Gaya Timeline

Gaya Timeline


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Theravada Buddhism

Because the sources I used in constructing this timeline (indicated by braces <> and listed at the end of this document) often assumed different dates for the Buddha's nativity, I have occasionally had to interpolate in order to fit events (particularly the early ones) onto a reasonably consistent timeline. Nevertheless, this chronology should provide a fairly clear picture of the relative sequence of events, if not the absolute dates on which they occurred.

For a general background on Theravada Buddhism, please see "What is Theravada?". BE[1] CE[2]
-80 -624/-560 The Bodhisatta (Sanskrit: Bodhisattva), or Buddha-to-be, is born in Lumbini (in present-day Nepal) as Siddhattha (Skt: Siddhartha) Gotama, a prince of the Sakya clan. <1,2>

-51 -595/-531 The Boddhisatta renounces the householder life (age 29)

-45 -589/-525 While meditating under the Bo tree in the forest at Gaya (now Bodhgaya, India) during the full-moon night of May, the Boddhisatta becomes the Buddha (age 36).

During the full-moon night of July, the Buddha delivers his first discourse near Varanasi, introducing the world to the Four Noble Truths and commencing a 45-year career of teaching the religion he called "Dhamma-vinaya".

1 -544/-480 Parinibbana (Skt: Parinirvana death and final release) of the Buddha, at Kusinara (now Kusinagar, India) (age 80). <1,3>

During the rains retreat following the Buddha's Parinibbana, the First Council convenes at Rajagaha, India, during which 500 arahant bhikkhus, led by Ven. Mahakassapa, gather to recite the entire body of the Buddha's teachings. The recitation of the Vinaya by Ven. Upali becomes accepted as the Vinaya Pitaka the recitation of the Dhamma by Ven. Ananda becomes established as the Sutta Pitaka. <1,4>

100 -444/-380 100 years after the Buddha's Parinibbana the Second Council convenes in Vesali to discuss controversial points of Vinaya. The first schism of the Sangha occurs, in which the Mahasanghika school parts ways with the traditionalist Sthaviravadins. At issue is the Mahasanghika's reluctance to accept the Suttas and the Vinaya as the final authority on the Buddha's teachings. This schism marks the first beginnings of what would later evolve into Mahayana Buddhism, which would come to dominate Buddhism in northern Asia (China, Tibet, Japan, Korea). <1>

294 -250 Third Council is convened by King Asoka at Pataliputra (India). Disputes on points of doctrine lead to further schisms, spawning the Sarvastivadin and Vibhajjavadin sects. The Abhidhamma Pitaka is recited at the Council, along with additional sections of the Khuddaka Nikaya. The modern Pali Tipitaka is now essentially complete, although some scholars have suggested that at least two parts of the extant Canon -- the Parivara in the Vinaya, and the Apadana in the Sutta -- may date from a later period. <1, 4>

297 -247 King Asoka sends his son, Ven. Mahinda, on a mission to bring Buddhism to Sri Lanka. King Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka is converted. <5>

304 -240 Ven. Mahinda establishes the Mahavihara (Great Monastery) of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Vibhajjavadin community living there becomes known as the Theravadins. Mahinda's sister, Ven. Sanghamitta, arrives in Sri Lanka with a cutting from the original Bo tree, and establishes the bhikkhuni-sangha in Sri Lanka.<1, 5>

444 -100 Famine and schisms in Sri Lanka point out the need for a written record of the Tipitaka to preserve the Buddhist religion. King Vattagamani convenes a Fourth Council , in which 500 reciters and scribes from the Mahavihara write down the Pali Tipitaka for the first time, on palm leaves. <4, 5, 6>

544 1 Common Era (CE) begins Year 1 AD.

644 100 Theravada Buddhism first appears in Burma and Central Thailand. <1>

744 200 Buddhist monastic university at Nalanda, India flourishes remains a world center of Buddhist study for over 1,000 years. <1>

969 425 Ven. Buddhaghosa collates the various Sinhalese commentaries on the Canon -- drawing primarily on the Maha Atthakatha (Great Commentary) preserved at the Mahavihara -- and translates his work into Pali. This makes Sinhalese Buddhist scholarship available to the entire Theravadin world. As a cornerstone to his work, Buddhaghosa composes the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purity) which eventually becomes the classic Sri Lankan textbook on the Buddha's teachings. <7>

c.1100 600's Buddhism in India begins a long, slow decline from which it would never fully recover. <1>

c.1100? 1400? 6 th century? 9 th century? Dhammapala composes commentaries on parts of the Canon missed by Buddhaghosa (such as the Udana, Itivuttaka, Theragatha, and Therigatha), along with extensive sub-commentaries on Buddhaghosa's work. <7>

1594 1050 The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni communities at Anuradhapura die out following invasions from South India.<1, 5>

1614 1070 Bhikkhus from Pagan arrive in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka to reinstate the obliterated Theravada ordination line on the island. <5>

1708 1164 Polonnaruwa destroyed by foreign invasion. With the guidance of two monks from a forest branch of the Mahavihara sect -- Vens. Mahakassapa and Sariputta -- King Parakramabahu reunites all bhikkhus in Sri Lanka into the Mahavihara sect. <1, 8>

1780 1236 Bhikkhus from Kañcipuram, India arrive in Sri Lanka to revive the Theravada ordination line. <1>

1823 1279 Last inscriptional evidence of a Theravada Bhikkhuni nunnery (in Burma). <8>

1831 1287 Pagan looted by Mongol invaders its decline begins. <1>

c.1900 13 th century A forest-based Sri Lankan ordination line arrives in Burma and Thailand. Theravada spreads to Laos. Thai Theravada monasteries first appear in Cambodia shortly before the Thais win their independence from the Khmers. <1>

c.2000 1400's Another forest lineage is imported from Sri Lanka to Ayudhaya, the Thai capital. A new ordination line is also imported into Burma. <1>

2297 1753 King Kirti Sri Rajasinha obtains bhikkhus from the Thai court to reinstate the bhikkhu ordination line, which had died out in Sri Lanka. This is the origin of the Siyam Nikaya. <8>

2312 1768 Burmese destroy Ayudhaya (Thai capital).

2321 1777 King Rama I, founder of the current dynasty in Thailand, obtains copies of the Tipitaka from Sri Lanka and sponsors a Council to standardize the Thai version of the Tipitaka, copies of which are then donated to temples throughout the country. <1>

2347 1803 Sri Lankans ordained in the Burmese city of Amarapura found the Amarapura Nikaya in Sri Lanka to supplement the Siyam Nikaya, which admitted only brahmins from the Up Country highlands around Kandy. <9>

2372 1828 Thailand's Prince Mongkut (later King Rama IV) founds the Dhammayut movement, which would later become the Dhammayut Sect. <1>

c.2400 1800's Sri Lankan Sangha deteriorates under pressure from two centuries of European colonial rule (Portuguese, Dutch, British). <5>

2406 1862 Forest monks headed by Ven. Paññananda go to Burma for reordination, returning to Sri Lanka the following year to found the Ramañña Nikaya. <9> First translation of the Dhammapada into a Western language (German). <2>

2412 1868 Fifth Council is held at Mandalay, Burma Pali Canon is inscribed on 729 marble slabs. <2>

2417 1873 Ven. Mohottivatte Gunananda defeats Christian missionaries in a public debate, sparking a nationwide revival of Sri Lankan pride in its Buddhist traditions. <8>

2423 1879 Sir Edwin Arnold publishes his epic narrative poem Light of Asia, which becomes a best-seller in England and the USA, stimulating popular Western interest in Buddhism.

2424 1880 Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, founders of the Theosophical Society, arrive in Sri Lanka from the USA, embrace Buddhism, and begin a campaign to restore Buddhism on the island by encouraging the establishment of Buddhist schools. <1>

2425 1881 Pali Text Society is founded in England by T.W. Rhys Davids most of the Tipitaka is published in roman script and, over the next 100 years, in English translation.

2435 1891 Maha Bodhi Society founded in India by the Sri Lankan lay follower Anagarika Dharmapala, in an effort to reintroduce Buddhism to India. <1>

2443 1899 First Western Theravada monk (Gordon Douglas) ordains, in Burma. <2>

c.2444 c.1900 Ven. Ajaan Mun and Ven. Ajaan Sao revive the forest meditation tradition in Thailand. <1>

2445 1902 King Rama V of Thailand institutes a Sangha Act that formally marks the beginnings of the Mahanikaya and Dhammayut sects. Sangha government, which up to that time had been in the hands of a lay official appointed by the king, is handed over to the bhikkhus themselves.

2493 1949 Mahasi Sayadaw becomes head teacher at a government-sponsored meditation center in Rangoon, Burma. <10>

2498 1954 Burmese government sponsors a Sixth Council in Rangoon.

2500 1956 Buddha Jayanti Year, commemorating 2,500 years of Buddhism.

2502 1958 Ven. Nyanaponika Thera establishes the Buddhist Publication Society in Sri Lanka to publish English-language books on Theravada Buddhism. Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is founded in Sri Lanka to bring Buddhist ideals to bear in solving pressing social problems. Two Germans ordain at the Royal Thai Embassy in London, becoming the first to take full Theravada ordination in the West. <1, 2>

c.2504 1960's [3] Washington (D.C.) Buddhist Vihara founded -- first Theravada monastic community in the USA. <11 and Bhavana Society Brochure>

c.2514 1970's Refugees from war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos settle in USA and Europe, establishing many tightly-knit Buddhist communities in the West. Ven. Taungpulu Sayadaw and Dr. Rina Sircar, from Burma, establish the Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery in Northern California, USA. Ven. Ajaan Chah establishes Wat Pah Nanachat, a forest monastery in Thailand for training Western monks. Insight Meditation Society, a lay meditation center, is founded in Massachusetts, USA. Ven. Ajaan Chah travels to England to establish a small community of monks at the Hamsptead Vihara, which later moves to Sussex, England, to become Wat Pah Cittaviveka (Chithurst Forest Monastery).

c.2524 1980's Lay meditation centers grow in popularity in USA and Europe. First Theravada forest monastery in the USA (Bhavana Society) is established in West Virginia. Amaravati Buddhist Monastery established in England by Ven. Ajaan Sumedho (student of Ven. Ajaan Chah).

c.2534 1990's Continued western expansion of the Theravada Sangha: monasteries from the Thai forest traditions established in California, USA (Metta Forest Monastery, founded by Ven. Ajaan Suwat Abhayagiri Monastery, founded by Ven. Ajaans Amaro and Pasanno). Buddhism meets cyberspace: Buddhist computer networks emerge several editions of the Pali Tipitaka become available online.

Notes

1. BE = Buddhist Era. Year 1 of the Buddhist Era calendar is the year of the Buddha's Parinibbana (death and final release), which occurred in the Buddha's eightieth year (480 BCE according to the "historical" timeline 544 BCE by tradition).

The actual date of the Buddha's birth is unknown. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha's birth took place in 624 BCE, although some recent estimates place the Buddha's birth much later -- perhaps as late as 448 BCE <1>. 560 BCE is one commonly-accepted date for the Buddha's birth, and the "historical" date for that event that I adopt here.

Events in the timeline prior to -250 CE are shown with two CE dates: the date based on the "traditional" nativity of 624 BCE, followed by the date based on the "historical" date of 560 BCE. After -250 CE the "historical" date is dropped, since these dates are more appropriate only in discussions of earlier events.

To calculate the CE date corresponding to an event in the Buddhist traditional calendar, subtract 544 years from the BE date. The BE dates of well-documented historical events (particularly those in the twentieth century) may be off by one year, since the CE and BE calendars start their years on different months (January and May, respectively). [Go back]


Aryan Stone Age

[Gaya means life and maretan means mortal. In some sources, Gaya Maretan is the first mortal or human being. The name Gaya Maretan evolved to Gayomard (Pahlavi), and then Kayomars or Kaiumars (Persian).]

Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, complemented by the Farvardin Yasht 13.87, recounts that Aryan prehistory started with Gaya Maretan, founder of the Aryan nation. The Shahnameh states that he was the first Aryan King and that during his reign, people lived in the mountains (also see Aryan homeland location: Mountains - Hara Berezaiti) and wore animal skins and leaves. They gathered fruits and other plant foods. Animals were first domesticated, and the herding of cattle began.

During the age of Gaya Maretan, religion and religious rites were developed. According to the Avesta and the Shahnameh, Gaya Maretan was a Mazdayasni, a worshipper of Mazda or God. In the oldest Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda, worship in a supreme God, Asura Varuna, preceded deva or polytheistic worship amongst the Aryans. (For further information on Pre-Zoroastrian Aryan religious practices, see our page on Aryan Religions.)

The Shahnameh tells us that Ahriman, the leader of the deva worshippers was envious of Gaya Maretan and wanted to seize Gaya Maretan's throne, the throne of the Aryans. As a result, the first religious wars between the Mazda and deva worshippers took place during this period. At first the deva worshippers were victorious in a battle in which Gaya Maretan's son Siyamak was killed. Gaya Maretan regrouped, assembled an army under the command of his grandson Haoshyangha (Hushang - see below), and defeated the deva worshippers. While this second battle established the Mazdayasni as the dominant religious group between the Mazda and deva worshippers, the two groups continued to live together in close proximity. (Later, at the end of the Jamshidi / Yima era, dominance would shift to the deva worshippers (see below), after which it would move back and forth between the two groups.)

Implicit in the references to ancient Aryans in the literature, is the development and establishment of national governance through the establishment of a hereditary kingship and a royal line. In this system of governance, Aryan kings had a sacred responsibility to protect the people, establish and uphold the law, encourage human development and lead the progress of society to a better life. When Aryan kings maintained this sacred trust and ethical compact (what in modern days we call a social contract), they were said to rule in grace in keeping with their khvarenah.


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Introduction to art historical analysis

Why does a work of art look the way it does? Who made it and why? What does it mean? These questions and others like them lie at the heart of art historical inquiry. Art historians use various types of analysis to provide answers. These have varied over time and continue to evolve, but in general, three categories can be distinguished. In the essays and videos on Smarthistory, different types of analysis are used, often without identifying them explicitly. If you become familiar with the three categories below, you will be able to recognize them.

Art as physical object

Left: Woman with wax tablets and stylus, c. 50 C.E., fresco (National Archaeological Museum, Naples) (photo: Carole Raddato, CC BY-SA 2.0) center: Justinian (detail), Justinian and Attendants, mosaic, north wall of the apse, San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, c. 547 (photo: Dr. Robert Glass) right: King David (detail), north transept lancet window, Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres, c.1145 and 1194-c.1220, Chartres (France) (photo: © Dr Stuart Whatling)

Oil and pigments on canvas, carved marble, woven fibers, a concrete dome—most works of art and architecture are physical things. As such, a fundamental determinant of the way they look is the material of which they are made. In architecture, the word used for this is simply materials. In art, the term medium (plural: media) is also used.

Materials have specific properties that dictate the ways they can be manipulated and the effects they can produce. For example, marble will crack under its own weight if not properly balanced and supported, which imposes limits on the sculptural forms or architectural designs that can be created with it. Fresco painting, stained glass, and mosaic are all capable of creating breathtaking images, but their visual qualities differ significantly due to the distinct physical properties and working methods of each medium. This latter aspect—the way a medium is worked or used—is called technique. Together, materials and technique determine basic visual features and the parameters within which an artist or architect must work.

Learning to recognize specific media and techniques and how they have been used historically are fundamental art historical skills. Not only do they allow you to understand the logic behind specific visual qualities, but they may also help identify when and where a work was made since certain media and techniques are characteristic of specific periods and places.

Conservation

Technological advances have led to new methods of analyzing materials and techniques. Today this research is carried out primarily by art conservators. Because art and architecture, like all physical things, are subject to the corrosive effects of time and environment, conservation science is a crucial field. Training in art conservation typically involves coursework in chemistry as well as the practice and history of art.

While the main job of conservators is preservation, their investigative techniques can also benefit art historians. Technologies such as X-radiography, ultraviolet illumination, and infrared reflectography can reveal features of an object invisible to the human eye, such as the inside of a bronze statue, changes made to a painting, or drawing under a paint surface. X-ray fluorescence can identify the pigments in paint or the composition of metals by their chemical profiles. Dendrochronology can establish the earliest date a wooden object could have been made based on tree ring growth patterns. Analysis of materials and techniques using methods such as these can help art historians answer questions about when, where, how, or by whom, a work was made.

Egon Schiele, Portrait of Wally Neuzil, 1912, oil on panel, 32 × 39.8 cm (Leopold Museum, Vienna)

Art as visual experience

Most art is visually compelling. While materials and technique determine the range of what is possible, the final appearance of a work is the product of numerous additional choices made by the artist. An artist painting a portrait of a woman in oil on canvas must decide on the size and shape of the canvas, the scale of the woman and where to place her, and the types of forms, lines, colors, and brushstrokes to use in representing the sitter and her surroundings. In a compelling work of art, myriad variables such as these and others come together to create an engaging visual experience.

Visual (formal) analysis

Art historians use visual analysis to describe and understand this experience. Often called formal analysis because it focuses on form rather than subject matter or historical context, this typically consists of two parts: description of the visual features of a work and analysis of their effects. To describe visual properties systematically, art historians rely on an established set of terms and concepts. These include characteristics such as format, scale, composition, and viewpoint treatment of the human figure and space and the use of form, line, color, light, and texture.

In describing visual qualities, formal analysis usually identifies certain features as contributing to the overall impression of the work. For example, a prominent linear form might suggest strength if straight and vertical, grace or sensuality if sinuous, or stability and calm if long and horizontal. Sharp contrasts in light and dark may make an image feel bold and dramatic whereas subdued lighting might suggest gentleness or intimacy. In the past, formal analysis assumed there was some elementary level of universality in the human response to visual form and tried to describe these effects. Today, the method is understood as more subjective, but still valued as a critical exercise and means of analyzing visual experience, especially in introductory art history courses.

Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784, oil on canvas, 3.3 x 4.25 m, painted in Rome, exhibited at the salon of 1785 (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Formal analysis is a powerful tool for appreciating art. Armed with it, you can analyze any work based simply on the experience of looking at it. But the method is also important for understanding art in its historical context. This is because the visual properties of works made by an individual artist or, more generally, by artists working in the same time and place, typically have common features. Art historians call these shared characteristics style. As James Elkins elegantly phrased it, style is “a coherence of qualities in periods or people.”[1] This may include consistency in things like medium, function, and subject matter, but when art historians use the term style, they primarily mean formal characteristics.

Style varies by time and place, so like medium and technique, it can be used to determine the origin of a work of art. Because of its complexity, style is a far more specific indicator than materials and technique alone. Early art historians used stylistic analysis to categorize the vast legacy of undocumented art, assigning works to cultures, artistic circles, or individual artists based on their formal qualities. Today, stylistic analysis continues to be used to establish origins when unknown works are discovered or previous attributions revised.

In addition to helping categorize individual works, style has shaped the narratives told by art historians in fundamental ways. Until the mid-20th century, most histories of art focused on tracing stylistic development and change. As a result, many of the period divisions traditionally used for Western art are based on style. Some examples are Geometric, Orientalizing, Archaic, and Classical in ancient Greece, Romanesque and Gothic in Medieval Europe, and the Early, High, and Late Renaissance. Today style is only one of many aspects of art that interest art historians, but the power of tradition has ensured that style-based period divisions and labels remain widely used. Likewise, familiarity with the style of specific periods, places, and artists is still considered fundamental art historical knowledge and often remains the focus of introductory art history textbooks and courses.

Art as cultural artifact

While understanding the physical properties and visual experience of art are important, today most art historical research focuses on the significance of works as cultural artifacts. This category of analysis is characterized by a variety of approaches, but all share the basic objective of examining art in relation to its historical context. Most often, this is the time and place in which a work was created—typically we want to know why and by whom it was made and how it originally functioned. But since works of art and architecture often survive for centuries, art historians may also study a work’s cultural significance at later historical moments.

Buddha Shakyamuni or Akshobhya, the Buddha of the East, 11th-12th century, Tibet, gilt copper, 58 cm high (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Subject matter / iconography

One of the most basic types of contextual analysis is the interpretation of subject matter. Much art is representational (i.e., it creates a likeness of something), and naturally we want to understand what is shown and why. Art historians call the subject matter of images iconography. Iconographic analysis is the interpretation of its meaning. In many cases, such as an image of the crucified Christ or seated Buddha, identifying the subject presents few problems. When the iconography is obscure or treated in an unusual way, art historians try to understand it by studying the historical context in which the image was made, typically through comparison with texts and other imagery from the time. With challenging images, scholars may disagree on which contextual materials are relevant, resulting in conflicting interpretations. For many complex or enigmatic works, the meanings of the subject matter continue to be debated and reinterpreted today.

Another common aspect of art investigated through contextual analysis is function. Historically, many works of art and nearly all architecture were intended to serve some purpose beyond the aesthetic. Understanding function is crucial because it usually plays a role in determining many features, including iconography, materials, format, and aspects of style. At the most basic level, art historians analyze function by identifying types—an altarpiece, portrait, Book of Hours, tomb, palace, etc. Studying the history and use of a given type provides a context for understanding specific examples.

Analysis of function becomes more complex when the personal motivations of the people responsible for making a work are considered. For much of history, this includes not only artists but also the patrons who commissioned works and in some cases, advisors acting on the patron’s behalf. When such agents can be identified, definitively or hypothetically, their motivations become potential contexts for understanding purpose and appearance.

Michelangelo, Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (detail), 1508-12, Vatican, Rome, photo: Kent G Becker (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With complex works, this can soon raise interpretive quandaries. Take, for example, Michelangelo’s famous frescos on ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Are these highly original paintings best understood in relation to the function of the chapel (a key ritual site in the Vatican palace), or the concerns of the painter, Michelangelo, or of the patron, Pope Julius II, or of one or more of the Julius’s advisors at the papal court? The answer is likely some combination of these, but the contextual materials relevant to each are so vast and diverse that there is no one way to interpret them.

Thinking critically

This raises a final point about analyzing the meaning of art and architecture as cultural artifacts. While art historians rely on facts as much as possible and seek to interpret works in ways that are historically plausible, we recognize that subjectivity is inescapable. As discussed in “What is art history?,” we interpret the past in ways that make sense in the present. Today, art historians continue to ask traditional questions like those noted above, but they also ask new ones inspired by social developments such as feminism, globalism, multiculturalism, and identity politics.

So, as you read, watch, and listen, try to recognize the approaches being used and to think critically about them. Is the speaker or writer talking about the work as a physical object, visual experience, or cultural artifact? (Often it will be some combination.) What contexts are being used to explain meaning? Which contexts are not considered? This may leave you with as many questions as answers, but that is good. You are here not only to gain knowledge, but also to develop a curiosity about the world and the ability to think critically about it.


Notes

BE = Buddhist Era. Year 1 of the Buddhist Era calendar is the year of the Buddha's Parinibbana (death and final release), which occurred in the Buddha's eightieth year (480 BCE according to the "historical" timeline 544 BCE by tradition).

The actual date of the Buddha's birth is unknown. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha's birth took place in 624 BCE, although some recent estimates place the Buddha's birth much later &mdash perhaps as late as 448 BCE <1>. 560 BCE is one commonly accepted date for the Buddha's birth, and the "historical" date for that event that I adopt here.

Events in the timeline prior to -250 CE are shown with two CE dates: the date based on the "traditional" nativity of 624 BCE, followed by the date based on the "historical" date of 560 BCE. After -250 CE the "historical" date is dropped, since these dates are more appropriate only in discussions of earlier events.

To calculate the CE date corresponding to an event in the Buddhist traditional calendar, subtract 544 years from the BE date. The BE dates of well-documented historical events (particularly those in the twentieth century) may be off by one year, since the CE and BE calendars start their years on different months (January and May, respectively).

2. CE = Common Era. Year 1 of the Common Era corresponds with the year 1 AD (Anno Domini) in the Christian calendar. -1 CE (or 1 BCE &mdash "Before the Common Era") corresponds with the year 1 BC ("Before Christ"). By convention there is no year zero the day after 31 December 1 BCE is 1 January 1 CE. 3. Events of the last few decades are still too recent to claim any historical significance.


Varanasi History

Origin of Varanasi is closely linked with origin of Ganga. The city had been the center of civilization and higher education for more than 3000 years. It is said that Varanasi was the first spot created by Lord Shiva. When Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva dueled, Lord Shiva tore off one of the heads of Lord Brahma. He held the torn head as a symbol of victory and walked through the earth. When he reached Varanasi, the head dropped from his hand and disappeared into the ground. Thereby removing sins from Lord Shiva. Thus, the land is considered as a holy spot where sins of the current and previous births can be washed away. In Mahabharatha, Pandavas went in search for Lord Shiva in Varanasi to wash off their sin committed during the epic war.

The above stated stories are linked with mythology. Archaeological findings have dug deep to 2000 BC. Varanasi was a bustling urban settlement during this period. With the river flowing through it, the land flourished. Vedic people lived in this city and many rituals were a part of their life. The birth of Vedas is also dated to this period.

By 500 BC, numerous rulers who ruled Benaras built many temples. In 528 BC, Lord Buddha visited Sarnath to give his first sermon. In 600 AD, HiueTsiang visited this city and named it as Polonisse. In his works, he stated that the city had just 30 temples and about 30 monks.

In 1st century, Benaras was the capital of Gahadavala dynasty. Roads were established throughout the city and in the following centuries, many notable figures moved to Benaras to establish their religious thoughts. In 8th century, Adi Shankara visited Varanasi and made it a center of Lord Shiva worship. In 13th century, Kabir was born here.

By the beginning of 16th century, Sikhism started to spread in Varanasi. Guru Nanak Dev visited the city and started to spread his religious thoughts. By the end of 16th century, Varanasi well into the hands of Mughal emperors. Akbar built many temples for Hindu gods here.

The earliest tourism incidence in the city started in 16th century. The Grand Trunk Road was laid to assist visitors from distant places. In the middle of 17th century, Varanasi was under the control of Aurangazeb who destroyed umerous temples and built mosques. After the death of the king, new structures were built when are now seen in the skyline of the city.

Tourism flourished in 18th century and a Sanskrit college was built which attracted many scholars to the land.

In the beginning of 19th century, Varanasi became a state with Ramnagar as the capital. The last king of Varanasi, Kashi Naresh, occupied the fort of Ramnagar. After independence, Varanasi was incorporated into the united provinces of 1949. For more information you can also read our Complete Travel Guide of Spiritual City Varanasi


Years: c. 4000 BCE - 2005 Subject: Religion
Publisher: HistoryWorld Online Publication Date: 2012
Current online version: 2012 eISBN: 9780191737206

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Early Christian Architecture

By the end of the first century, it is evident that Christian places of worship had developed a somewhat standard form of architecture. Churches from the 1 st through the 3 rd centuries took classical Greek and Roman architecture in its most flourished form as its main influence. Classical architecture had at this time reached its height after developing for thousands of years.

The tendency to use Greek and Roman architectural styles was made without reference to their original symbolism. This allowed for a more complete freedom of architectural styles. There were, however, unique designs that were created specifically for churches. One of the few architectural developments made by early churches was the construction of a dome on top of a polygon.

The Basilica

The term Basilica originally denoted anything kingly or lordly. The basic characteristics of a basilica in terms of a place of worship are: a rectangular ground plan divided longitudinally into three or five aisles by columns which support the roof. The roof above the middle aisle (the nave) is raised above the adjacent aisles so that its supporting walls have openings for air and light. A half dome projects beyond the rectangular plan.

Armenia is believed to be the first nation to adopt Christianity as the state religion. The country therefore has some of the oldest churches. Thaddeus, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and also referred to as St. Jude, spent many years spreading the gospel in Armenia. In 68 AD the country built a monastery dedicated to him. It is the oldest church still standing, and currently within the borders of Iran.

By the third century, it was the Middle East that was the most flourished region for Christianity. This area mostly included Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. Unfortunately it is in this area that early Christian monuments have either been completely destroyed or hardly explored. Many of these early churches were likely converted by Islam into mosques, the most notable example being Hagia Sophia.

Here Syria is an exception. The conquest of Islam left the greater part of this area an empty desert. Since most of these early churches were built of stone, they have survived. They are therefore some of the best available examples of Christian architecture from the third and fourth centuries.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Constantine ordered a church to be built over the place of Jesus' birth in 339 AD. Two crusading kings were later crowned here.

The Holy Land, especially Jerusalem and Bethlehem, was a place of pilgrimage and therefore was the site of many beautiful churches. Many of these were constructed first by the order of Roman Emperor Constantine and later Justinian. Scant remains are still left of these churches. The Crusaders who came 1000 years later, in their love of building, showed little respect for ancient monuments.

We would expect Egypt to be a wonderful place of ancient churches to explore, since it was one of the first Christian strongholds. But here too, the Coptic churches have been so thoroughly destroyed or fundamentally altered that not much more than the original foundation can be discovered.

Plan Views of Early Churches

Exterior and Interior Views of Early Churches


Watch the video: Kashmir The Story. Full Documentary On The History u0026 Timelines Of Kashmir Valley


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