddhists. The earliest type of emblem for the four Evangelists was a simple scroll placed in the four angles of a Greek cross. A second type (of greater significance in connection with this paper) was the four rivers which had their source in Paradise. flow through the mouths of as many animals: viz., the cow (bull), lion, elephant, and horse". 80 Let us now take up each of the four animals, one at a time, and investigate their probable meanmgs. Elephant. As mentioned above the best probable answer to the question of the elephant is that offered by Alfred Foucher, namely that the elephant is the symbol of the conception of the Buddha. (See University prints, India, 0-12). The elephant in Ceylon plays a very important role. This animal is used for power, wealth and religious activity. Each year during the month of Esala (August) there is enacted in Kandy the world famous Perahera or Procession of the Sacred Daladii (tooth) relic of the Buddha. In this procession hundreds of elephants are paraded through the streets wearing their fine ornate trappings of velvets decorated with gold, silver and precious jewels. And it is the honor of the king elephant of the Daladii Miiligliwa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy that he should carry in a small gold dagaba on his back the actual Daladii relic. The elephant is also the 'work horse' of Ceylon. The elephant is used for much if not all the heavy hauling that is done in the fields and in the plantations. Many of the provinces have banners with elephants painted on them; e. g., the banner of Matara Dissawa bears on it a small elephant, for the province is famous for elephants. Under the Portuguese and the Dutch this province was headquarters of the gajanayaka (elephant chief) and of the royal elephant department. Later these four symbols became for St. Matthew a cherub, for St. Mark a lion, for St. Luke an Ox (bull) and the symbol given to St. John was that of an Eagle. (Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, Boston, Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1857). (See central portal sculpture, west facade, Chartres Cathedral, Glorification of the Saviour). "Four posts to my bed Four quarters over head Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Bless the bed that I lie on." -A rhyme taught children in the Church of England. "And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle."-Book of Revelation, 4, 7. In Chinese symbolism note that the four quarters are important and assigned to four guardian animals, viz., North the Serpent, East the Dragon, South the Phoenix, and West the Tiger. 80 Edward Moor, The Hindu Pantheon, (Madras, J. Higginbotham, 1864), p. 263. Fig. 3 Nandi, sacred bull. 16 th c. sculpture in front of the Siva temple 11, Polonnaruwa, Ceylon. Behold the fierce elephants of the Matara elephant establishment, That shake off and put to flight the bees attracted to them, And are as mighty as the elephants who bear the quarters of the globe, And glory in their royal breed, that is worth the triple world in value. Mayura Sandesa, v. 93 31 In the last two lines of this verse we are given a clue to the importance placed upon the elephants by the Siilhalese,32 "And are as mighty as the elephants who bear the quarters of 31 The Mayura Sandesa is a work by a 14th century Siilhalese poet. 32 There is an interesting story related in legend concerning the loving care given elephants by the Siilhalese. It is written, there was a great war raging around Vajitapura, believed to be one of the oldest settlements on Ceylon (161 B. c., this date as taken from the complete list of kings in Mr. Flegg's Ceylon Interlude, published for HQ SAC SEA, September 1945). The leader of the attacking army was Duttu (Dushita, or wicked) Gemanu and he had an elephant, Kandula, whom he dearly loved. During the battle the Tamils "poured down a stream of molten lead upon the elephant". The elephant, Kandula, was rushed into a nearby river with Duttu Gemanu following. And "with his own hand he applied the preparations the globe, and glory in their royal breed, that is worth the triple world in value". The elephant is not often seen as ornament, usually being used in pictures of the jatakas and in historical pictures. The "Gaja L a ~ ~ m i " of Hindu India, with her two elephants is also seen in Ceylon. Best example being the relief sculpture on the 'Stone Book' at Polonnaruwa. Here the common Indian subject of the two elephants pouring water over Sri or La*.fmi (the goddes of earth) is seen. The elephant is one of the Sinhalese 108 j1;[agul Lakunu.33 Bull. The Bull is the sign of the Zodiac for April-May. Thus is the symbol of the date of the Buddha's birth on Wesak (the full moon of May). The bull Nandi is the door-keeper of Kailasa, Sivas' abode.34 And III front of the Siva temples in Ceylon are to be seen usually a pair of these bulls (fig. 3). The bull Nandi is also Siva's vehicle. The bull is among the 108 Magul Lakunu. Horse. The Horse has hoots like balls, and the lower parts like a mound, a neigh like the sound of a storm, and lotus eyes; he is swift as the wind, stately as a lion, has the gait of a dancer, a face like a cluster of Munumut flowers, and the hinder part like a stack of corn.35 To the Buddhists of Ceylon the horse is sacred; it is the symbol of the Great Departure of Prince Siddhartha, on the night the prince renounced his princely life and went out seeking knowledge of the Law. It is with the horse in this form or this aspect that we are most con-cerned in this paper. Again note that we seldom see the horse used as pure ornament. The horse is usually seen in the paintings and reliefs of the Jatakas. compounded by his physicians to give relief". The animal was then again ready for battle and charging the iron gate with its tusks broke it down. The day was won. Kandula died some two thousand one hundred years ago yet his name lives today in the memory of the Siithalese people. The Indian Annual I946, (Bombay). 33 The Mangul Lakunu is the name given to the 108 auspicious symbols associated with each foot of Buddha. A list of these symbols is learned by every child in the pansala (temple) schools. 34 Moor, op. cit., p. 264. 35 From the Rupavaliya, translated by A. K. Coomaraswamy in his Medieval Sinhalese Art, (Broad Campden, Essex House Press, 1908), P.90. Lion. The Lion has eyes like those of a hare, a fierce look, soft hair on the chest and under the shoulders, back plump like a sheep's, the body of a well blooded horse, a stately walk, and a long tai1.36 The lion as a symbol plays a very important role in the arts and life of the Siilhalese. The Siilhalese were themselves descended from a king lion of the jungles of Bengal. But let us go back to the legendary history of Ceylon to investigate the meaning placed upon the lion by the Siilhalese. This history begins with the Ramayana.37 Traditionally the first king of Ceylon was Vijaya and his grandmother, according to the legend, was the daughter of the king of Vanga (Bengal). She runs away from home and mates with a lion (Siilha) in the country of Lala or Lada (modern Gujarat). Thus her children were known as Sinhala. Her son, Siilhabahu, carried his mother and twin sister back to Bengal thus enraging the lion. The lion in search for his family brings much damage on the country. For a reward offered by the king of Vanga the lion is slain by his own son. Siilhabahu soon succeeds his grandfather as king of Vanga. Prince Vijaya, son of Siilhabahu, commits such outrages against his father's capital that the king is forced to drive the prince and his followers from the country. They put out to sea in small boats, and landing only once at Supparaka made their way to Lanka. The prince and his followers find upon landing the country of the Yakkhas (Ceylon). Thus the Siilhalese come to Ceylon led by Vijaya, son of Siilhabahu whose parents were a daughter of the king of Vanga and a lion of the Lala country.38 From the Sanskrit for lion we have the origin of the name Sinhalese, the lion race. Simha the mythical ancestor of the Siilhalese standing for majesty and power (fig. 4). Gautama Buddha being called Sakyasimha, 'Lion of the Sakya's'. Many kings also called themselves Riija-simha.39 --- . ~ - - - - . 36 Loc. cit. 37 The Ramayana is the epic poem relating the story of the ravishing of Sita by the demon king of Lanka, Raval).a, and her recovery by her husband Rama with the aid of the monkey chief Hanumanta. Codrington, op., cit. p. 5. 38 Codrington, op. cit., P.7. 39 Coomaraswamy, op. cit., p.87. Fig.... Simha, lion of Ceylon. Relief from northern temple. 16 th c. Polonnaruwa. Ceylon. Fig. 5" Nara Simha, lion with a man's head, from Kalyani temple, Ceylon. 20th century. Nara Sirhha. - A lion with a man's head (fig. 5). We are told in the Rupavaliya; reddish in hue down the knees, with fair nails, hair falling on the back, dazzling with divine ornaments, beautiful eyes like the petals of a locus, expert at emitting flames of fire, possessing hot and cold disposi-tions like the Sun and Moon, with curved teeth projecting outside the lips, with a tuft of hair on the crown, bestowing all good:w Gaja Sinlha. - A lion with an elephant's head. From 16 to 32 kinds of Simha are recognized by Siilhalese artists. Mr. Perera writing in the Memoirs of the Colombo Museum, (Siilhalese Banners and Standards) 40 Ibid., p. 88. quotes Griinwedel on the subject of the three lions on the gateway of the SanchI Srtipa. "The three lions on the gateway of SanchI have been identified as the royal arms of Ceylon".41 Says Mr. Perera, "this is the first representation we have of the Siilhalese royal standard". The Lion is the national symbol, from the fabled origin of the Siilhalese monarch Vijaya from the king of the beasts.42 The Maha Vihiira (a Buddhist monastery in Anuradhapura) was laid out in the shape of a lion. "The similarity of the Siilhalese national symbol to the heraldic lion is remarkable, but the lions of San chI were sculptured and the stone lion of Polonnaruwa was carved long before European influence made itself felt".43 During a conversation with Dr. Coomaraswamy, a few weeks before his most unfortunate death, concerning this subject, he doubted if there was any connection whatsoever between the SanchI lions and the lion as the national symbol of Lanka. IV - I _ HAMSA (HANSA), GARUDA, PEACOCK, KINDURA & SERAPENDIYA . . . Birds have always played an important role in Indian and Siilhalese decorative art. The various bird forms lend themselves beautifully to many objects suggestive of bird forms. Especially in Ceylon do we find metal work decorated with these forms, metal mountings, brass water pitchers, various pots, clay tiles, eaves tiles, mats, small carpets and many other forms too numerous to mention. Mr. Paterson points out that" Purity, Truth and Justice" are typified by three animals, the swan, the goose (GaruQ.a) and the hull. The first, "Purity" is typified by a swan, "which, clothed with unspotted whiteness, swims, amidst the water, as it were, distinct from, and unsullied by them: "as the truly pure mind remains untainted amidst the surrounding temptations of the world". 41 A. Griinwedel, translated by A. K. Gibson, Buddhist Art in India (London, B. Quaritch, 1901), pp. 18, 28, 70. 42 Perera, op. cit., p. 6. 43 Loc. cit. "Garw;la" is remarkable for strength and swiftness, "Garu