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.

Find in the collection online

Fragment of a limestone pillar

  • View from side

    View from side

  • Detail from side

    Detail from side

  • Detail

    Detail

 

More information

Bibliography

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)

Dimensions

Height: 255.500 cm
Diameter: 38.750 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1880.7-9.109

RRI1259

Transferred from the India Museum

Location

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