The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Meaning and uses of torana
Toranas are associated with Buddhist Stupas like the Great Stupa in Sanchi, as well as with Jain and Hindu structures, and also with several secular structures. Symbolic toranas can also be made of Flowers and even leaves and hung over the doors and at entrances, particularly in Western and Southern India. They are believed to bring good Fortune and signify auspicious and festive occasions. They can also serve didactic and narrative purposes or be erected to mark the victory of a king (See, The Torana in Indian and Southeast Asian Architecture, by Parul Pandya Dhar, New Delhi: D K Printworld, 2010).
During Vesak festival of Sri Lanka it is a tradition to erect electrically illuminated colorful Vesak toranas in public places. These decorations are temporary installations which remain in public display for couple of weeks starting from the day of Vesak
Toranas are also referred to as vandanamalikas. There are many different types of toranas - dvara-toranas, Patra-toranas, ratne-toranas and so on. These are mentioned in medieval Indian architectural treatises. (See, The Torana in Indian and Southeast Asian Architecture, by Parul Pandya Dhar, New Delhi: D K Printworld, 2010).
Both Chinese paifang gateways and Japanese Torii gateways might have been derived from the Indian torana. The functions of all three are similar, but they generally differ based on their respective architectural styles, such as having multiple tiered and arched roofs and various "supporting posts" that are prevalent in East Asian architectural style.
A great deal of cultlural exchange between these countries took place in ancient Times, so that many Indian, Thai, Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultural practices are related. For example, Benzaiten is a Japanese Name for the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, and the ancient Siddhaṃ script, which disappeared from India by 1200 CE, is still written by Monks in Japan.