Sculpture of Bodhidharma at Kanchi Temple

Sculpture of Bodhidharma at Kanchi Temple

Chennai, Dec 16:
T. Jixin Kambe, a Japanese scholar who is keen to learn all about Asian history has stumbled on various historic facts of presence of Bodhidharma in China and in Kancheepuram.
Jixin Kambe adressing a elite gathering of Buddhist monks in Bodh Gaya, said it has been said so far that there is no evidence in India of the presence of Bodhidharma, and that all the stories are taken from Chinese literature. This view is shared by all the Zen Buddhist monks in the world.
However, earlier this month, we have found a relief sculpture of Bodhidharma at the Vaikuntha Perumal Temple in Kanchipuram.
The relief forms part of a larger panel consisting of five different scenes. Four of them relate to royal life and the representation of Bodhidharma stands in sharp contrast to the royal scene.
On the extreme left, we see King Simhavarman II, (436 – 460 CE) who was a follower of Buddhism. The central image on the top shows a war scene with elephants, horses and soldiers. The top right image portrays the two brothers of Bodhidharma.The bottom right image depicts dancing ladies at the King’s court.
The fifth image at the lower central part is the third son (Bodhidharma, c440 – 536 CE). It clearly shows his renouncement from royal life.
Bodhidharma is seen in Sanjari-Sramana style. This connects with his passage to China as per the advice of his Master Pradjnatara. Perhaps, this is why he has been misunderstood as a Chinese monk or merchant. we see a comparison between the sculpture in Vaikuntha Perumal Temple and the painting in a Chinese Zen Temple (Tian-Tong Temple of Soto Zen school).
Earliest description of Bodhidharma was given by a Chinese monk Tan-lin (a disciple of Bodhidharma) in about 550 CE, who described his teacher as follows:
“The Dharma Master Bodhidharma was from South India. He was the third son of a great Indian king. His ambition lay in the Mahayana path.”
This description in the Chinese literature is consistent with the set of relief images (Fig.1) at the Temple in Kanchipuram. The Vaikuntha Perumal Temple is said to have been constructed in 690CE by the Pallava king Nandivarman II. The story of Bodhidharma’s family appears to have been kept as a memory in the Pallava Dynasty for at least two hundred years.
What have been disclosed by this discovery are
(1) Bodhidharma existed in South India; (2) His home town was Kanchipuram; (3) It is verified that he renounced his royal life and became a Buddhist monk; (4) He preferred unique Sramana style. (5) Close connection of the Kanchipuram relief and the description of the Chinese monk Tanlin verifies that Bodhidharma in fact left India and visited China.
This discovery has been enabled by the visit of . Jixin Kambe, Uma Balu, Arulmozhi Bodhidharma Dojo Foundation, to the Temple and their investigation of the wall panels. The temple guide (ASI) and the Priest were very helpful in viewing the entire temple, despite the festive day crowds he said.

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