Limestone relief panel depicting the Great Departure of Prince Siddhartha
From the dome of the Great Stupa at Amaravati, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India, 2nd century AD
When Queen Maya gave birth to Prince Siddhartha (the future Buddha) it was prophesied that the child would become either a chakravartin (Universal Emperor) or a Universal Saviour. His father, King Shuddhodhana, preferred the former but was afraid that Siddhartha would become an ascetic. He therefore surrounded the young prince with luxury, sheltering him from all suffering in the world. However, on a visit outside the confines of the palace, the sensitive young prince was deeply moved by the misery that he saw people endure, by old age, sickness and death. According to legend, in the middle of this suffering, the prince saw a beggar who exuded a sense of detachment and peace. This incident is said to have so influenced the prince that he became determined to leave home and take up the same kind of life himself.
This fragmentary relief depicts the departure of Prince Siddhartha from his palace at Kapilavastu to start on a spiritual quest that leads him to Buddhahood. Though he is not visible, the Buddha's presence is symbolically referred to by the parasol held over his horse, Kanthaka, as it leaves the palace behind, trotting out of the torana (arched gateway).
Toranas like this were the traditional type of gateway at the time, and must have been made of wood. The form is often depicted in Buddhist reliefs, and the surviving gateways of stupas are similarly constructed.
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: 123.300 cm
Width: 86.200 cm
Thickness: 11.000 cm
Height: 123.300 cm
Asia OA 1880.7-9.51
Transferred from the India Museum