Sculpture piece excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: pillar with monkey scene
Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of part of a pillar excavated from the stupa at Bharhut taken by Joseph David Beglar in 1874. We cannot be sure what part of the stupa this piece came from however it was probably a section of a railing pillar. The exact date that a stupa was first erected at this site is not known, however, when the railing was added in the latter half of the second century BC, Bharhut had been established as a Buddhist place of worship for centuries. At the stage when this pillar was added, the stupa complex consisted of a hemispherical dome, encircled by an inner and an outer railing or vedika. Evidence from inscriptions shows that the construction of the railing was funded by donors from all over India; Bharhut was known to people from a wide geographical area. The railing depicted narratives, such as stories from Buddha's life, the purpose of which would have been two fold: firstly to decorate a sacred place and secondly to allow the religion appeal to an often illiterate, popular audience.
This medallion depicts three scenes of the Mahakapi-jataka which narrates how the Bodhisattva, as king-monkey, risked his life to enable his monkey followers to escape. The relief depicts the Bodhisattva, as monkey-king, making a bridge with its own body to let his monkey followers escape from the king who was trying to kill them; the king and his attendants capturing the Bodhisattva falling from the tree; and the Bodhisattva, as king-monkey, preaching to the king that he should protect his subjects in the same way he protected his monkey followers.