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  1. This photograph of Kanishka comes from Ancient India compiled by K de B Codrington (1926) published by Ernest Benn, London. This weighty tome also has a fine essay on Indian art by Sir William Rothenstein. There are four Fleur-de-lis symbols in a square emblem repeated twice on the bottom end of Kanishka’s smaller sword.
  2. See translations by Samuel Beal 1906: Book 2 pp99–100. Si-yu-ki. Buddhist records of the Western World. (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1906)
  3. These travellers and pilgrims were: Faxian, who travelled between 399–412 AD; Sung Yun who arrived in India in 518AD and Xuanzang who went to India in 630AD.
  4. Kumar, Baldev. 1973. The Early Kuṣāṇas. New Delhi, Sterling Publishers. p89
  5. The split in Buddhism may have been political as well. The Northern and the Southern school thus developed along slightly differing lines. The Mahayana countries being Ladakh, Bhutan, Sikkim, parts of Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan and Vietnam, whereas the Hinayana countries are Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand etc.
  6. Barikot is the largest city in the south end of Swat valley and is located fifteen miles from Mingora. Barikot is one hundred and thirty miles from the site of the ancient and important site of the Buddhist university of Taxila. Barikot is also eighty-three miles from the Kanishka chorten at Peshawar.
  7. See the excellent article by Dr Anna Filigenzi 2003 ‘The Three Hares from Bir-Kot-Ghwandai: another stage in the journey of a widespread motif’ in Fontana M. & Genito, B. (eds) Studi in Onore di Umberto Scerrato (Università degli Studi di Napoli ‘L’Orientale’, Naples) pp327-346.
  8. The Shahis of Kabul are generally divided into the two eras. The ‘Buddhist Shahis’ from c.565–870 AD and the ‘Hindu Shahis’, from around 870–1010 AD.
  9. Many ts’a ts’a are made just from clay and have no connection with funeral practices and are just used as religious offerings at house shrines or temples or places of religious significance.
  10. Dakinis also feature in the Vajrayana formulation of the Buddhist refuge formula the Three Jewels, known as the Three Roots.
  11. Mani wheels are used by often pilgrims and devout villagers whilst perambulating around temples and chortens. The prayer wheels are often embellished with the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum written in Sanskrit.
  12. The ruins of the former capital of Guge at Tsaparang in the Sutlej valley are not far from Mount Kailash.
  13. It was then another eight days from Kargil down to the fleshpots of Srinagar and from there down to the plains of India over yet more passes.
  14. Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo (958–1055) With gold from the rivers of Western Tibet it is likely that he arranged for a gang of around thirty Kashmiri artists to come to Ladakh and decorate various temples. But it is by no means certain that he painted the temples in Alchi even though there is a temple dedicated to Lotsawa himself.
  15. Professor David Snellgrove and Dr Tadeusz Skorupski (1977 Aris and Phillips) opt for an 11th century date for the temples but do not rule out 12th century. Dr Christian Luczanits of SOAS in London thinks that the oldest monuments can be dated to the period after 1200. [Luczanits, C. (1999) ‘The Life of the Buddha in the Sumtsek’, Orientations, 30, January 1999, 30-39.] For more information about the history of Alchi see Snellgrove,D. L. & Skorupski, T. (1977) The Cultural Heritage of Ladakh (Aris & Phillips, Warminster) Volume 1 pp29-80.
  16. All these themes are very well illustrated in Roger Goepper’s magnificent book on the Sumtsek and identified in Christian Luczanits’s article in Orientations 1999 ibid. see Goepper, R. & Poncar, J. (1996) Alchi: Ladakh’s Hidden Buddhist Sanctuary: The Sumtsek (Shambhala Limited Editions, Boston) The photographs of Jaroslav Poncar are breathtaking, particularly when you consider that the temple is like a dark cave with very little natural light. Many of the paintings are in the upper stories which are inaccessible to the general public.
  17. An early copy of the Diamond Sutra was found by Aurel Stein in Dunhuang and this is now kept in the British Library in London.
  18. My great uncle Professor K de B Codrington who was keeper of the Indian Section of the Victoria & Albert Museum and then Professor of Indian Archaeology at SOAS tried to get into Ladakh to visit the temples in the spring 1942 but had been prevented from crossing the Zoji La on foot at night by powder snow avalanches. The party had burning torches which they held above their heads to see the way but the snow was too deep and they had to turn back. The nallahs are death traps when the snow begins to melt. The rigours of art history. Even Aurel Stein lost a few toes in the Tarim Basin. My own interest in Ladakh comes from Professor Codrington and at the time 1976 he told me that he tipped off David Snellgrove about the wonders of Alchi when Ladakh opened in 1974. He had heard about Alchi from Joseph Hackin of the Musee Guimet in Paris in the 1930s.
  19. In other words the artists were very good at portraying animals that they knew but the ‘mythical’ animals are not portrayed accurately at all. They are often playful. The Tibetan Snow lion is more like a Lhasa Apso dog than a real lion. So why make these hares or bulls ambivalent as to their true identity? Maybe they are meant to be symbolic and we have to look for their inner meaning. The Tibetans are very fond of jokes.
  20. Perceval Landon, special correspondent of The Times on the British military expedition to Lhasa 1904 had this to say about the Tibetan woolly hare: ‘The woolly hare is universally distributed across the Tibetan plateau. The most obvious distinction with the British hare is by the patch of grey fur over the rump of the Tibetan species. The characteristic grey patch is well marked even in leverets. The woolly hare is singular in its custom of habitually squatting among the bare stones on the hillside in preference to the grassy plains’.
  21. The Tantric yogas of this time also lean towards this possibility or attainment. Dzogchen which is Tibet’s version of Zen certainly does. In India and Hindu religion the vajra is the mythic weapon of Indra, who is Lord of Heaven and Deva of rain and thunder.
  22. Many of the paintings were used not just for teaching but for visualisations. An advanced practice that needs peace, quiet and inner guidance.
  23. The waters of the four rivers are regarded as sacred. They give water and life far away from their source irrigating the plains of India. Without water there is no life.
  24. For more information about the history of Basgo see Snellgrove, D. L. & Skorupski, T. (1977) The Cultural Heritage of Ladakh (Aris & Phillips, Warminster) 2 vols. Volume 1 pp93-97.
  25. Also on the trip were Carol Trewin, ex BBC producer who took photographs and handled the recording equipment and my daughter Nell Crowden.
  26. Dr Jamyang Gyaltsen is a Ladakhi scholar from the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, Choglamsar, Leh.
  27. Nawang Tsering Shakspo is Head of the local branch of Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in Leh.
  28. Tashi Rabyas is a famous historian and scholar in Ladakh. He acted as the Dalai Lama’s interpreter when his Holiness visited Ladakh. He has also written a history of Ladakh in Ladakhi. He was a great expounder of the Madhyamika path.
  29. Christian Lucanzits had studied the paintings at Alchi extensively. He suggested to us that we might like to go to Basgo as well, because the four hare symbol could also be found there. Christian is now the David L. Snellgrove Senior Lecturer in Tibetan and Buddhist Art at SOAS in London.
  30. It is a tribute to the artist and the inner power of the teaching that they still survive and that the teaching is still as relevant today as it was back then in the 12th century. The teaching like the universe goes round and round.
  31. Fatehpur Sikri A rough translation means ‘Victory Town – Thanks to God’. It was a most remarkable purpose built city and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585 when it was abandoned due to lack of sufficient water. The capital then shifted to Lahore. Akbar was quite a lad as well as being a great patron of the arts.
  32. The other extraordinary thing, reminiscent of Gandhara, is the fusing of western and eastern artistic tradition where western concepts of perspective and all the other tricks of the Renaissance were quickly absorbed by Akbar’s court painters. Later they developed their own miniature style and even painted many Christian scenes from the bible.
  33. Lady Juliana is credited with building the first Christian Church in Agra. She was later married to Jean Philippe de Bourbon of Navarre, a royal descendant of France. So the court of Akbar had important links with both France and Portugal. The Three Hares could have easily been introduced into Moghul Art from either country. The Portuguese link however is the more likely. There is a story that Juliana and her sister were captured by pirates and thence taken to Akbar’s court.
  34. Samuel Bourne (1834–1912) was a British photographer who worked in India 1863 to 1870. His company Bourne & Shepherd was set up in Simla in 1863 and still exists today in Calcutta.
  35. It is assumed that the painting was made within those three years. ie between 1580–1583, and that the painter was either Kesu Das or Manohar. There were other Portuguese diplomatic missions in the 1590s and they brought their own artists and musicians but none of them succeeded in converting the Emperor.
  36. See Giles Tillotson, Nagaur: a garden palace in Rajasthan, Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, 2010. Also verbal communication about the Moghul painters fleeing suggested by Ilay Cooper the great expert of Shekhawati.
  37. Sadly the condition of these paintings has deteriorated badly over the years but a conservation team from the Courtauld in London has been working there since about 2005. One illustration of these same rabbits in their 2013 report on the Hadi Rani Mahal and an enhanced photograph shows clearly that the white paint is flaking badly. The close up detail from ceiling panel B2 from Loggia shows that the rabbits have long curving eye lashes and the outlines of the rabbits are picked up in turquoise blue set on a green background. For more information on conservation see:
  38. As to the styles of painting in Rajasthan at this time, four main schools flourished, defined by mainly by geographical area. Mewar in the south including the city of Udaipur. Marwar in the north including the cities of Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur and Ghanerao. Then there was the Hadoti school including Bundi and the Dhundar school including Amber, Jaipur and the wonderful wall paintings of Shekawati. Each has its own particular delights. The Rajput style of painting was very colourful, dynamic and even humorous.
  39. Asparas are often wives of the court musicians of Indra. They dance to the music made by the Gandharvas, usually in the palaces of the gods, they entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men. Better far to have them on your side and dancing on the ceilings.
  40. Abha means ‘splendour light’ in Sanskrit or ‘lustrous beauty’. which may refer to the buildings, the paintings, the dancers or the wives and courtesans of the Maharajah himself.
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