NIAS Wednesday Discussion-Dr. Srikumar M. Menon will speak on “The Buddhist Art of Kanaganahalli, with an Emphasis on Elephant Sculptures”

NIAS Wednesday Discussion


Topic:              “The Buddhist Art of Kanaganahalli, with an Emphasis on Elephant Sculptures”


Speaker:          Srikumar M. Menon

Associate Professor, School of Humanities, NIAS   


Chairperson:    Anindya Sinha

                        Professor and Head, Academics,

School of Natural Sciences and Engineering, NIAS


Date:               10rd March 2021

All are cordially invited


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Abstract: It would be no exaggeration to state that the discovery of the Buddhist stupa at Kanaganahalli, near Sannati in north Karnataka, was the archaeological find of the 20th century. Excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1990’s the stupa dates back to the period of Mauryan rule, though it was considerably enlarged and embellished subsequently by the Satavahanas. In this presentation, I will present the remains of the Buddhist stupa at Kanaganahalli, known from inscriptions as Adhalaka Mahachaitya, in its archaeological context, and examine the wealth of sculptural art adorning the stupa.


The Asian elephant has always occupied a prominent place in the art of the Indian subcontinent – from Harappan seals and prehistoric petroglyphs to later plastic art in Buddhist stupas and temples of the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain faiths. The Kanaganahalli stupa is no exception, and features numerous sculptures of elephants on its different components, such as the slabs which veneer the upper and lower drums, pilasters, friezes, copings and finials. We will cast a detailed look at the representation of elephants in various contexts at the Mahachaitya.


In the sculptures at Kanaganahalli, elephants are depicted in contexts such as war, pageantry, veneration of relics of the Buddha and birth-stories of the Buddha, as well as general embellishment of stupa components. Interestingly, several of the Kanaganahalli depictions are typical of the classical Indian ideal of the war elephant, including them being in a state of musth, to be even more effective in battle. Kanaganahalli boasts of some of the most accurate depictions of elephant anatomy and behaviour in Indian art, as well as aspects of elephant-handling, from harnesses and saddles, to use of goads etc. Most of the sculptures are in shallow relief, on limestone, and are excellent examples of the quality of early Indian art. These reliefs offer a unique insight on the relationship between humans and the Asiatic elephant in the early centuries of the Common Era, and the various uses that captive elephants were put to.   


About the speaker: Srikumar M. Menon is an architect with a keen interest in the archaeology of the Indian subcontinent. His areas of academic interest vary from megaliths and other prehistoric monuments to the origins and evolution of later monuments such as stupas and temples. He is also interested in understanding the knowledge systems possessed by the builders of prehistoric, and later monuments, as embedded in the monuments themselves. He is working at NIAS since 2016.


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For further info, please contact Prof Anindya Sinha [   or ] or Shri K S Rama Krishna [ ], Coordinators of the NIAS Wednesday Discussion Meetings.

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Time:               4.00 PM


Venue:             Lecture Hall, NIAS



Wednesday, March 10, 2021