New Delhi: Paintings in some of China’s caves have been discovered to have specific influences of artists from Kashmir, according to noted art historian and filmmaker, Benoy K Behl, who has recently photographed major cultural sites in China and Tibet on the Northern Silk Route.
“I was able to identify specific influences of Kashmiri artists in some of the paintings at Mogao caves of Dunhuang, which are China’s most renowned for Buddhist art,” says Behl, who recently concluded documentation of paintings found in caves, monasteries and other cultural sites in mainland China and the Tibetan plateau.
The historian, who is known for his extensive research of Buddhist and Hindu art in all Asian countries, photographed 34 major cultural sites spread across the 14,000 kilometers of the Northern Silk Route.
“The caves of Kizil, near Kucha have many exquisite paintings that bear a close resemblance to Indian murals. We were the first Indians to document these sites,” says Behl, who points out that the murals found there reflect the formative period of Buddhist art of China.
“There is a very ancient connection between the culture, art and religion of India and China,” points out Behl, who was commissioned for the research as a Fellow at the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies.
Behl explains that Kumarajiva, son of an Indian who lived in the fourth century, was perhaps the greatest name in Chinese Buddhism. Kumarajiva was sent while he was very young to Kashmir to study Buddhism and Sanskrit and later became famous for his translations when he returned to Kucha.
His earlier works include researching the early art of Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. The Limca Book of Records estimates that Behl has crisscrossed the country in journeys totalling over 1,60,000 kms till 2006 and has made 26 films on ‘The Paintings of India´ and 26 films on ‘the Sculpture of India.“
Behl who was assisted by Pooja Kaul and cameraman Dalip filmed all the major monasteries and temples located in the central and western Tibet.
The Samye monastery, which is believed to be modelled on the lines of the university of Odantapuri in East India and bearing obvious similarities with the early Kashmiri Sumstek (the three-storied temple) offered the most valuable glimpse of what ancient monasteries in Bihar may have looked like.
Padmasambhave, from Bihar’s Nalanda Universtiy laid the foundation of Buddhism in Tibet during eighth century AD and the second great diffusion of Buddhist art and culture began under King Yeshe Od of the Guge Kingdom in Western Tibet, explains Behl.