Photograph

Anuradhapura-The Jétawanáráma Dágoba. View from the south. This Dágoba was built by King Maha Sen in the third century after Christ. It is a huge mass of solid brickwork, 396 feet in diameter and 246 feet high. (No. 188); The Jetavanarama Dagoba at Anuradhapura

1870s (photographed)

Lawton, Joseph

Width: 265 mm photographic print, Height: 218 mm photographic print, Width: 330 mm mount, Height: 263 mm mount

82:760 SSEA

Photograph of the Jetavanarama Dagoba at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, by Joseph Lawton, albumen print, 1870-1.

The dome of the dagoba is covered with grass and shrubs. The sqare platform and spire are visible. At the base of the dome there is a stone structure, consisting of a series of pillars, steps up to a low lying platform base, and two stone reliefs of dwarves on either side of the steps. A male figure stands at the top of the steps between two of the pillars. In the foreground, there is a dirt path where the grass has been worn away as well as trees, both standing and fallen.

The Jetavanarama Dagoba is the highest brick-built dagoba in the world and the largest Buddhist building in southern Asia. The dagoba is almost 122m tall, with a base diameter of more than 113m, and at its core is a gigantic earthen mound encased in brickwork. Begun by King Mahasena (275-92), its massive scale was designed to rival the Maha Vihara, also in Anuradhapura. The paved platform on which it stands covers more than 3 hectares and it has a diameter of over 100m. Joseph Lawton (died 1872), a British commercial photographer, was active in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) between 1866 and 1872. Though he was initially employed by the firm HC Bryde, by the mid 1860s he had established his own studio in Kandy. Lawton was commissioned by the Archaeological Committee to photograph the main archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. He created a unique series of aesthetically powerful images of Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya. Official photographic surveys conducted by Lawton and others documented the architecture and facilitated antiquarian scholarship. However, as a commercial photographer, Lawton made sure that his photographs were not merely documentary. His images were taken to appeal to tourists and overseas buyers seeking picturesque views of ancient ruins overgrown with creepers and gnarled trees.

This photograph was one of a set purchased by the museum from Lawton and Co. in 1882. See Photograph Register 81259-86096, Modern Volume, 13. The register entry is dated to 24.4.82, and the cost is noted as £16.43.4 The photograph was initially part of the photographic collection held in the National Art Library. The markings on the mount are an indication of the history of the object, its movement through the museum and the way in which it is categorised. The mount is white. On the right hand side is a label which reads: A.in.ANURADHAPURA. A label printed with title is pasted underneath the photograph. The museum number is written in the bottom right hand corner. Historical significance: The Jetavanarama Dagoba is the highest brick-built dagoba in the world and the largest Buddhist building in southern Asia. The dagoba is almost 122m tall, with a base diameter of more than 113m, and at its core is a gigantic earthen mound encased in brickwork. Begun by King Mahasena (275-92), its massive scale was designed to rival the Maha Vihara, also in Anuradhapura. The paved platform on which it stands covers more than 3 hectares and it has a diameter of over 100m. It is currently being renovated with help from UNESCO. Today, the nearby Jetavanarama Museum exhibits finds from the site discovered during reconstruction, including coins, Buddhist statues, seals made from precious stones, and beads made from clay, silver, gems, gold and ivory. Anuradhapura was one of the first centres of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and is the home of some of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world. It is situated in the North West province, about 200km from Colombo. Anuradhapura was established as Sri Lanka’s first capital in 377 BC by King Pandukhabhaya (437-367 BC), who named it after the constellation Anuradha. He started the complex irrigation works on which it depended and King Devanampiya Tissa, who reigned 250-10 BC, began the first stage of religious building. This building project included the Thuparama Dagoba, Issurumuniyagala, the Maha Vihara, the Sri Maha Bodhi and the Brazen Palace. A branch of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha was believed to have gained Enlightenment was brought from Bodhgaya in India and successfully transplanted. Anuradhapura remained the capital city until the 9th century when repeated invasions from south India resulted in the deterioration of its architectural structures and the virtual disuse of its irrigation works. After the 13th century, its political functions were taken over first by Polonnaruwa and then by capitals to the south. In the 1820s Ralph Backhaus, a young British civil servant, mounted a private expedition to search for the remains of the city. Despite widespread public interest in his findings, archaeological research, excavation and restoration were not begun until 1872. The New Town was started in the 1950s and is now the most important Sinhalese city of the north. It currently houses the headquarters of the Sri Lanka Archaeological Survey. In 1988, it was designated a World Heritage Site.

Location: In Storage

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