Gautama Buddha was the figure on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in the eastern part of Ancient India, sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BC. He is recognised by Buddhists as an enlightened teacher, who shared his insights to help sentient beings end the cycle of rebirth and suffering. Accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarised after his death and memorised by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and not committed to writing until approximately 400 years later. Gandhara is the ancient name of a region in northwest Pakistan, which is bounded on the west by the Hindu Kush mountain range, and bounded to the north by the foothills of the Himalayas. Buddhism probably reached Gandhara as early as the third century BC, and this relief is a fine example of the increasing popularity enjoyed by the belief system.
Large Gandharan Relief of Buddha
An important grey schist carved relief depicting the Buddha in meditation amongst his followers. The Buddha is shown on a decorated podium, with legs crossed and hands resting above the feet. The legs are crossed in the single-lotus position, which conveys feelings of stability and security, and he is dressed in stylised robes, which drape around the shoulders, arms, and torso. His hair is highly stylised into the typical twisted bun on the front of the head, and is surrounded by a halo. With both hands resting in his lap, the Buddha takes the Abhaya Mudra position: a gesture of fearlessness, which reflects the period of the Buddha’s life after obtaining enlightenment. His facial features and ears are exaggerated, and flanking him are two followers (the one on the right is clearer than the one on the left). Around his head appear to be adoring attendants, and although they are quite damaged, their offerings are just visible. An old collectors’ label on the podium reads ’28’, and a further label in pink is visible along the left hand side.
Condition: Some restorations and damage to the relief, especially the left hand side.