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Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: lengths of coping from the south-east quadrant 10031498

Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: lengths of coping from the south-east quadrant 10031498

Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1874

Shelfmark: Photo 1003/(1498)

Item number: 10031498

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 coping from the south-east quadrant 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 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.

The first relief scene on the coping lying on the ground is known as ‘Isi-migo Jataka’ or ‘Rishi-deer birth’ and illustrates the story of the meeting between the Raja of Benares and the Buddha as deer-king. The story narrates how the deer-king offered himself to be killed in order to protect his herd from being destroyed. The next scene represents two lions and six deer seated around a chaitya-tree. Next come two elephants going in opposite directions. The one going to the right is carrying a garland to deposit at the foot of a Bodhi Tree or of a Stupa. The last scene is from the Migapotaka-Jataka which tells how a hermit brahmin who was lamenting over the death of his pet deer was admonished by the Buddha for his excessive sorrow. The last figure represents a bull with a human head.

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