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Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: pillars from south-west quadrant

Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: pillars from south-west quadrant

Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1874

Shelfmark: Photo 1003/(1490)

Item number: 10031490

Genre: Photograph

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 allow the religion to appeal to an often illiterate, popular audience. Pillars like those in this photograph would have held the railing off the ground, to a height of about nine feet.

Three fragments of pillars are shown in this photograph. The first has a medallion carved on the inner face labelled ‘tikotiko cakamo’ which means the cakra or division of the ancient Indian universe, called Trikutika. The scene has been interpreted as a representation of the Nagaloka, the universe of the Nagas, a term which means both serpent and elephant, animals which are both seen in the relief. The nagaloka is situated under the trikuta parvata or three-peaked mountain. It is shown here as a triangle with 3 nagas inside and a group of elephants in different attitudes around it. The figure represented on the pillar in the middle is a soldier. His short, curly hair is bound with a ribbon, he wears a long tunic and the traditional dhoti. His long boots are fastened with a cord with tassels. He holds a flower in his right hand and a straight sword in the other. The third post is decorated with a lotus flower.

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