Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: part of south-west quadrant: railing fragments and a female figure
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 parts of pillars and fragments of rail from the south-west quadrant at Bharhut. The exact date of when 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 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; 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.
The figure carved on this pillar is a salabhanjika, which can be loosely translated as a type of wood nymph, standing on a caparisoned horse. The other pillars are decorated with lotus medallions. Pillars like those in this photograph would have held the railing off the ground to a height of about nine feet.