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Sculpture piece excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: pillar with jetavana scene

Sculpture piece excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: pillar with jetavana scene

Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1874

Shelfmark: Photo 1003/(1484)

Item number: 10031484

Length: 23.1

Width: 17.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of part of a pillar depicting a jetavana scene, 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 when a stupa was first erected at Bharhut is not known, however, when the railing was added in the latter half of the second century BC, the site had already been established as a Buddhist place of worship for centuries. When this pillar was added, the stupa complex consisted of a hemispherical dome, encircled by an inner and an outer railing or vedika. This would be made of rectangular stone posts (stambha) joined together by three sets of cross-bars (suchi) mortised into the pillars on either sides and capped by a huge coping (ushnisha). 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 an appeal to an often illiterate, popular audience.

The relief on this pillar represents the Buddhist story of Jetavana Monastery and its establishment by Anatha Pindika. The garden of the monastery belonged to the Prince Jeta, son of the King Pasenajit. The banker, Anatha Pindika bought it and gave the prince as many gold coins as would cover its whole surface. This can be seen in the relief, alongside the bullock cart that was used to transport the coins. The garden was then donated to the Buddhist community. The holy mango tree surrounded with a railing symbolises the Boddhisattva whilst the four other trees represent the sandal trees. Anatha Pindika is represented in the middle in the act of pouring water on the ground and the figures at the left are known as Prince Jeta and his followers.

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