The Asahi Shimbun Displays
Virtual pilgrimage
reimagining India’s Great Shrine of Amaravati

10 August – 8 October 2017


The Asahi Shimbun Displays 

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Two-sided limestone relief from the Great Shrine at Amaravati in India, carved in the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD.

The Great Shrine of Amaravati was one of the oldest, largest and most important Buddhist monuments in ancient India. In this display, discover the Shrine’s significance and learn about the pilgrims who funded its construction.

The double-sided relief on display was once part of the Great Shrine, which was founded around 200 BC in what is now the state of Andhra Pradesh in south-east India. One side reveals what the Shrine, now an archaeological site, may have looked like. It shows the dome covered in Buddhist symbols and stories, while the Buddha himself stands in bodily form at the gateway, flanked by devotees. On the other side the Buddha is evoked as an empty throne, a Bodhi tree and a pair of footprints, perhaps suggesting his liberation from the earthly realm and the confines of the human body.

The Shrine's domed structure, or stupa, contained a relic – perhaps of an important spiritual teacher, or of the Buddha himself who died sometime between 490 and 400 BC. Pilgrims from many walks of life funded the construction and adornment of the Great Shrine over hundreds of years. Their identities are revealed by inscriptions carved onto individual sculptures. They include a perfumer, a monk, a disciple, and a group of women, revealing the rich social context of the period.

In the display, these donors will be dramatically reimagined by actors and projected onto the walls. Using new mobile phone technology you will be able to use your smartphone to interact with the pilgrims, explore the Shrine in detail and learn more about the power of patronage in ancient India.