BIRTH OF THE BUDDHA
BIRTH OF THE BUDDHA
Though somewhat mutilated, the image is an interesting depiction of the nativity of the Buddha. It narrates the complete episode of the birth scene in a single panel.
Queen Mayadevi is standing holding a branch of a tree with her right hand. To her right, Shakra wearing a cap-like head-dress is receiving the newly born babe, the future Buddha, in his hands. In the lower part of the relief between Mayadevi and Shakra, can be seen the haloed baby Buddha taking his first seven steps, unaided by anybody.
According to the Nidanakatha written in the 1st century BCE. while going to her parents place for confinement, Mayadevi happened to pass through Sala grove and was much fascinated by the blooming trees. Standing there, she held a branch of the tree, and at that moment she started getting labour pains and the child Siddhartha was born. Many different interpretations are offered to explain this pose of Mayadevi at the time of the childbirth. It is interesting to note that a similar custom still prevails in a mountain dwelling tribe of Taraomara in Mexico where an expectant woman selects a branch of a tree near the river for the delivery. As the time draws near, she goes down to that tree, holds the branch tight with both her hands for support and delivers the child. The child is put in a cane basket and carried by her to the jubilant relatives*. It is possible that a similar custom must have been prevalent in the north-eastern India in the early periods which has provided the iconography of the scene of the birth of the Buddha.
A large number of Gandhara sculptures in this Museum, which are a gift of the renowned scholar James Cousens, were excavated from the sites of Sahri Bahlol (in 1912), Takht-i-bahi (in 1910–11), and Jamalgarhi (in 1920–21). Most of these sculptures must have adorned the walls of the monasteries, inspiring the devout in their religious pursuits. The sculptures range from large Buddhas seated in meditation, or preaching the congregation or summoning the earth to vouch for his penance, to standing Boddhisattvas, scenes from the life of the Buddha and some decorative panels. All these sculptures, several of them mutilated, bear evidence of Graeco-Roman influence on Indian art which is the main distinction of this style. The artists of these areas excel in carving the elegant flow of the draperies, trees with clearly identifiable leaves and in successfully conveying the architectural details including different levels of the house connected with staircases.
3rd century CE
15.5 x 14.6 x 5.6 cms.