Sculpture piece excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: pillar with Bhagavato ukramti
Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of part of a pillar depicting Bhagavato ukramti, excavated from the stupa at Bharhut taken by Joseph David Beglar in 1874. We cannot be sure what part of the stupa this piece came from, however it is likely that it was a section of railing pillar. The exact date when a stupa was first erected at Bharhut is not known, however, when the railing was added in the latter half of the second century BC, the site had been established as a Buddhist place of worship for centuries. When this pillar was added, the stupa complex consisted of a hemispherical dome, encircled by an inner and an outer railing or vedika. This would be made of rectangular stone posts (stambha) joined together by three sets of cross-bars (suchi) mortised into the pillars on either sides and capped by a huge coping (ushnisha). 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 by the latter part of the second century BC. The railing depicted narratives, such as stories from Buddha's life, the purpose of which would have been two fold: firstly to decorate and honour a sacred place and secondly to allow the religion an appeal to an often illiterate, popular audience. This is one of the railing pillars close to the eastern gate. The scene depicted in the medallion is labelled ‘Bhagavato ukramti’ or ‘the divine being’s descent’ and is commonly known as the Dream of Maya Devi, the mother of Buddha and represents the Conception of Buddha. In the story, the Buddha, under the aspect of a white elephant, approached the princess in her sleep and entered her womb through her right side.