Burmese Pyu Buddhist Art – Beikthano, also referred to as the “City of Vishnu” was one of the first areas to be occupied by the Pyu people dating back to the birth of Christ. Artifacts, pottery, structural remains and inscriptions show that the Pyu occupied the area of Beikthano from 1 A.D. – 5 A.D.
Other main Pyu cities were Halin, Binnaka and Sri Ksetra. Bronze artifacts and funerary objects of the Pyu people have also been found as far north as Tagaung, north of Mandalay. Pyu art was influenced by their close connection with the Hindu and the Jain from Northern India. Some historians state that the the Pyu were the original builders of the oldest stupas’ in Pagan which were mostly cylindrical or bulbous in shape such as the Bupaya Pagoda on the banks of the Ayeyarwady.
The biggest and by far the most important Pyu site, Sri-ksetra, approximately 180 miles north west of Yangon was at its zenith between 5 A.D. and 9 A.D.
an abundance of architectural, sculptural and artistic remains of the Pyu Kingdom have been found in Sri ksetra, in contrast with other Pyu sites, where very little evidence of their existence has been found.
Pyu bronzes, clay votive tablets and other Hindu Brahman iconography indicate a strong Hindu/Indian influence, although Theravada Buddhism was the dominant belief.
Burmese Pyu Buddhist Art
The central figure on this rare round stele found in Burma is thought to be that of Hayagriva with a horse’s head and a human body, he is regarded as “God of knowledge and wisdom” and is considered to be an Avatar of Vishnu, he is primarily worshiped by the Vaishnavas, he is one of the most highly worshiped deities in South India. Haya means horse and Griva means neck in sankrit. Hayagriva’s incarnation took place to restore the Vedas to Lord Brahma.
It is believed that there are 108 depictions of the Hayagriva and is represented in those countries in Asia where there was a strong Hindu influence merging into Buddhism. He is often represented with several arms, holding a conch shell or sword, sometimes with Lakshmi his consort seated on his knee and often seated on a lotus flower along with many other variations.
The peacock and the snake or naga as it is sometimes referred to are significant symbolic creatures in Burmese, Tibetan, Indian and Cambodian Buddhism.
Information on Hayagriva in Buddhism