On The Placement of the Frieze Blocks of the Ayritam Temple

Issue #4 • 1414

Dodo Nazilov, Architect,
Zilola Hamidova, Student of TASI

9The famous Ayritam frieze depicting the musicians and donators, found in the 1930s in Surkhandarya Province near the Amu Darya River, belongs to the Greco-Bactrian period. M.E. Masson – the first researcher of this monument – believed that these sculptural friezes used to decorate the pylons facing the entrance to the temple (1). Further research was conducted by B. Ya. Staviskiy. He suggested that the reliefs used to decorate the walls that had the shape of the antae or pilasters at the entrance to a Buddhist sanctuary (2). According to G. A. Pugachenkova, the Ayritam reliefs used to be placed on the walls of the pronaos that represented an analogue of the recessed ayvan (pillared terrace) (3). P. Bernard (4) had assumed that they used to decorate the facade of the temple. Excavations, carried out at the Ayritam settlement by B. Turgunov, have revealed a sculptural block topped with high relief figures of a standing woman and a sitting man of Kushan period (5, p. 146-147, pic.5).
We must note that information on the Ayritam friezes always gets a well-deserved coverage on the pages of scientific literature about the ancient art of Uzbekistan. However, little was said about their connection with architectural composition. Graphic reconstruction of the location of the stone blocks with images of the characters, referring to the Buddhist subjects, in the form of friezes in a particular part of the architectural monument has not yet found its coverage in the literature. It is necessary to shed light on the question concerning the association of sculpture with architecture. In the version proposed by us, not all elements of the sculptural characters have been reconstructed. However, we will continue to work in this area of focus.
Familiarization with sculptural frieze reveals the accuracy of the arrangement order of the characters proposed by B. Staviskiy. According to him, the overall composition of the frieze consists of two L-shaped figures. Obviously, the main argument for such an arrangement of the stone blocks with high-relief sculptures was the fact that on the edge of each of the two blocks, one residual element of the corner volutes can be observed. The volutes extend outwardly with respect to the frieze at the angle of 45 degrees. This suggests that they determine the angular joint of two blocks, and acquiring a dominant position, combine the articulated units arranged into integral composition. Apparently, this fact was considered by B. Staviski in his time.
The views of all four of the above mentioned researchers regarding the arrangement of the sculptural blocks bring us to conclusion that they used to decorate the facade. It is known that the antae, pilasters, and the walls of the recessed ayvan constituted the elements of the facade. Thus, in the options presented by the researchers, the facade decorated with the sculptural friezes was overlooking the Amu Darya River that flows not far from the temple.
Presumably, the friezes could not be installed on the side walls of the ayvans, on the antae or pilasters. Due to the fact that if the friezes were on the side walls of the ayvan or antae, the wall located in the recess of ayvan required the continuation of the sculptural frieze. In the absence of the sculptural frieze on the front wall of ayvan, which overlooks the main facade, the surface of that part was not decorated. Location of the sculptural frieze on that wall could serve as an interface and ensure the integrity of the artistic design of ayvan. Probably, this part of the sculptural frieze had actually never existed, because it was not found during the excavation. Moreover, if the sculptured friezes were located on the side walls of ayvan or antae, they were less visible for people entering through the doorway, which is located in the central part of ayvan.
Based upon the above said, it can be concluded that the sculptural friezes used to be placed on the side walls of the arched portico – a passage – protruding from the main building, the width and height of the portico were similar to the entrance doorway of the main building. At the same time, the width of the portico could be within the range of the two and a half meters.
10There is a similar entrance opening in the Buddhist monastery of Hisht Tepe. Meanwhile the absence of a free area on the wall in the depth of the portico could not qualify for additional placement of the sculptural frieze. The discovered sculpted friezes on the side walls of given dimensions provide compositional integrity of artistic design of the internal space of the entrance portico.
B. Staviskiy drew attention to the fact that the shoulder-length reliefs in the upper part were coming forward more than the lower reliefs. Ancient sculptors had very well calculated their perspective in relation to the viewers, who looked at the reliefs from below (10, p. 233). This suggests that the belt of the carved friezes was located higher than a man’s height. Here was also considered the fact that the large, curved tips of the leaves looking forward could block the busts of the characters, eyes of the musicians and wreath bearers, looking at the visitors with a soft smile, with flower wreaths in hand and accompanying music. In fact, B. Stavisky writes that according to the Indian customs, the flowers were used to welcome not only the Buddha, but also the guests (in this case, perhaps, those who served in the sanctuary) (10, p. 233).
One block with one sculptural character used to be located at the end faces of the portico. The sculpture of a woman holding a wreath with two hands is depicted on one of the end walls. Despite the fact that the hands of the sculpture are broken off, visually one can observe that it holds the wreath. On the other end of the wall, the sculptured character has both hands broken off. However, the remains of the rods of both hands are directed towards its lips. This suggests that this character was holding a wind musical instrument; moreover it was an instrument with double splayed pipes. It was at one time noticed by G.A. Pugachenkova, she noted that a female musician was playing a double flute with divergent pipes, pressing it to her mouth and fingering the holes (6, p.144). It is known that the flute was a widespread musical instrument in the Central Asia, which has its own varieties. In particular, the relief at the tile from Kampyrtepa related to the I-II centuries BC depicts a flute, consisting of seven vertically fixed pipes clamped in the figure’s hands at the chest level (7, pic.179). The flutes consisting of two vertical pipes fixed in the upper part with a cord – double Goba – were discovered at Ur (8, p. 69). Existence of a flute with double pipes in the ancient East confirms that this character played such type of flute.
11According to researchers, the content of the Ayritam frieze can be interpreted using the Buddhist mythology, according to which the sculptures reflect the events of “Mahanaripirvana” (death of the Great Gautama Buddha) when, as said by the poet of the Kushan period Asvaghosh,
“Other spirits of heaven,
Abandoning their hearts, were grieving
And, offering oblations,
Were dropping the flowers from above” (9).
But at the same the sculptural images, obviously, correspond to the actual participants of the nationwide festive ceremonies, which the musicians and well-dressed girls and boys holding flowers and all sorts of attributes had usually participated to (6, pp.144-145).
Based on the above, we can conclude that the entrance to the Buddhist temple was marked by a small doorway portico, which width and height were equal to the doorway of the main building. Sculptural blocks with the images of a female musician and a woman with the flower garlands placed on the frontal surface and the two side walls of the entrance archway, seem to welcome the parishioners with music and wreaths and accompanying them inside the temple with music, flowers and a polite smile, as evidenced by the expression of the faces of the sculptured characters.

1. Массон М. Е. Находки фрагментов скульптурного карниза первых веков н.э.// Известия Узкомстариса, Ташкент, 1933.
2. Ставиский Б. Я. Работы на Кара-тепе в 1970-1971 гг. Каратепе. Вып. III., М.,1972.
3. Pugachenkova G. A. The Buddhist Monuments of Airtam// SRAA 2, 1991/92.
4. Bernard P. «Compterendu»// Journal Asiatigne, 1977
5. Тургунов Б. Новые находки из Айртама// Городская культура Бактрии-Тохаристана и Согда. Античность, раннее средневековье. Материалы советско-французского коллоквиума. Ташкент, 1987.
6. Пугаченкова Г. А. Искусство Бактрии эпохи Кушан. М., изд. Искусство,1979.
7. Древности Южного Узбекистана.Copyright, 1991.
8. Садоков Р. Л. Музыкальная культура древнего Хорезма. М.,1970
9. Асвагхоша. Жизнь Будды. Калидаса Драмы. М., 1990, с.232.
10. Ставиский Б. Я. Работы на Каратепе в 1970-1971 гг.// Буддийский культовый центр Кара-тепе в Старом Термезе (Кара-Тепе 3), М., 1977.

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