Sculpture pieces excavated from the Stupa at Bharhut: lengths of coping from the north-east quadrant
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 coping from the north-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 reliefs, from the top, represents a kneeling elephant supporting the lotus stem coming out of his mouth with his trunk. The next scene might well be an illustration of the Mahaummaga jataka, a story concerning the attempts of a group of men to seduce the chast Amara Devi with presents. In the next scene there are two foreign merchants dealing with two seated home merchants, discussing the price of the tusks and of the chauri tails. Next comes a winged lion with a human head. The 2 bottom panel reliefs are illustrations from the Cammasataka-jataka which narrates the story of a pilgrim who arrives at an arena where rams were fighting. The pilgrim paid no attention to the Bodhisattva's warning not to come too close to the fully grown ram. In the next scene the holy man is represented lying on the ground as the ram broke his leg. The next relief illustrates the Suci-jataka: the Bodhisattva, being a very clever craftsman, born in a poor smith’s family, made a marvellous needle and won the hand of the head smith's rich and beautiful daughter.