Diameter: 88.120 cm
Thickness: 15.000 cm
Transferred from the India Museum
Asia OA 1880.7-9.8
Room 33a: Amaravati
Limestone roundel depicting the worship of a reliquary
From a railing crossbar from the Great Stupa at Amaravati, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India, 3rd century AD
Worship of the Buddha's relics
This roundel comes from one of the crossbars that connected the railing pillars which formed the vedika, or fence around the Great Stupa. Roundels with narrative scenes such as this were usually on the inner face of the railing, i.e. the side facing the stupa.
The scene depicts the Buddha's relics being venerated. The relic casket sits on a throne and is interesting to notice that it is being treated as if it were the living Buddha who was present, which was evidently the contemporary attitude towards relic worship.
The most important figure seems to be a nagaraja (serpent-king) who stands directly behind the throne, which is canopied by his seven hooded serpent heads. His royal status is further suggested by the attendants carrying fly whisks. The whole scene probably refers to the story where the nagas (serpents) received one share of the Buddha's relics. The women occupying the lower half of the roundel must therefore be the legendary beautiful inhabitants of the world of the nagas. Judging by the complex and busy style of the composition, we can assume that this piece was carved around the third century AD.
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)