The Info List - Chaitya

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A chaitya, chaitya hall, chaitya-griha, or caitya refers to a shrine, sanctuary, temple or prayer hall in Indian religions.[1][2] The term is most common in Buddhism, where it includes a stupa at one end.[3] Strictly, the chaitya is actually the stupa itself,[4] and the Indian buildings are chaitya halls, but this distinction is often not observed. Outside India, the term is used by Buddhists for local styles of small stupa-like monuments in Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia
and elsewhere. In the historical texts of Jainism
and Hinduism, including those relating to architecture, chaitya refers to a temple, sanctuary or any sacred monument.[5][6][7] Most early examples of chaitya that survive are Indian rock-cut architecture, but it is agreed that the standard form follows a tradition of free-standing halls made of wood and other plant materials, none of which have survived. This is especially evident in the curving ribbed ceilings, which imitate timber construction, and in the earlier cases timber was used purely decoratively, with wooden ribs added to stone roofs. At the Bhaja Caves
Bhaja Caves
and the "Great Chaitya" of the Karla Caves, the original timber ribs actually survive, elsewhere marks on the ceiling show where they once were. Later, the ribs were rock-cut. Often, elements in wood, such as screens, porches and balconies, were added to stone structures. The surviving examples are similar in their broad layout, though the design evolved over the centuries.[8] The halls are high and long, but rather narrow. At the far end stands the stupa, which is the focus of devotion. Parikrama, the act of circulambulating or walking around the stupa, was an important ritual and devotional practice, and there is always clear space to allow this. The end of the hall is thus rounded, like the apse in Western architecture.[9] There are always columns along the side walls, going up to the start of the curved roof, and a passage behind the columns, creating aisles and a central nave, and allowing ritual circumambulation or pradakhshina, either immediately around the stupa, or around the passage behind the columns. On the outside there is a porch, often very elaborately decorated, a relatively low entrance way, and above this often a gallery. The only natural light, apart from a little from the entrance way, comes from a large horseshoe-shaped window above the porch, echoing the curve of the roof inside. The overall effect is surprisingly similar to smaller Christian churches from the Early Medieval
Early Medieval
period, though early chaityas are many centuries earlier.[10] Chaityas appear at the same sites as the vihara, a strongly-contrasting type of building with a low-ceilinged rectangular central hall, with small cells opening, off it, often on all sides. These often have a shrine set back at the centre of the back wall, containing a stupa in early examples, or a Buddha statue later. The vihara was the key building in Buddhist monastic complexes, used to live, study and pray in. Typical large sites contain several viharas for every chaitya.[11]


1 Etymology 2 The "chaitya arch" as a decorative motif 3 Development of the chaitya

3.1 End of the chaitya hall

4 Toda hut 5 Nepal 6 Cambodia 7 Gallery 8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 External links

Etymology[edit] "Caitya", from a root cita or ci meaning "heaped-up", is a Sanskrit term for a mound or pedestal or "funeral pile".[1][12] It is a sacred construction of some sort, and has acquired different more specific meanings in different regions, including "caityavṛkṣa" for a sacred tree.[13] According to K.L. Chanchreek, in early Jain literature, caitya mean ayatanas or temples where monks stayed. It also meant where the Jain idol was placed in a temple, but broadly it was a symbolism for any temple.[5][14] In some texts, these are referred to as arhat-caitya or jina-caitya, meaning shrines for an Arhat or Jina.[15] Major ancient Jaina archaeological sites such as the Kankali Tila
Kankali Tila
near Mathura show Caitya-tree, Caitya-stupa, Caitya arches with Mahendra-dvajas and meditating Tirthankaras.[14] The word caitya appears in the Vedic literature of Hinduism. In early Buddhist and Hindu literature, a caitya is any 'piled up monument' or 'sacred tree' under which to meet or meditate.[16][17][7] Jan Gonda and other scholars state the meaning of caitya in Hindu texts varies with context and has the general meaning of any "holy place, place of worship", a "memorial", or as signifying any "sanctuary" for human beings, particularly in the Grhya sutras.[1][16][6] According to Robert E. Buswell and Donald S. Lopez, both professors of Buddhist Studies, the term caitya in Sanskrit
connotes a "tumulus, sanctuary or shrine", both in Buddhist and non-Buddhist contexts.[2] The "chaitya arch" as a decorative motif[edit] The "chaitya arch", gavaksha (Sanscrit gavākṣa), or chandrashala around the large window above the entrance frequently appears repeated as a small motif in decoration, and evolved versions continue into Hindu and Jain decoration, long after actual chaitya halls had ceased to be built by Buddhists. In these cases it can become an elaborate frame, spreading rather wide, around a circular or semi-circular medallion, which may contain a sculpture of a figure or head. An earlier stage is shown here in the entrance to Cave 19 at the Ajanta Caves (c. 475-500), where four horizontal zones of the decoration use repeated "chaitya arch" motifs on an otherwise plain band (two on the projecting porch, and two above). There is a head inside each arch.[18] Development of the chaitya[edit]

Drawing of the "Great Chaitya" at the Karla Caves, when built, in about 120 CE

The chaitya Cave 26 at Ajanta; the stupa incorporates a large Buddha statue and there are aisles behind the columns, their walls adorned with relief sculptures. A smaller adaption of the Karli model.

The window at the chaitya Cave 10, Ellora, c. 650

The earliest surviving spaces comparable to the chaitya hall date to the 3rd-century BCE. These are the rock-cut Barabar Caves
Barabar Caves
(Lomas Rishi Cave and Sudama Cave), excavated during the reign of Ashoka
by or for the Ajivikas, a non-Buddhist religious and philosophical group of the period. According to many scholars, these became "the prototype for the Buddhist caves of the western Deccan", particularly the chaitya halls excavated between the 2nd century BCE and 2nd-century CE.[19] Early chaityas enshrined a stupa with space for congregational worship by the monks. This reflected one of the early differences between early Buddhism
and Hinduism, with Buddhism
favoring congregational worship in contrast to Hinduism's individual approach. Early chaitya grhas were cut into living rock as caves. These served as a symbol and sites of a sangha congregational life (uposatha).[20][21] The earliest rock-cut chaityas, similar to free-standing ones, consisted of an inner circular chamber with pillars to create a circular path around the stupa and an outer rectangular hall for the congregation of the devotees. Over the course of time, the wall separating the stupa from the hall was removed to create an apsidal hall with a colonnade around the nave and the stupa.[22]

arch around the window, and repeated as a gavaksha motif with railings, Cave 9, Ajanta.

The chaitya at Bhaja Caves
Bhaja Caves
is perhaps the earliest surviving chaitya hall, constructed in the second century BCE. It consists of an apsidal hall with stupa. The columns slope inwards in the imitation of wooden columns that would have been structurally necessary to keep a roof up. The ceiling is barrel vaulted with ancient wooden ribs set into them. The walls are polished in the Mauryan style. It was faced by a substantial wooden facade, now entirely lost. A large horseshoe-shaped window, the chaitya-window, was set above the arched doorway and the whole portico-area was carved to imitate a multi-storeyed building with balconies and windows and sculptured men and women who observed the scene below. This created the appearance of an ancient Indian mansion.[23][22] This, like a similar facade at the Bedse Caves
Bedse Caves
is an early example of what James Fergusson noted in the nineteenth century: "Everywhere ... in India architectural decoration is made up of small models of large buildings".[24] In Bhaja, as in other chaityas, the entrance acted as the demarcation between the sacred and the profane. The stupa inside the hall was now completely removed from the sight of anyone outside. In this context, in the first century CE, the earlier veneration of the stupa changed to the veneration of an image of Gautama Buddha. Chaityas were commonly part of a monastic complex, the vihara. The most important of rock-cut complexes are the Karla Caves, Ajanta Caves, Ellora
Caves, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Aurangabad Caves and the Pandavleni Caves. Many pillars have capitals on them, often with carvings of a kneeling elephant mounted on bell-shaped bases. End of the chaitya hall[edit] Apparently the last rock-cut chaitya hall to be constructed was Cave 10 at Ellora, in the first half of the 7th century. By this time the role of the chaitya hall was being replaced by the vihara, which had now developed shrine rooms with Buddha images (easily added to older examples), and largely taken over their function for assemblies. The stupa itself had been replaced as a focus for devotion and meditation by the Buddha image, and in Cave 10, as in other late chaityas (for example Cave 26 at Ajanta, illustrated here), there is a large seated Buddha taking up the front of the stupa. Apart from this, the form of the interior is not much different to the earlier examples from several centuries before. But the form of the windows on the exterior has changed greatly, almost entirely dropping the imitation of wooden architecture, and showing a decorative treatment of the wide surround to the chaitya arch that was to be a major style in later temple decoration.[25] There are few significant remains of structural chaityas (those built outside, of stone or brick), with examples including ruins at Guntupalle and Lalitgiri.[26] Toda hut[edit]

A Toda hut.[27]

The broad resemblance between chaityas and the traditional huts still made by the Toda people
Toda people
of the Nilgiri Hills
Nilgiri Hills
has often been remarked on.[28] These are crude huts built with wicker bent to produce arch-shaped roofs, but the models for the chaitya were presumably larger and much more sophisticated structures.[27] Nepal[edit] In Nepal, the meaning is somewhat different. A Nepalese chaitya is not a building but a shrine monument consisting of a stupa-like shape on top a plinth, often very elaborately ornamented. They are typically placed in the open air, often in religious compounds, averaging some four to eight feet in height. They are constructed in memory of a dead person by his or her family by the Sherpas, Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs and Newars, among other people of Nepal. The Newar
people of the Kathmandu Valley
Kathmandu Valley
started adding images of the four Tathagatas on the chaitya's four directions mainly after the twelfth century. They are constructed with beautifully carved stone and mud mortar. They are said to consist of the Mahābhūta
— earth, air, fire, water and space.[29] Cambodia[edit] In classical Cambodian art
Cambodian art
chaityas are boundary markers for sacred sites, generally made in sets of four, placed on the site boundary at the four cardinal directions. They generally take a pillar-like form, often topped with a stupa, and are carved on the body.[30] Gallery[edit]

Nepalese form of chaitya

Cambodian sanctuary marker chaitya, Khleang
style, c. 975-1010

Excavated remains of a structural chaitya at Lalitgiri, Odisha, India

Timber ribs on the roof at the Karla Caves; the umbrella over the stupa is also wood

Decorative chaitya arches and lattice railings, Bedse Caves, 1st century BCE

inside Cave 10, Ellora, the last chaitya hall built, the Buddha image now dominating the stupa.

See also[edit]

Cetiya Pagoda


^ a b c Kevin Trainor (1997). Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Theravada Tradition. Cambridge University Press. pp. 33–38, 89–90 with footnotes. ISBN 978-0-521-58280-3.  ^ a b Robert E. Buswell Jr.; Donald S. Lopez Jr. (2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-4008-4805-8.  ^ Michell, 66-67; Harle, 48 ^ Harle (1994), 48 ^ a b K.L. Chanchreek (2004). Jaina Art and Architecture: Northern and Eastern India. Shree. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-81-88658-51-0.  ^ a b Jan Gonda (1980). Vedic Ritual. BRILL Academic. pp. 418–419. ISBN 90-04-06210-6.  ^ a b Stella Kramrisch (1946). The Hindu Temple, Volume 1. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 147–149 with footnote 150. ISBN 978-81-208-0223-0.  ^ Michell, 66, 374; Harle, 48, 493; Hardy, 39 ^ Michell, 65-66 ^ Michell, 66-67; Harle, 48; R. C. Majumdar quoting James Fergusson on the Great Chaitya
at Karla Caves:

"It resembles an early Christian church
Christian church
in its arrangement; consisting of a nave and side-aisles terminating in an apse or semi-dome, round which the aisle is carried... Fifteen pillars on each side separate the nave from the aisle..." — Ancient India, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1977, p.225

^ Michell, 67 ^ Harle (1994), 26, 48 ^ Harle, 26, 48 ^ a b Umakant Premanand Shah (1987). Jaina Iconography. Abhinav Publications. pp. 9–14. ISBN 978-81-7017-208-6.  ^ Mohan Lal Mehta (1969). Jaina Culture. P.V. Research Institute. p. 125.  ^ a b M. Sparreboom (1985). Chariots in the Veda. BRILL Academic. pp. 63–72 with footnotes. ISBN 90-04-07590-9.  ^ Caitya, Encyclopaedia Britannica ^ Michell, 69, 342; Harle, 48, 119 ^ Pia Brancaccio (2010). The Buddhist Caves at Aurangabad: Transformations in Art and Religion. BRILL Academic. pp. 26–27. ISBN 90-04-18525-9.  ^ James C. Harle (1994). The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-300-06217-5.  ^ Michael K. Jerryson (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Oxford University Press. pp. 445–446. ISBN 978-0-19-936238-7.  ^ a b Dehejia, V. (1972). Early Buddhist Rock Temples. Thames and Hudson: London. ISBN 0-500-69001-4. ^ ASI, "Bhaja Caves"; Michell, 352 ^ Quoted in Hardy, 18 ^ Harle, 132 ^ Group of Buddhist Monuments, Guntupalli. ASI; ASI, Lalitgiri ^ a b J. Leroy Davidson (1956), Review: The Art of Indian Asia: Its Mythology and Transformations, The Art Bulletin, vol. 38, no. 2, 1956, pp. 126–127 ^ Narayan Sanyal, Immortal Ajanta, p. 134, Bharati Book Stall, 1984 ^ "Shikarakuta (small temple) Chaitya". Asianart.com. Retrieved 2012-04-24.  ^ Jessup, 109-110, 209


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chaitya.

Dehejia, V. (1997). Indian Art. Phaidon: London. ISBN 0-7148-3496-3 Hardy, Adam, Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation : the Karṇāṭa Drāviḍa Tradition, 7th to 13th Centuries, 1995, Abhinav Publications, ISBN 8170173124, 9788170173120, google books Harle, J.C., The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, 2nd edn. 1994, Yale University Press Pelican History of Art, ISBN 0300062176 Jessup, Helen Ibbetson, Art and Architecture of Cambodia, 2004, Thames & Hudson (World of Art), ISBN 050020375X Michell, George, The Penguin Guide to the Monuments of India, Volume 1: Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, 1989, Penguin Books, ISBN 0140081445

External links[edit]

Evolution of Chaitya
Halls compiled by students of School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi

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