A groundbreaking new art book titled “Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India” is set to be released, providing a pioneering study on the emergence of Buddhist art in southern India. The book, published by Mapin in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York, sheds light on the vibrant and rare artworks found in monastic sites in the southern region. With a focus on devotional works produced in the Deccan from 200 BCE to 400 CE, this publication aims to expand our understanding of the origins of Buddhist art and showcases previously unpublished photographs of these magnificent artefacts.
A Shift in Narrative
Unlike traditional narratives that primarily concentrate on northern India, where the Buddha was born, taught, and died, “Tree & Serpent” redirects our attention to the southern region. Renowned MET curator John Guy has curated this remarkable collection, emphasising the significance of the southern monastic sites that were home to some of the greatest early Buddhist monasteries in India. The book challenges prevailing perspectives by exploring Buddhism’s emergence and its deep cultural and commercial engagements with the Hellenised and Roman worlds.
A Definitive Study
“Tree & Serpent” is a definitive study that offers readers a comprehensive understanding of the origins of Buddhist art and its cultural implications. By examining the processes through which Buddhist faith and culture spread, the book focuses on the territories of the Daksinapatha, the southern regions, and the roads that led there. It showcases the architectural grandeur and adornments of renowned sites such as Bharhut, Sanchi, and Amaravati, enriching our appreciation of their magnificence.
The Exhibition at MET
Accompanying the release of the book, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will host an exhibition showcasing over 125 objects, including a series of breathtaking sculptural masterpieces from southern India. Many of these masterpieces will be on public display for the first time, allowing visitors to witness the splendour and intricacy of ancient Buddhist art. The exhibition will also feature newly discovered works of art from ancient monastic sites in the Deccan, further expanding our knowledge of this remarkable period.
Advancing Buddhist Art Scholarship
The publication of “Tree & Serpent” marks a significant step forward in advancing the scholarship surrounding Buddhist art from monastic sites in southern India. By presenting previously unpublished works and highlighting the cultural exchanges between India and other civilisations, the book provides a fresh perspective and stimulates further research in the field. It offers not only an opportunity to explore the beauty and historical significance of Buddhist art but also emphasises the message of environmental awareness and care for the planet, echoing Buddha’s teachings.
“Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India” is poised to be a groundbreaking publication that unveils the richness and diversity of Buddhist art in southern India. Through its comprehensive study and the accompanying MET exhibition, this book opens up new horizons in our understanding of the origins of Buddhist art and its profound cultural significance. By delving into the monastic sites of the Deccan and their contributions to the spread of Buddhism, “Tree & Serpent” invites readers to embark on a visual and intellectual journey through ancient history and art.