The Departure of Prince Siddhartha


The Departure of Prince Siddhartha



This relief is an illustration of an episode from the life of Buddha Shakyamuni. Within the arch above is the scene in the palace bedroom where prince Siddhartha, as he was known then, sits beside his unsuspecting sleeping wife. His groom stands ready with his favourite steed Kanthaka to take the prince away on the path of enlightenment. There is a second figure watching the poignant event. In the larger panel below, the prince rides away from the city on Kanthaka. The personages witnessing the Great Departure are various celestial beings including the city goddess of Kapilavastu standing with her legs crossed along the right margin with her left hand raised to her head in a pensive gesture. The four figures in the air above also express in diverse manners their amazement at this remarkable act of renunciation.
Such architectonically conceived panels are typical of Gandhara narrative art. They were used to cover religious structures and are generally quite densely detailed in the visual narration of the story of the Buddha’s life. Prince Siddhartha is always
attired in the Indian mode wearing a dhoti, but some of the other figures wear long stitched dresses like those worn still in the northwest of the subcontinent. Characteristic of Gandhara narrative sculpture there is a more deliberate attempt to
enliven the compositions with expressions of emotions, unlike in other early Indian schools of art.

Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection


Buddhist Art

Object Type

Architectural fragment Figurine


Grey Schist






2nd–3rd century CE


Gandhara, Pakistan


41.5 cm