Fragment of a limestone pillar

From the Great Stupa at Amaravati, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India, 1st century BC

Inscriptions and carved relief

Four faces of this pillar carry carvings, with motifs well-established in the repertoire of early Buddhist symbols. Three of the four faces carry lotus scrolls along the central portion of the shaft. The fourth carries a more complicated vegetal motif. The scrolls either issue from a purnaghata (urn of plenty) or from the mouth of a dwarf yaksha.

The upper panels on the pillar however, carry different symbols. On the first face is a pillar, which closely resembles those erected during the reign of the Mauryan emperor Asoka (reigned about 265-238 BC), crowned by a seated lion. The pillar issues from a purnaghata, associating the cult of pillar worship with trees and fertility. The second side also shows a pillar, with a capital in the shape of addorsed (back-to-back) elephants crowned by a dharmachakra (symbolizing the 'Wheel of the Law' set in motion by the Buddha's First Sermon). The pillar itself stands enclosed within a square vedika or fence, demarcating the sacred space. The third side shows a sacred pipal tree (Ficus religiosa) with a garland hanging on the trunk just above the point where the branches start. The last carved surface depicts a stupa in the upper section of the pillar.

The pillar also carries an inscription which identities the donor as the perfumer Hamgha and his family.

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Fragment of a limestone pillar

  • View from side

    View from side

  • Detail from side

    Detail from side

  • Detail



More information


D. Barrett, Sculptures from Amaravati in t (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1954)

R. Knox, Amaravati: Buddhist sculpture (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Height: 255.500 cm
Diameter: 38.750 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1880.7-9.109


Transferred from the India Museum


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