Phanigiri is a Buddhist site excavated in recent years by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Andhra Pradesh. The site is a large monastic complex on the flat top of “Serpent’s Hood Hill”. The complex consists of a large stupa, two apsidal halls containing stupas, several large footprints of the Buddha, and three viharas. It has been suggested that the complex dates from the first to the third centuries. A well-preserved inscription of the Ikshvaku King Rudrapurusadatta (c. 290-315) connects Phanigiri to the Ikshvakus and to Nagarjunakonda.
The paper will discuss two architraves from a gateway of the stupa. One is carved with scenes from the life of the Buddha. Identifiable scenes include the birth of the Buddha, the four sights, the last night in the palace, the great departure (fragment only), events at the Bodhi-tree, the first sermon in the deer park, and others. The second architrave is devoted to post-Nirvana scenes, featuring monks, relics, and snakes. Most of these remain unidentified.
The art of Phanigiri reveals a new and vigorous plastic idiom within the Andhra style, related more specifically that of Nagarjunakonda. A comprehensive report on the site is yet to be published. The paper, necessarily preliminary, is based on photographs taken during a visit in March, 2005.
Dr. Peter Skilling is a research scholar of the École française d’Extrême-Orient (Paris and Bangkok) and a special lecturer at Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok). He has edited “Mahasutras: great Discourse of the Buddha” (2 vols., The Pali Text Society, Oxford, 1994, 1997) and is editor and co-author of “Wat Si Chum” (River Books, Bangkok, 2007).
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