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Sculpture piece excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: close view of lower panel of left side of Ajatachatru pillar

Sculpture piece excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: close view of lower panel of left side of Ajatachatru pillar

Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1874

Shelfmark: Photo 1003/(1495)

Item number: 10031495

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the middle panel of the right 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 of the other pillars at Bharhut. The relief depicts the visit of Ajatasattu, king of Videha, to the Buddha. The scene is set in Jivika's mango groves. After the murder of his father, King Ajatasattu was advised by his physician, Jivika, to look for the Buddha's teachings. The king is represented in the relief to the left, seated on his elephant when he leaves his palace at night. To the right, in the lower register, the king has dismounted from the elephant and in the top register he is kneeling in front of the Buddha, symbolised here by the footprints, the tree and the umbrella. The other figures are the king's female guards.

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