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Buddhist architecture in Southeast Asia

Lalitavistara Sutra

New Delhi: The ramps of Borobudur, a ninth century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Indonesia, rise up gradually in a manner that lets people read the ‘Lalitavistara Sutra’ inscribed on the temple’s sculptural reliefs.

Lalitavistara Sutra, often translated as, ‘The Play in Full’ or ‘Extensive Play’ narrates the tale of Buddha’s glorious descent from heaven until his first sermon in the Deer Park in Varanasi.

Borobudur and several such monuments from across South East Asia form a part of an exhibition by architect Vikram Lall at the India International Centre here.

Titled ‘Architecture of the Buddhist World,’ the show seeks to understand the symbolic, utilitarian, technical and aesthetic meanings of these buildings.

Lall says, “An understanding of the Lalitavistara Sutra in Borobudur helps people to move from the mundane to the supra mundane or a higher plane of consciousness.”

“The monuments of Cambodia and Indonesia that look very spectacular look spectacular not only because of their architectural characteristics but also suggest connections between speculative thoughts and symbolism. The buildings are as much about structure and utility as they are about helping people inhabit a symbolic world.”

Lall travelled to about 20 countries over the last ten years in order to understand and engage with several Buddhist monuments and then document them.

The exhibition of original photography and 3-D interpretation of complex architectural models delves deep into the shaping of these monuments not merely structurally but through the philosophy and practice of Buddhism.

“But it is more than just decoding individual monuments. It is an attempt very much like a novel to write a story and to create a narrative of the evolution of architecture, with plots and subplots, and stories about the origin of architecture in Buddhism in India and its travel to several countries.”

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