Sculpture piece excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: close view of upper panel of left side of Ajatachatru pillar
Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the upper panel of the left side of the Ajatachatru pillar excavated from the stupa at Bharhut, taken by Joseph David Beglar in 1874. This pillar would have stood close to the western gateway of the stupa complex, forming part of the entrance but also attached to the railing. 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 and important, 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. Due to it's prominent position, the Ajatachatru pillar was more heavily decorated than many others at Bharhut. The relief in this panel represents the story of the questions and answers. This took place between the Buddha and his disciples in the courtyard of the 'Immutable Sanctuary', a square bodhighara or Bodhi tree sanctuary after his descent from Samkassa. The Buddha is symbolised by the altar and the umbrella.