Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: lengths of coping from the south-east quadrant 10031499
Photographer: Beglar, Joseph David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of some sculpture pieces excavated from the stupa at Bharhut taken by Joseph David Beglar in 1874. In this photograph we can observe some 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.
In this photograph, the first scene carved on the bottom part of the coping, illustrates the Mahajanaka Jataka and shows the king Janaka who has withdrawn from the world followed by his wife, Queen Sivala. They arrive to the arrow maker who is intent in checking his arrows seated next to the fire. The next scene is from the Gahapati Jataka and illustrates an intrigue of the Buddha’s wife with the village’s chef to whom she has borrowed some meat. The Buddha surprises the chef and his wife, who is represented leaning out of the window and talking to him, and will punish him. The next scene has been interpreted as the appearance of the four exiled Ikshwaka princes before the sage Kapila who gave up his residence for them to build their new city, Kapilavastu. The last scene represents six spotted deer around a rukkha-cetyia and the last part of the coping shows the end of the lotus stem.