Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: rail pillars and cross-bars from south-west quadrant
Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of some sculpture pieces excavated from the stupa at Bharhut taken by Joseph David Beglar in 1874. In this photograph we can observe rail pillars and cross-bars from the south-west quadrant; all were probably part of the railing at Bharhut. The exact date that a stupa was first erected at this site is not known, however, by the time 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 this stage, 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 therefore 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 help the religion appeal to an often illiterate, popular audience. In this photograph the Devata or goddess on this pillar has been identified as Shri; she is represented standing, her right arm folded on her breast, holding a lotus bunch in her left hand. Pillars such as this would have held the railing off the ground to a height of about nine feet.