The Life of Gautama Buddha
Conception & Pregnancy
a complete collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Life of the Buddha as told in the Lalitavistara, together with further information.
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The Life of Buddha
Editor: This transcription of Prof. Krom’s work The Life of Buddha on the Stūpa of Barabuḍur according to the Lalitavsitara-Text includes changes to the diacritics to bring them up-to-date with standard practices; expanding most of the abbreviations, regularising the spelling of English and occasional small improvements to the text to improve readability, and adding translations to the German quotations. I have also occasionally broken up long paragraphs into shorter ones. The author many times compares the scenes with similar ones at Pagān. I have added in these photographs.
Prof. Dr. N. J. Krom
It has long been known that the top row of reliefs on the chief wall of this gallery represents the life-story of the historic Buddha, and it seems quite unnecessary to discuss this fact again. As far as we know, it was Wilsen who first attempted to trace this more or less consecutive story by means of the reliefs; his article, offered to the Batavian Society for publication, was never printed but put into the hands of Leemans who inserted it in his monograph. Bôrô Boedoer op het eiland Java, Brill 1873; French translation 1874. It was not until 1901 that a careful comparison of the scenes depicted on the monument with the text followed, took place; this was done by C. M. Pleyte in his: “Die Buddha Legende in den Skulpturen des Tempels von Bôrô-Budur.” Amsterdam, De Bussy 1901, in 12 parts. This text is the Lalitavistara, which on being compared bit by bit with Wilsen’s drawings, with a few unimportant exceptions, gives the key for the explanation of the reliefs. The sculptors of Barabuḍur have not had exactly the same version of the text before them that we now possess, but at any rate, a sūtra that in all essentials agrees with it. A parallel to such an illustrated history of Buddha will be found in the reproduction of the Avidurenidāna at Pagān which Seidenstücker treats of in his Süd-buddhistische Studien I, Mitt. aus dem Mus. f. Völkerk. in Hamburg IV (1916).
Pleyte’s very useful work does not however relieve us from the task of examining the text and reliefs anew, especially because for both, we now have at our disposal much more reliable material than was available twenty-five years ago. Pleyte, as mentioned, was restricted to Wilsen’s drawings. It is true that a visit to the monument enabled him to correct various inaccuracies in these drawings which were adjusted before reproduction in his book, Vorwort p. V. but nevertheless the drawings though only incorrect in minor details, proved incomplete as [a] foundation for a comparison with the text. Jochim after visiting the Barabuḍur, draws attention to some inaccuracies in Tijdschr. Bat. Gen. 48 (1905) p. 13-20. As these drawings need no longer be made use of, we need not call attention to the remarks of Jochim or any later authority; notwithstanding their evident unreliability, in 1922 another “Verkleinerte Wiedergabe der Umrisszeichnungen von F. C. Wilsen” appeared in Germany under the title “Die Buddha-legende auf den Flachreliefs der ersten Galerie des Stūpa von Boro-Budur.” As for the text itself Pleyte had to manage with translations; Anhang p. 177. even if he had wanted to consult the original Sanskrit text, the results would hardly have been satisfactory on account of Rajendralala Mitra’s inadequate edition, at that time the only one in existence. We are much better off nowadays, van Erp’s excellent photographs can be used, I wanted to use van Erp’s photographs for these pages, but I cannot at present find a full collection of his photographs in high definition anywhere, so I have substituted my own. and the maybe not perfect, but on the whole reliable, edition of Lefmann I (Text) Halle 1902. The objections are mentioned by Speyer, Museum 10 (1903) p. 146-151. A French translation of the Lalitavistara is given by Foucaux in Annales Musee Guimet 6 (18840 is at our disposal.
Other differences too, will be found between the method of treatment followed here below, and that of Pleyte. As the title of his work indicates, he is concerned only with the ‘Buddha-legende’ as illustrated by the reliefs on this gallery, while on the contrary, my aim is chiefly to explain the reliefs themselves. For instance, if we find, quite rightly, in Pleyte a rather elaborate discussion of portions of the text that are not depicted on the reliefs, but which nevertheless are indispensable for the coherence of the story as a whole, in this archaeological description I consider elaboration justified only in what concerns the scenes that appear on the monument so that as regards everything not there depicted, a mere reference will be sufficient. Further I have carefully tried to make it possible for the reader to form his own opinion as to the correctness of the identifications. As it would be of little use to fill up this description with quotations from the Sanskrit, I think the best way to make it clear will be to translate, as literally as possible, those portions of the text that are represented on the relief, giving besides this portion of the text, a short description of the relief itself, that is, of the manner in which the sculptors have depicted the passage in question and then of course to indicate the divergence of detail between text and relief.
Still this way of treatment is not quite safe. It is always difficult enough to discern which particular details must be considered essential in a description, and though in some cases this difficulty can be avoided by an unabridged translation of the whole piece of text under discussion, on the other hand it is not advisable to do this if the scene represented on the relief consists of whole pages of the Lalitavistara. In such cases abridgment is inevitable and for these I have used my own judgement. Of course I have tried everywhere to be as careful as possible to maintain an objective point of view, but the reader must be warned that where it has not been possible to quote the whole Lalitavistara, here and there, in reliefs that include large portions of the text, some bits of useful data can still be found in the portions that have been left out in my quotation. In the few cases where the relief could not be explained from the text or in which it was not clear which of two similar passages was the one represented, the fact is carefully noted.
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1. The Bodhisattva in the Tuṣita-heaven
The Bodhisattva dwelt in the pleasant abode of the Tuṣita (heaven), worthy of honor and adored, having received the consecration, lauded, honored, praised and glorified by a hundred thousand gods. When he was seated there beatified, in that great palace which resounded with the music of a hundred thousand million koṭis of apsaras (nymphs), while jyotis-, mālikā- and sumanas-blossoms exhaled their perfume and which was so placed that a hundred thousand million koṭis of gods fixed their eyes thereon, there rose up from the sounds of harmony of eighty-four thousand tūryas (musical instruments), as a fruit of the accumulation of the Bodhisattva’s former good deeds, these inspiring hymns. . . . “Now is the time come, let it not pass unused” (7:21; 10:19,22; 11:3,7; 13:5). Pages and lines of Lefmann’s edition.
On the relief we see the Bodhisattva between four apsaras, seated on a throne in a sort of pavilion. That this building bears little resemblance to the description (not given above) of the splendors of the magnificent palace in the Tuṣita-heaven, is due only to the fact of it being utterly impossible to represent all that grandeur on a relief, where of course the persons must remain of the most importance. As was to be expected, the Bodhisattva is clothed in the ceremonial robes appropriate to gods and princes. Right and left of the pavilion, we see in two rows the homage-paying inhabitants of the heaven, among them many apsaras and musicians; to give a distinct heavenly touch to the scene the front persons of the top row are placed upon clouds. The first nymph on the left holds an incense-burner, one of the next a dish with jewels; what the nearest on the right holds is not distinct, the second one seems to have a tiara. Among the music instruments we see, as usual on such occasions, vīṇā, zither, flute, cymbals and a great many drums. [It] may be these represent the tūryas of the text. Not quite in agreement with the performing apsaras there mentioned, is the fact that all the musicians are men, and therefore gandharvas. Both the persons in front on the clouds, on both sides, are not wearing the usual gods’ dress but what resembles that of brahmans; so they are recognisable as dwellers of Brahmā’s heaven.
2. The Bodhisattva announces his approaching human birth
Leaving the great vimāna the Bodhisattva sat down in the great palace called Dharmoccaya and expounded the Law to the Tuṣita gods. He entered this palace and seated himself upon the lion-throne called Sudharma. Thereupon all the gods’ sons who share the state of the Bodhisattva and are found in the same Vehicle, entered the palace. And the Bodhisattvas of the ten winds came together, those who follow the same rule of life as the Bodhisattva, with the gods’ sons; they also entered the palace and set themselves each on his own lion-throne. As soon as the crowds of apsaras and the lesser gods’ sons were departed, they were a company of sixty eight thousand koṭis all sunk together in pious meditation. Then (were the words uttered): “After twelve years shall the Bodhisattva descend into a mother’s womb” (13:9).
The Bodhisattva is seated on a throne in a pavilion with one female attendant near him, while, in a distinctly conversational attitude, he turns to the company of gods and Bodhisattvas seated under a pĕndapa, the first man of which is making a sĕmbah. The third wears a rather unusual headdress which it is not easy to see the meaning of; was the intention to distinguish in some way the costume of the gods from that of the Bodhisattvas, then this person would not have been the only one. Quite on the right of the pavilion are seated two more listeners; the first one is also making a sĕmbah, the second holds an utpala; these persons are also put under a pĕndapa-roof and evidently belong to the same company of gods and Bodhisattvas. None of them are sitting on the lion-thrones required by the text nor does the seat of the Bodhisattva shew any sign of the lion-throne mentioned.
3. The sons of the gods, as brahmans, give instruction in the vedas
Thereupon the Śuddhāvāsa gods’ sons betook themselves to India and after laying aside their divine forms and assuming the dress of brahmans, they gave instruction to the brahmans in the vedas (13:21).
There follows the description of what was taught, chiefly concerning the manner in which the Bodhisattva, should he after his birth wish to become ruler of the world, might acquire the seven jewels of the cakravartin.
This relief is very much damaged and part of it is entirely missing. Right, at the top, two heavenly beings on clouds; undoubtedly the descent to India. The rest of the scene is taken up with the lecture, given by a brahman (a god, of course, in brahman dress) seated, with a pupil, in a small pĕndapa, to the company seated in front of him. This company consists of two groups. In front sit the real brahmans recognisable by their style of hairdressing; note the rich ornaments they wear. Only a few have beards and most of them hold lontar-leaves in their hand. Of this group only those seated in the foreground have been saved; behind these were also some figures standing, most of them have disappeared. Quite on the right, under the hovering gods, the second group are seated, the pupils, some holding the folded and square vessels often seen with brahman-pupils.
4. The disappearance of the Pratyekabuddhas
Meanwhile other gods’ sons descended to India and informed the Pratyekabuddhas: “O reverend ones, leave open the field for the Buddha. After twelve years the Bodhisattva will descend into a mother’s womb.”
At that time there lived in Benares in the deer-park at Ṛṣipatana five hundred Pratyekabuddhas. On hearing these words, they rose to the height of seven tāla-trees in the air, and reaching the kingdom of fire, they were extinguished like meteors (18:11,20).
Below, on the left, we see by the two gazelles couched under the trees, that the deer park at Benares is meant; above this the gods’ sons are descending from the air to announce the corning of the Buddha to the Pratyekabuddhas. These are seated, three of them, in dhyāna-mudrā, each on a lotus cushion beneath a tree, they look just like ordinary Buddhas. A fourth, quite to the right, has already risen from his lotus-cushion and is ascending to reach the nirvāṇa. Pleyte's observation (on p. 10) that the three objects on the right hand of the still-seated Pratyekabuddhas, i.e. a plant without flower, a plant in bloom, and a lighted lamp, may have some relation to the three yānas, viz. the Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas, is not acceptable seeing that the text as well as the relief show that the persons in question are exclusively Pratyekabuddhas and not Śrāvakas or Bodhisattvas.
The Bodhisattva now takes into consideration the time, the part of the world, the country and family into which he shall be born. The last question is also discussed by the gods’ sons and the Bodhisattvas and they request the Bodhisattva that it may be as the son of king Śuddhodana and queen Māyā. It is not impossible that this discussion is depicted on the next relief; because otherwise the 4th chapt. of the Lalitavistara would not be represented on any relief.
5. The Bodhisattva instructs the Tuṣita-gods in the Introduction to the perception of the Law
And when the Bodhisattva had thus fixed the family for his human birth, it was the great palace called Uccadhvaja in the Tuṣita-heaven spreading over sixty-four yojanas, wherein seated the Bodhisattva was explaining the Law to the Tuṣita-gods… All the Tuṣita-gods’ sons and the hosts of apsaras were gathered together in that palace… There the Bodhisattva seated himself on the lion-throne adorned by the stream of his ripened merits.
Thereupon the Bodhisattva again addressed that great company of gods and spake thus: “Give ear most worthy ones, as sign of the descent and to the joy of the gods, to the Introduction to the perception of the Law which the Bodhisattvas teach to these gods’ sons. One hundred and eightfold, o reverend ones, is this Introduction to the perception of the Law, which of necessity, at the time of his descent, must be proclaimed by a Bodhisattva to the congregation of gods.” (29:13; 30:1,7; 31:8).
The Bodhisattva is here too in a separate pavilion, seated with his right hand (knocked off) raised, teaching. On the front of his throne there are two rosettes. Right and left sit the divine auditors, a few trees appear in the background; the first on the right holds an incense burner with a fan, the left one a flower bud, several of them are making a sĕmbah. The lion-throne of the text is here also missing; as well as the apsaras mentioned, for the company consists of men only; a fact that might be used to identify this relief as the above mentioned discussion about the family to be selected, but seeing the latitude taken in so many details, I think it not convincing. Notice further that the persons sitting on the left, like the Bodhisattva himself, for all we can distinguish, wear a wide sash, not those on the right; as this attribute is found elsewhere especially on Bodhisattvas, it is possibly meant for a distinction between the Bodhisattvas and the gods who make up the audience. In that case it is noticeable that on No. 2 where the text clearly mentions the two sorts, this distinction is not given and on No. 5, where only gods are mentioned, it is put in.
The teaching in the Tuṣita-heaven is also the subject of a relief at Amarāvatī. Fergusson, Tree and Serpent Worship (1873) pl. 74 and Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa. Arch. Surv. New Ser. 6 (1887) fig. 17 on pg. 64. See also Foucher, L’art greco-bouddhique du Gandhāra I (1905) fig. 146 pg. 287. There, the Bodhisattva also sits on a throne in the middle and the gods are gathered round him; not in the same two, long seated, rows as on Barabuḍur, but, most likely because of the shape of the relief, in a group kneeling, sitting and standing in front, at the sides and behind the throne. The vitarka-mudrā of the Bodhisattva and the reverent manner of the listeners, plainly indicate here that he is preaching. Different is a Gandhāra-relief showing a meditation in the Tuṣita-heaven: Foucher, Les bas reliefs du stūpa de Sikri, Journ. Asiat. 10:2 (1903) no. 8, and A.G.B fig. 145 pg. 286. the Bodhisattva is represented in dhyāna-mudrā while on each side of him four gods, in adoring attitude, are standing. This scene also occurs at Ajaṇṭā. Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, Journ. Asiat. 11:17 (1921) p. 223; compare Griffiths, Paintings in the Buddhist Cave temples of Ajaṇṭā in the Buddhist Cave temples of Ajaṇṭā, (1896) pl. 25 and 26. This work was not to be found in any public library in Holland, so that I was unable to verify the quotations. For Pagān see Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. l and p. 26, 80 and 88.
6. The Bodhisattva gives his tiara to his successor Maitreya
Thus spake the Bodhisattva to the blessed company of gods: “Most honorable ones, I will go to India… It would ill become me and show ingratitude, did I not acquire the most high and perfect Wisdom.” Whereupon the Tuṣita-gods’ sons wept and clasped the feet of the Bodhisattva saying unto him: “This dwelling of Tuṣita, o noble one, when thou art departed, will not shine any more.” Then the Bodhisattva spoke as follows to the great company of gods: “Behold, here, the Bodhisattva Maitreya, he shall instruct you in the Law.” Upon this the Bodhisattva removed the tiara from his head and placed it upon the head of the Bodhisattva Maitreya (saying): “After me, o noble one, shalt thou attain the most high and perfect Wisdom.” (38:14,17).
The middle of the relief is taken up by a (very much damaged) palace with a pĕndapa next to it, in which both the chief persons are placed, the one, sitting on a plain seat wearing the ordinary headdress, the other standing before him bare-headed, with the tiara in his hands. It seems that the text has not been followed literally, the Bodhisattva does not put the tiara straight on to the head of Maitreya, and we cannot be sure which of the two is the Bodhisattva and which Maitreya. One might think that the person seated on a throne here, as elsewhere, must be the Bodhisattva, but the gesture of the hands of this figure is not that of someone who has offered something, but much more like some one who holds out his hands to receive something; the figure standing is thus evidently the Bodhisattva who has just removed his tiara and is on the point of giving it to Maitreya. The headdress of the latter does not shew the stūpa that characterises Maitreya, and the tiara that is being handed over (what is left of that damaged object) has neither any sign of this emblem. Right and left are seated the Tuṣita gods with flowers and trays full of ornaments in their hands; quite on the right is one with a vase of lotuses; behind, two are standing, while on the left, in the background, is a tree. The objects on the trays do not resemble any of the offerings that constantly appear on so many reliefs, but are more like personal ornaments; observe what seem to be bracelets on the front tray. Possibly the sculptor was following a version of the story unknown to us in which other ornaments than the tiara are given or received.
No representation of Maitreya’s investiture is known to us in the old Buddhist art; it does occur in the comparatively modern Tibetan painting, part of a series of pictures of the life-story of the Buddha, published by Hackin. Les scènes figurées de la vie du Buddha d’après des peintures tibétaines, Mémoires concernant l’Asie Orientale, II (1916) pg. 9-25 and pl. I-IV and IX (so far as concerns the episodes to compare with the Lalitavistara). A number of incidents are brought together on one picture. Plate I, for instance gives as chief scene the birth of the Bodhisattva, and above on the left the investiture of Maitreya, right, the Bodhisattva’s descent as a white elephant towards Queen Māyā asleep (also right); left, below is the space used for the scenes following the birth, the bath and the seven steps. On II the sojourn in the women’s apartments, the contests that precede the marriage, the four encounters and the Great Departure, are all combined, and so on. Naturally this series differs widely in its manner of delineation from Barabuḍur and it would be useless to quote from it every time; nevertheless I draw attention to its existence as it may furnish data for the evolution of Buddhist art in its post-Indian period. On this point, of course, the results of the researches in Turkestan are of special importance; a number of pictures from the life of Śākyamuni are, as will be seen, found by Stein. Ruins of desert Cathay (1912) II pl. VI; Serindia II (1921) p. 855 foll. and pl. LXXIV-LXXVII.
7. The Bodhisattva consults with the gods over what form, he shall assume
When the Bodhisattva had installed the Bodhisattva Maitreya in the Tuṣita palace, he spoke again to the great congregation of gods: “In what form, o worthy ones, shall I descend into the mother womb?” Then answered some of them: “O divine one, in human form.” But others said: etc.
Among them was a Brahmakāyika gods’ son, by name Ugrateja, in a former birth a ṛṣi and one who did not turn away from (the struggle after) the most high and perfect Wisdom; he spake thus: “So as it is given in the mantra-, veda- and śāstra-books of the brahmans, in such form must the Bodhisattva descend into the mother-womb. And what is that form? The mighty shape of a splendid elephant, with six tusks, as if enclosed in a golden net, brightly shining, with a head red and most beautiful with the sap that oozes from its forehead.” (39:6,13).
On this relief it is easy to see that no lecture or sermon, but a conference is going on as the attitudes of the figures plainly show. The Bodhisattva sits with a incense stand in front of him in the middle of his pavilion, the gods are seated on both sides under the trees, some listening, others joining in the discussion. It seems impossible to distinguish Ugrateja among the company (as Pleyte does 1.1. p. 16, misled by a fault in the drawing).
The text now brings us again to earth, and shows us several omens within the palace of Śuddhodana. Then follows:
8. Māyā’s conversation with Śuddhodana
Queen Māyā, after bathing herself and anointing her body, her arms decorated with various ornaments and wearing splendid soft and fine garments, full of joy, contentment and happiness, with a company of ten thousand women, came into the presence of king Śuddhodana, who was seated pleasantly in his music room and advancing towards him, she seated herself at his right hand on the throne covered with jewelled gauze and spoke with smiling face, with unfrowning eyebrows and laughing mouth, the following verses to king Śuddhodana (41:8).
Her request, that is too elaborate for literal quotation, is that the king will permit her to perform a vow of self-denial and virtue, to which he agrees.
The king and queen are seated in a pavilion in the middle of the relief; there is no sign of this being his majesty’s music room; on the contrary, according to the trees on both sides, it should be in a garden. The ten thousand women are represented by three sitting and two standing, all on the left hand of the pavilion, thus behind the queen, who, in agreement with the text, is sitting at the king’s right hand. One of those sitting holds a dish with a lid, one of the standing ones, a dish with a wreath. Right of the pavilion, near the king sits a bearded man, his hair dressed-up brahman-fashion, but wearing more ornaments than becomes an ordinary brahman; he seems by his gestures to be taking part in the conversation, and it is possible that, as Pleyte suggests (1.1. p. 17) it may be the court-chaplain, but it may be also, as on no. 13, the officer of the guard. Behind him, just as quite on the left behind the women, is the armed guard with sword and shield; quite to the right is another servant with a large bowl, in the shape of the spittoons Text: cuspidors. that are still used.
9. Māyā in her chamber; visit of the gods’ daughters
The best of kings gave command to his followers: “Bring rich decorations to ornament the top of this most eminent palace, splendid with the flowers strewn about it, with delicious incense and perfumes, with umbrellas and banners and ripe tāla-trees. Let twenty thousand splendidly-armoured warriors with javelins, lances, arrows, spears and swords, surround the softly-echoing Dhṛtārājya to guard it vigilantly and keep the queen from fear. Let the queen, surrounded by her women, like a daughter of the gods, her body bathed and anointed and adorned with splendid garments, recline like a goddess on the pleasant couch, the feet of which are ornamented with all sorts of costly jewels, and that is strewn with many blossoms, while a thousand tūryas discourse sweet music.”
Then in the Kāmadhātu-gods’ daughters who had seen the perfection of the body of the Bodhisattva, arose this thought: “What shall she be like, the young woman who is to bear this perfectly pure being?” And full of curiosity they vanished in a moment from their dwelling in the abode of the gods and in the most magnificent of great cities, named Kapila, adorned with a hundred thousand gardens, in the palace of king Śuddhodana in the great pavilion Dhṛtarāṣṭra, that resembles the abode of the immortals, these gods’ daughters wearing soft swaying robes, adorned with the immaculate lustre of beauty, their arms glittering with heavenly jewels, pointed with their fingers to queen Māyā reclining on her splendid couch and spoke to one another in verses (43:15; 48:17,21).
Both passages here quoted are separated by several pages in the text where, among others, the episode of the next relief appears. It is not expressly stated that the king’s command is carried out and Māyā retires to the chambers made ready for her, but on the visit of the gods’ daughters, she is shown already installed there. She sits in her pavilion with two attendants; it is not actually a couch on which she is seated and the splendid decoration, as well as the music, is missing, unless we may consider the object held by the seated person quite on the right, to be a musical instrument. It will be the kind of zither ornamented with tassels or bells that is to be seen more distinctly on No. 52. The attendant women are there; one standing on the right with a fly-whisk, the others kneeling on both sides holding trays with toilet requisites as well as a water jug with a spout. In some ways this resembles the scenes of Māyā’s dream at Pagān, see Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, 1.1. abb. 2-6 and pg. 27 and 88.
Right and left of the women are the soldiers mentioned in the text. Then above on clouds, two goddesses come flying to behold the future mother.
10. The gods decide to accompany the Bodhisattva
In the meantime were gathered together the four Great Kings (gods of the cardinal points) and Śakra the king of the gods, and Suyāma the gods’ son etc. etc., these and many others, hundreds and thousands of gods, speaking together as follows: “It were not becoming of us, o worthy ones, and would betoken ingratitude should we allow the Bodhisattva to depart alone and unattended. Who among us, o worthy ones, is able faithfully and continually to attend the Bodhisattva?”
On hearing these words there gathered together eighty-four thousand gods (from the heaven) of the four Great Kings… And moreover, hundreds and thousands of gods from the East, the South, the West and the North gathered together. And the highest gods’ sons among them spake unto that great company of gods in these verses: “Hearken, o rulers of the immortals, to these our words and consider what is our irrevocable decision. Forsaking riches, love and pleasure and the great happiness of meditation, we shall bind ourselves faithfully to this pure being.” (44:9,13; 46:1 9; 4 7:2).
Nearly the whole of the relief is taken up by a large hall or pĕndapa; only on the right is a building in the usual temple-form with a fine monster-head above the entrance, rampant lions at the corners and a roof in tiers; this is undoubtedly a palace of the gods. In the hall, the gods are sitting in two opposite groups, in consultation; the absence of a central figure plainly shows that the Bodhisattva is not present and that it is a party exclusively of gods. They are all in the dress of gods, without any special divine attribute, so that it is quite impossible to distinguish the different sorts mentioned in the text.
11. The other Bodhisattvas render homage to the Bodhisattva
Then at the time of the Bodhisattva’s descent, many hundred thousands of Bodhisattvas from the East, all bound to only one birth and dwelling in the beautiful Tuṣita abode, gathered themselves together at the place where the Bodhisattva was, to render him homage. Also from the countries of the ten winds came many hundreds of thousands of Bodhisattvas all bound to only one birth and dwelling in the beautiful Tuṣita abode, to the place where the Bodhisattva was to render him homage. And from the assembly of the gods of the four Great Kings etc. etc. came eighty four hundred thousand apsaras with the sound of music from many tūryas to the place where the Bodhisattva was to render him homage. (50:15; 51:1).
In this relief only the homage of the Bodhisattvas is shown, and nothing of the apsaras. The Bodhisattva sits here not in a separate pavilion but his throne is set up in a large hall that fills up the whole of the relief and where the Bodhisattvas are also seated. Next to him is a burning incense stand. The figures seated on the right and left are all in ordinary god’s dress, so that without the text it would have been impossible to make out that these are Bodhisattvas and not gods.
12. Descent of the Bodhisattva
After the Bodhisattva had placed himself on the lion-throne Śrīgarbha, that originates from all his merits, in the sight of all the gods and nāgas in his vast pavilion, he set out on his journey with these Bodhisattvas, surrounded by a hundred thousand millions [of] koṭis of gods, nāgas and yakṣas, from the beautiful Tuṣita abode.
Without being touched, hundreds of thousands of millions of koṭis of divine and human music-instruments offered sweet sounds. A hundred thousand ten thousands of koṭis of gods bore the great pavilion on their hands, their shoulders and heads. And the hundred thousands of apsaras, everyone making her own music, placed themselves in front, behind, left and right of the Bodhisattva, praising him with the melody of their harmonious songs. (51:4; 52:16).
In the middle of the relief in dhyāna-mudrā in a double pavilion (the one he is sitting in being surrounded by a second one) sits the Bodhisattva and is carried down to the earth. This is shown by the clouds that are seen beneath the building which hovers in the air, as well as by the figures of gods holding it on either side; this they do only with their hands, not head and shoulders. On both sides of the pavilion also on clouds that appear here and there, are the escorting gods with umbrellas, banners, fans, incense-burners and flowers in the hand. The nāgas and yakṣas the text speaks of are not there; but on the left we can see the apsaras are present. Whether these are singing we cannot tell, but there are no music instruments. The sculptor has succeeded by the hovering attitude of the gods and the flutter of the banners and fans in giving an impression of the swift motion through the air.
Javanese art is considered to have been greatly influenced by that of Amarāvatī, but we can here see that as regards the descent of the Bodhisattva, an essential difference exists between the two schools. It will be seen that at Amarāvatī T.S.W. pl. 74, also Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, fig. 7 on p. 35 and Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 147 pg. 289; other illustration Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 11. the Bodhisattva has already assumed the form of a white elephant on leaving heaven, while at Barabuḍur according to the Lalitavistara text he still retains his divine shape. I shall refer later to this fact. At Amarāvatī too the Bodhisattva is carried in a pavilion; it is borne by yakṣas and surrounded by the gods in attitudes of flying, dancing, and making music.
13. The conception
When the winter was over, in the month of Vaiśākha, the Bodhisattva descended from the beautiful Tuṣita abode, entered the womb of his mother, on the right side, in the shape of a white elephant with six tusks, his head cochineal Text: cochenille (used to make crimson and scarlet color). coloured, teeth streaked with gold, complete with all limbs and parts of limbs and faultless in every organ. On entering there he leaned against the right side and in no way to the left. Queen Māyā sleeping gently on her couch, dreamed this dream: “Like snow and silver, with six tusks, beautiful legs, a fine trunk and a red head, a magnificent elephant has entered my womb, graceful of motion and with limbs strong as diamonds.”
And in the same night that the Bodhisattva entered his mother’s womb a lotus rose up from beneath the mass of water and splitting the great earth over sixty eight hundred thousand yojanas ascended to the heaven of Brahmā. And no man saw this lotus but the Leader, the best of men, and the Great Brahmā, ruler of ten times hundred thousands. Every germ of the three thousand great thousands of worlds, all their power, their essence or quintessence, was contained like a drop of honey in that great lotus. When the great Brahmā had put that drop into a fair bowl of lapis lazuli he offered it to the Bodhisattva who took it and drank it up in deference to the great Brahmā (54:18; 55:2; 64:11).
These two passages are a good distance apart in the text; their being placed together on one relief is explained by their chronological sequence; as the text specifically mentions that the lotus rose up in the night of the conception, while the intervening events (relief 15-21) took place after that night, it was logical to put the lotus-episode where it chronologically belongs.
The queen is still in the upper chamber as before in relief No. 9, the details of which are now for the first time clearly discernible: on the ground floor we see the closed door, the guard sitting before the palace and above, the chamber of Māyā lying on her couch and surrounded by her waiting women, one of whom holds a fan. At the head of the bed is a lamp, and a water jug with a lotus. The queen is lying on her right side, which differs from the account given in the text, in so far as the Bodhisattva is to enter the womb on that side, and the position of the royal lady makes this no easy task, as Foucher remarks. 1.1. pg. 293.
On the right of the chamber is a balcony on which two more attendants are standing, still more to the right, under the trees and outside the building, some soldiers of the guard are sitting and standing, the same as was to be seen on relief no. 9. Like the guard on No. 8 here is also a bearded man who in this case is armed with sword and shield and therefore belongs to the soldiers. From the upper corner, left, the Bodhisattva is descending towards his future mother, in the shape of an elephant, surrounded by flowers and shaded by an umbrella, with feet on lotus cushions. Beneath sit three persons in devotion before a tree stem rising high in front of them, and terminating in a lotus, which must be the giant lotus of the text. On top of it is a bowl, certainly the lapis lazuli bowl in which Brahmā puts the drop of honey from the lotus flower to offer the Bodhisattva. That three persons are paying homage to the lotus, does not agree with the statement that only Brahmā and the Bodhisattva saw the wonder-plant; neither is there the least indication that one of these figures is Brahmā. The first one holds an ordinary lotus, the last one is making a sĕmbah and it is not improbable that they do not specially belong to the great lotus but are intended for divine witnesses of the conception. In that case Brahmā does not appear at all and the sculptor has considered the wonder-plant with the bowl on top, enough to represent the second passage.
The head of the elephant is rather worn-away; if the drawing by Wilsen is reliable, then the animal was carved with only two instead of the requisite six tusks; this might be expected, as nowhere in Indian art are the six tusks to be found. No more the wrong position of Māyā is due to carelessness of the Barabuḍur artist, for it is found just as well in other Indian representations, the same with the proportion of the elephant towards the mother that is much too large: in both cases, the Gandhāra art as well as that of Amarāvatī sometimes give a more natural picture. The peculiarity that the Bodhisattva, who appears on the previous relief in divine shape, is here shown as an elephant and has therefore changed his appearance on the way, is, according to Foucher’s convincing explanation (Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I pg. 291-296) the result of the fact of what was first a dream being later accepted as reality; in this way the texts became confused, which naturally affected the monuments as well. The later Chinese art solved the difficulty by trying to unite both representations, putting the Bodhisattva in divine shape upon a white elephant. So already in Tun-Huang (Dunhuang): see Stein, Serinda II (1921) p. 855 and pl. LXXIV.
The oldest representation of the conception known to us, is that of Bharhut, Cunningham, The stūpa of Bharhut (1879) pl. 28; also reproduced elsewhere, for instance pl. 42 of The Cambridge History of India I. with the inscription: bhagavato okkanti. Very simple and at the same time very unnatural: a plain bench, upon which the queen lies on her right side with three sitting attendants near her, while a lamp shows that it is night. Above her hovers an elephant nearly the same size as his future mother. It is not much better at Sāñchi, T.S.W. pl. 33; also Foucher, La porte orientale du stūpa de Sānchi (1910), pl. 6. where her majesty too lies on her right side with a palace in the background and the head and front legs of a gigantic elephant appear in the air. There is an Amarāvatī relief Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 28. with the same position of the queen and size of the elephant, where she is guarded by four women slaves and the four Guardians of the world. On another relief of the same stūpa, the queen is seen in the right position and the elephant is the right size; the Guardians of the world and attendant women are also here present. T.S.W. pl. 74, Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, fig. 18 on p. 65, Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 148 p. 294; see also T.S.W. pl. 91, Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 32. In the art of Gandhāra Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 149 p. 295; fig. 160 p. 313. the position is right, but the elephant rather too large, though the proportion is nowhere as bad as in the older Indian school; generally the queen reclines quite alone on her couch in a chamber supported by pillars where in the wings a couple of yavanikās keep watch. A relief discovered at Sarnāth Pl. 4 in the article Archaeological Exploration in India 1906-7, Journ. Roy. As. Soc. 1907. on the contrary, returns entirely to the older representation; the queen reclining on her right and the elephant very large; in its design too this scene is inconsistent, being a combined picture of the conception and the birth, while the persons of the two scenes are not kept separate. At Ajaṇṭā the conception is twice represented, Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 223; coll. Griffiths Paintings pl. 25 and 48. and it is also found at Pagān. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 7 and p. 27 and 89.
14. The gods do homage to the Bodhisattva (?)
In the mother, when the entering of the womb has taken place, there appears directly on the right side a ratnavyūha-pavilion. And further, in that pavilion remains the Bodhisattva, descended from the Tuṣita, sitting with legs crossed. For the body of a Bodhisattva in his latest existence has not the nature of the fleshly substance of a foetus but he appears seated complete with all his limbs and parts of limbs and with all the (requisite) tokens.
When midday was past and the afternoon was come, then appeared Brahmā Sahāpati attended by some hundred thousands of Brahmakāyika gods’ sons with the divine drop of essence and approached the place where the Bodhisattva was, to behold him, to adore him and serve him and hear the Law. When the Bodhisattva had seen that they were seated, he instructed them with a discourse on the Law, made it clear to them, encouraged them and filled them with joy (65:19; 69:15; 70:3).
As after the conception, in the text follow the scenes given on the reliefs 15-21, without intermission, it becomes difficult to explain No. 14; it may only be looked for in the part of the text that follows on the scene depicted on No. 21, yet it remains doubtful whether in guessing what it represents we may have hit on the right incident. On the relief, in the middle is seen in a pavilion a god or Bodhisattva seated on a lotus cushion with the right hand in a sort of vitarka-mudrā of third finger and thumb. Right and left a similar figure standing, on the right with a lotus and left with a bowl. Next on each side a number of seated gods, the right with richly-adorned headdress, the left hand ones with a somewhat different hairdressing made up with plaits. On both sides two heavenly ones are hovering in the air; those on the right flying towards the pavilion, the left ones, away from it.
Pleyte (1.1. pg. 27) calls this relief: “Śakra und die Beherrscher der Windgegenden” “Śakra and the rulers of the wind regions” and describes the text relating to it as follows: “In derselben Nacht begaben sich die vier Beherrscher der Windgegenden, acht und zwanzig Yakshaanführer und der Haüptling der Guhyakas, die Yaksharace welcher Vajrapāṇi entstammte, zu Śakra und nachdem sie Rath gepflogen hatten, beschlossen sie alle zusammen die Māyā Devi zu überwachen.” “That same night, the four rulers of the winds, eight and twenty yakṣa leaders and the chief of the Gūhyakas, the yakṣa-race from which Vajrapāṇi came, went to Śakra and after attending, they all decided to watch over Māyā Devi together.” Thus he considers the person in the middle to be Śakra, the flying figures as the Guardians of the winds, while misled by the drawing, he conjectures there is a vajra on the lotus of the standing god, which would indicate him to be Vajrapāṇi. But if we consult the text itself, it then appears that the translation used by Pleyte was not a very good one, for to begin with it is not there stated to have taken place on the night of the conception, nor do we find that the persons came to Śakra and there consulted, but only (66:4), that Śakra, the Guardians of the world and the yakṣa-leaders mentioned, were continually on guard over the Bodhisattva concealed in the mother’s womb. The Southern tradition also gives the guarding of Māyā by four of the gods, but after the telling of the dream; represented at Pagān, Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 9 and p. 28 and 89. There is thus no consultation, nor is any mention made of any special part played by Śakra on this occasion, and finally there is no explanation for the advancing and returning flight of the Guardians.
Following in the footsteps of Barth, Bulletin des religions de l’Inde 4-5 (1902) p. 73. I am led to seek the solution elsewhere, guided specially by the unusual shape of the pavilion which is really a sort of pavilion within another pavilion and this is just the building described in the text, the ratnavyūha-pavilion, The same sort of pavilion served, as we saw, for the descent. with this difference that there ought really to be a third pavilion enclosing it.
The central figure seated on the lotus-cushion, can be no other than the Bodhisattva, as in the text, with legs crossed and expounding the Law to the gods visiting him. There are several groups of gods who come consecutively to do him reverence; the reason for my quoting the above passage about Brahmā’s visit is the possibility that the bowl held by the figure on the left may be intended as the same sort of bowl in the former relief, in which Brahmā offers the essence and which according to the text he now has with him. Which visit of the gods is indicated, does not matter very much; the flying figures are perhaps meant to show the coming of one and the going away of another group of divine worshippers. The great difficulty, the great objection to my interpretation is of course that the Bodhisattva with the ratnavyūha and all, is supposed to be within the mother’s womb. We must allow that it was utterly impossible for the sculptor to depict this, and being given the episode of the ratnavyūha for his subject, he was compelled to do it in some such sort of way as on No. 14.
15. Māyā retires to the aśoka-wood
Then queen Māyā rose up from her splendid couch, wearing ornaments and soft garments, cheerful in mind and body, filled with joy, vitality and contentment, and surrounded and followed by her company of women she descended from the top of the magnificent palace and betook herself to the aśoka-wood. As soon as she had entered it, as she wished, she dispatched a messenger to king Śuddhodana: “May it please your majesty to come, the queen desires to see you.” (55:11).
On the right is seen the palace just vacated by the queen, crowned with the triśūla motif; on both sides are sitting guards with a tree in the background. On the left, stands the queen just arrived at the first tree of the aśoka-wood, her women following. One kneels with an umbrella, a second holds up a mirror, two others carry the fly-whisks. Beneath the tree three figures are kneeling; both those behind are servants, the front one is much damaged but to see by the headdress it was a man. He puts his hands respectfully on the ground in front of him and the queen is evidently turning towards him; so he must be the messenger who is to take the message to the king.
16. The king comes to the queen
When king Śuddhodana had heard these words he betook himself cheerful of mind, after stretching his body and rising from his magnificent throne, surrounded by councillors, citizens, attendants, and relations to where the aśoka-wood was situated; but when he was come there he became incapable of entering the aśoka-wood. He seemed to have become too heavy. Pausing at the entrance he spoke after a moment’s reflection, at this time, the following verse: “Never can I recollect, even when leading my soldiers, that ever I felt my body so heavy as now. I am not able to enter the abode of my own family; what will overtake me here and to whom can I turn for advice?” (55:16).
Out of the air some of the gods’ sons inform him that the cause thereof is the presence of the Bodhisattva in Māyā’s womb. If the connection between text and reliefs was not so clear, no-one could have any idea that this and the next scene are placed in the aśoka wood, for there is not a tree to be seen. It looks much more likely that the queen is in a palace, the right hand of the relief is occupied by a building crowned with triśūla motifs, in which the queen sits on a lofty throne; an attendant with a fan behind her, other women kneeling round. In the right lower corner a guard is seated, and there are two others on the left of the building in the adjoining courtyard that is closed by a gateway, more to the left. In front of the gateway we see a sitting and a standing person, belonging to the king’s suite that takes up the left half of the relief; their rich garments make it probable they are the royal councillors or relations. It even looks as if they might be gods, who, though not from the air, are speaking to the king, but the respectful sĕmbah of the front one is not becoming for a god. The king stands in a reflective attitude and is evidently depicted, musing over the strange occurrence. His suite sits on the left behind him and in the background is his elephant, hung with bells, its driver on its back with the aṅkuśa in his hand.
17. The queen relates her dream and asks for its interpretation
With hands clasped in a sĕmbah and bent head, the king entered and looking at Māyā who showed no sign of pride or presumption (said unto her): “Say, what am I to do for thee, what matter is this? Speak!” And the queen answered him: “Like unto snow and silver, exceeding the glory of sun and moon, with stately pace and well-built, with six tusks and noble, his limbs as firm as diamonds and full of beauty, a splendid elephant has entered my womb. Discover the meaning thereof… It will be well, o prince, to send swiftly for the brahmans who can expound the vedas and interpret dreams and who know the rules of astronomy; let them come and reveal the truth of my dream, if it may bring me happiness or if it might foretell evil to our race.” (56:9; 57:1).
In the middle of the relief sit the king and queen (the latter kneeling) in a pĕndapa, each on a throne and turning towards one another; the queen makes a sĕmbah and is certainly asking that the interpreters of dreams may be sent for. On both sides of the pĕndapa are the attendants in a sitting and a standing row; on the right, among others, the queen’s women with garlands, left, the male attendants of the king, bearing garments and jewels. In the last group notice those in the foreground who wear no headdress; the seated one has his hair done up brahman-fashion in a twist, of the standing one facing us no hair is to be seen; also the figure next to him wears an unusual headdress in the shape of a diadem at the back of his head. All three have a moustache and do not look like ordinary attendants; probably they are brahmans. For the rest, the attendants on both sides carry the usual objects.
Perhaps this scene is also depicted at Amarāvatī; T.S.W. pl. 65. but it is possible that there a later conversation is intended, one that takes place before the journey to Lumbinī and is not represented at Barabuḍur. It is a court scene; the king sitting in the centre on a large throne, the queen adorned by a nimbus on a separate seat at his right hand. Courtiers are sitting on seats, male and female attendants stand round them. The fact that at Barabuḍur the story of the dream is given but not the conversation before the journey to Lumbinī, proves that the first conversation was considered the most important, and makes it probable, that at Amarāvatī the same conversation may be intended as on relief no. 17 at Barabuḍur. At Ajaṇṭā this scene is given twice Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 223; Griffiths, Paintings in the Buddhist Cave temples of Ajaṇṭā pl. 25 and 47. and at Pagān it is also found. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 8 and p. 27 and 89.
18. The interpretation of the dream
When the king heard these words, he commanded the brahmans to be sent for, learned in the vedas and skilled in the interpretation of śāstras. And Māyā standing before them, spoke to the brahmans and said: “I have seen a dream, expound the meaning thereof to me.” And the brahmans spoke: “Relate, o queen, what dream thou hast seen; after hearing it, we may understand it.” Then the queen answered: “Like unto snow and silver, exceeding the glory of sun and moon, with stately pace and well-built, with six tusks and noble, his limbs as firm as diamond and full of beauty, a splendid elephant has entered my womb. Reveal to me the meaning of this.”
On hearing these words, the brahmans spake as follows: “Behold, a great joy shall befall thee, it brings no misfortune to your race. A son shall be born unto thee, his body adorned with tokens, worthy descendant of the royal race, a noble ruler of the world. When he forsakes love, royal power and palace and, without giving any more thought to them, wanders forth in pity for the whole world, he will become a Buddha to be honored by the three worlds and he will make glad the universe with the marvellous nectar of immortality.” (57:5).
Left on the scene are the brahmans explaining the dream; one sits on a chair under a tree, a second kneels a bit more to the right, resting his hands in front of him on the ground. In the left hand corner some attendants, sitting and standing. The pĕndapa is separated from the seated brahman by an incense-burner; within, both king and queen are seated; below the dais on which the thrones are placed, some four other attendants sit on the ground, their faces turned towards the kneeling brahman. On the right of the pĕndapa a female servant kneels with a folded tray on a bench, beneath which is a box, and behind that more of the royal suite are sitting; there are two ordinary servants with umbrella and sinté-leaf, the rest is the armed guard. In the background on the left is a tree and on the right we see the upper part of a palace.
The interpretation of the dream is also to be found on a couple of reliefs at Gandhāra, where king and queen as here are on the right sitting next each other and opposite on the left [is] a brahman. Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 150 p. 297 and fig. 160 p. 313. Another version shows the king between an old and a young ascetic and gives the explanation of the dream to the ṛṣi Asita who rightly ought not to appear until after the birth of the Bodhisattva. Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 151, and text on p. 299 etc. This scene is also found at Ajaṇṭā; Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 223, Paintings pl. 27. At Barabuḍur there was no cause for such confusion; according to the text, we now have the interpreters of the dream before us and presently on No. 31 Asita will appear on the scene.
19. The reward of the brahmans
When king Śuddhodana heard this from the brahmans, soothsayers, interpreters of tokens, skilled in the explanation of dreams, he rejoiced and was satisfied, glad, gay, cheerful, happy and joyful and refreshed those brahmans with a banquet of deliciously-prepared viands, presented them with garments in which he made them attire themselves and dismissed them. (58:3).
The design of this relief is very similar to the last one; the palace on the right, the pĕndapa of the king in the middle, the brahmans on the left. Here too the king sits with his throne on a dais and below that are two more servants, one of them now armed; behind these a little dog appears. Rather lower than the king sit two other persons also inside the pĕndapa; a bearded man, his hair done up in a loop, looking like a brahman but holding the folded tray generally carried by servants in attendance, and a very much damaged person in full dress, according to Pleyte (1.1. pg. 33) on the authority of van Kinsbergen’s photograph, a woman, of course the queen, though it is difficult to explain why she, now the future mother of the Bodhisattva, is placed lower than her spouse. In the right of the pĕndapa two more servants and two guards. On the left of the relief in front sits a brahman under a palm tree on a high seat; he holds out his hands to receive a packet, a kind of purse, which also might contain food, that is being handed to him by a standing servant. A second and third brahman are quite on the left, one standing with an umbrella and one sitting who has already received his bag and a folded garment. The rest of the space between those already described and the pĕndapa is occupied by a fourth brahman standing, and by servants, one carrying a bowl -with gifts towards the three brahmans, – two others turning towards the king for orders.
20. The gods offer their palaces to Śuddhodana
Then the question occurred to king Śuddhodana: “In which building should queen Māyā dwell, pleasantly and undisturbed?” At the same moment the four Great Kings approached king Śuddhodana and spoke thus: “Have no care, o king, be not disturbed nor distress thy mind about this; for we shall prepare a house for the Bodhisattva.” Then came Śakra, the king of the gods, to king Śuddhodana and spake thus: “Small is the pavilion of the Guardians of the world; the best is the palace of the three and thirty gods; I shall give the Bodhisattva a dwelling like that of Vaijayanta.” (58:12).
Four other gods make the same offer.
A great hall or pĕndapa. On the right the king on his throne, his attendants are sitting and standing on the same side next to the hall. The gods are on the left, making their offers, seven of them. There is no noticeable difference in their dress, so that it is impossible to make out which may be Śakra. The sculptor has not attempted to give anything more than “the gods” in general.
21. Māyā shows herself in the various palaces
Thus in the splendid great city named Kapila, all the Kāmāvacara rulers of the gods each built a palace in honor of the Bodhisattva. And king Śuddhodana prepared a dwelling that exceeded all human buildings in splendor and resembled nothing less than the heavenly ones. Upon which the Bodhisattva, the Great Being, by the power of the mahāvyūha-meditation caused Māyā to appear in all the buildings. While the Bodhisattva remained in the womb of queen Māyā he continued to be on the right side, sitting with legs crossed. And all the rulers of the gods thought to themselves: “It is in my palace that the mother of the Bodhisattva is living and nowhere else.” (59:16).
Three palaces are erected on the relief next to one another, all richly decorated as might be expected from divine architects, with many triśūla and jewel-motifs. In each of the three buildings the queen sits on a throne with cushions on it; she here wears a halo for the first time. In the two outer palaces, attendants with fly-whisks stand at her side; and on the extreme right and left other female figures are kneeling under a tree, also servants but very much injured and worn-away, though we can see the first on the right carries an incense-burner and a fan, and some others are holding flowers. Their dress is too plain for them to be goddesses who, according to a later passage in the text (66:7) served the Bodhisattva, four of them; but these would more likely be the four standing figures.
22. The queen heals the sick
And all those in the splendid great city named Kapila, or in other countries, who were possessed by a god, nāga, yakṣa, gandharva, asura, garuḍa, or bhūta, women, men, boys or girls, when they saw the mother of the Bodhisattva, recovered their senses immediately and got back their memory, those who had lost their human shape, recovered it on the spot. And those beings suffering from various diseases, on them the mother of the Bodhisattva laid her right hand upon their heads and immediately on being touched the sickness disappeared and they returned to their homes. At last queen Māyā took a handful of grass from the ground and gave it to the exhausted creatures and as soon as they took hold of it there was no trace of their disease left. (71:17; 72:4).
Beginning on the right, we see on this relief first, three of the guard, sitting under a tree, and then a small building with the roof of a temple, that we might consider to be a little chapel, but on other reliefs this kind of building is used for a gateway. A little further the queen is sitting on a throne with three attendants behind her; apparently in front of the gateway to the palace grounds and in the open air; observe the clouds above her and the trees further to the left. She raises her hand towards the person sitting in front of her, who is holding his right upper-arm with the left hand, maybe one of the sick who is to be cured by the laying on of hands; this is not certain for his dress is the same as the other attendants of the queen and not the ordinary costume of the desa-folk invalids depicted. The group which occupies the left side is not quite in keeping with the text as it seems more to represent a distribution of food and medicine by the attendants than any laying on of hands by the queen. One sits with a pot in front of him and a spoon in his hand; and another stands with a dish serving out something with a spoon. Among the sick, one is half lying on the ground and holds his hand to his head, two others sit and stand with hands upraised, then another is crouching, feeling a sore place on his shoulder and two more are leaning on a crutch. Thus it is quite plain that these are sick and helpless ones, not just the poor who receive alms from the queen.
23. Distribution of alms
All the Śākya’s and other beings in the splendid great city called Kapila ate and drunk, amused themselves, lived pleasantly, gave gifts and performed meritorious work. (72:17)
The sculptor or rather the one who ordered the design, has clearly suggested the more edifying part of the Śākya’s life, the giving of alms, for the picture, as nothing else is represented on this relief. On the right a building, a dwelling house of two storeys with closed in niches below, windows with trellis-work above, an oblique sloping roof with top-ornaments and above the entrance a balcony with projecting roof. On the rest of the relief against a background of trees, we see a picturesque group: the Śākyas The one standing on the right might be the king, judging by his attitude. recognisable by their rich garments, who are distributing valuables and food from trays held by their servants, to a crowd of poor of all ages and sexes depicted in all sorts of attitudes. The sculptor has succeeded in giving a natural and animated scene, by here not dividing the givers and receivers on each side as on so many of the reliefs, but showing them in a mingled group.
24. The king as brahmacārin (?)
And king Śuddhodana living the life of a brahmacārin without attending to the affairs of state, perfectly pure as those who retire to the forest of repentance, was concerned only with the exercise of the Law. (72:20).
Only the sequence of the text makes it probable that the above passage may really be depicted upon this relief; but it is not clear and the identification remains very doubtful. On a throne, right, under a canopy, a plainly-dressed person is sitting, unfortunately rather damaged, this might be the king who has retired from the world; he makes a gesture of refusal to the group before him, separated by an incense-burner. This group consists of a number of women, also plainly dressed and surely no ladies of the harem, unless they have followed their masters example; they are kneeling on a platform with a few trees behind it. Quite in front, below the nearest woman, a person (sex doubtful) has thrown himself at the feet of the king.
On the platform follow some sitting and kneeling men, some of them bearded, none of them well-to-do, some with smooth brushed-back hair and some with hair tied up. These too are turning towards the king. Quite on the left stand three better-dressed men, the first with a dish full of wreaths, the next with a fly-whisk; perhaps royal servants, perhaps some of the festive Śākya’s mentioned in the text of the previous relief. As the text gives no decisive statement about what these people are up to and there is evidently something on hand not included in the above quotation from the text, this must remain an unsolved mystery.
25. The miracles at Kapilavastu
Now when ten months had passed in this way and the time for the Bodhisattva’s birth was come, there appeared in the palace and the park of king Śuddhodana two and thirty omens… From the slopes of the Himālaya came young lions continually and after pacing round the excellent city named Kapila with rejoiced greetings, keeping the city on their right, they lay down on the thresholds of the gates without doing harm to any one. Five hundred young white elephants came and saluted king Śuddhodana’s feet with the end of their trunks. Children of the gods with girdles round their waist appeared in king Śuddhodana’s private apartments and seated themselves on the lap of first one and then another. (76:8,16).
Only the three omens shown on the relief are quoted out of the thirty two; the lions, the elephants and the divine infants. The scene with the lions is on the right; two lions sit before the usual style of gateway, next to them are the guards and three other persons standing, perhaps also guards, expressing their wonder. On the left a pĕndapa, in the right end of which the king is sitting; the space between him and the gateway is taken up by elephants about the size of dogs, one of which, as the text says, touches the king’s foot with his trunk.
The king has a divine infant on his knee, a second stands near and a third on the king’s other side; they all have a band crossed over the middle of the breast, fastened with a large clasp, and are indicated further by a crescent behind the head. To the left of the pĕndapa are three female attendants, inside the pĕndapa three more female figures are kneeling whom, to judge by the grander costume of the front one, we may consider to be the queen with two of her women. According to Pleyte (1.1. p. 41) they are the gods’ daughters who are mentioned in the description of other tokens; if this were correct, then the sculptor must have deviated from the text which tells us that these apparitions remained part of them in the air and part of them carried specially named emblems that do not appear on the relief.
26. The preparation for the journey to Lumbinī
Now when queen Māyā by the power of the Bodhisattva’s radiance knew that the time of his birth was near, she betook herself in the early vigil of the night to king Śuddhodana and spoke unto him these verses:
“It behoves me, o king, to retire to the pleasure garden. It is the best of seasons, the spring, when women adorn themselves. Mid the hum of the bees, the song of the kokila and peacock is heard; clear, glittering and radiant is spread the glory of the blossoms. Come, give command, let us set off without delay!”
When the king had heard these words of the queen, he spake, pleased and light of heart to his retinue: “Make ready a troop of horses, elephants, carriages and attendants; decorate Lumbinī, the place of most perfect quality” (78:1,11).
On the relief we do not find just what the text quoted leads us to expect; it is not the conversation of the king and queen that is given, As at Pagān; Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 10 and p. 29 and 89 etc.
but what follows thereon. The scene is divided by a gateway into two unequal parts, on the right, the smaller, sits the queen, clearly indicated by a halo, on a throne in a niche; kneeling before her, a small tree in the background, are two attendants, the front one holding a bowl, perhaps containing ornaments. The queen is probably preparing herself for the journey, even if the text does not literally say so, and the passage in Pleyte (p. 42): “Inzwischen war Māyā-Devī nach ihrem Zimmert zurückgekehrt und hatte sich von ihren Dienerinnen die schönsten Gewänder anlegen lassen” “In the meantime, Māyā-Devī had returned to her room and had the most beautiful robes put on by her servants.” is not to be found in the original Sanskrit. On the left of the gateway a quite mutilated figure is sitting in a pĕndapa whom Pleyte rightly recognises as the king; a servant kneels behind him with the usual folded vessel in his hand; opposite to them sitting and standing, a large number of attendants. In this scene as well, Pleyte thinks of adornment and entitles the whole relief as “Der König und die Königin schmücken sich.” “The king and queen adorn themselves.” He has been misled by Wilsen’s drawing on which someone is holding ready a headdress; where, in reality, as clearly shown on the photograph, a very much damaged attendant is wearing it on his own head. As for the rest, there is only one attendant who has ornaments on a tray; the nearest one standing, carries a bouquet, another a box; the lowest row are quite without any articles in their hands. Adorning himself, or making any toilet, we see no traces of in this scene, and there is no reason for the king to trouble about his dress as he is not going with the party to Lumbinī. I am much more inclined to think we here have only the king giving orders to his attendants, in preparation for the queen’s journey.
27. Māyā betakes herself to the Lumbinī-park
“Let queen Māyā alone be seated in the splendid carriage and no other man or woman ride in it. And let women in various garments draw that carriage.”
Then did queen Māyā pass, accompanied by 84,000 horse-carriages decorated with all sorts of ornaments and by 84,000 elephant-carriages decorated with all kind of ornaments, escorted by 84,000 warriors, brave, warlike, well-favored, handsome, clad in mail and armour, followed by 60,000 Śākya-women, guarded by 40,000 Śākyas of the family of king Śuddhodana, old, young and middle-aged, accompanied by 60,000 persons of king Śuddhodana’s private apartments, who made harmonious music consisting of singing and the sound of all sorts of instruments, surrounded by 84,000 gods’ daughters, 84,000 nāga-daughters, 84,000 gandharva-daughters, 84,000 kinnara-daughters, and 84,000 asura-daughters, adorned with differently composed ornaments who sang all kinds of songs of praise.” (80:9; 81:21).
Not much is seen on the relief of the enormous procession that escorted the queen to Lumbinī according to the text. She sits in a comfortable arm chair with cushions on a four-wheeled carriage, and she sits there quite alone. That is unless the attendant whose half figure appears between the horses and the side of the carriage, is considered to be sitting in the carriage. This agrees with the text in the first words of the king quoted above; the rest of his orders was not carried out by the sculptor, for it is not women who draw the carriage but two horses hung with bells, upon one of which is the charioteer. In front walks a troop of partially-armed men who to judge by the fine clothes, will be Śākyas; behind and next to the carriage are servants with umbrellas and leaf-fans and these too are armed with swords, some of them. Finally come the queen’s women. The other carriages with horses and elephants are not there and the music as well as the attendant daughters of the demi gods are left out. At Ajaṇṭā, the queen sits in a palanquin and begins taking her bath, Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 225; Paintings pl. 28. at Pagān too the vehicle is a palanquin borne by men. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 11 and p. 29 and 90.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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