Limestone pillar depicting scenes from the life of Buddha

From the railing around the Great Stupa at Amaravati, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India, 3rd century AD

This fine relief illustrates the story of the conversion of Sundarananda (or Nanda), the Buddha's half brother. Seated in the central portion of the frieze under a roof supported by Corinthian columns is Sundari, Sundarananda's consort. Sundari, meaning beautiful, is bejewelled and adorning herself, waited on by three attendants. She is looking into a mirror that lies beside an unguent box on a table before her. Sundarananda is seen in the next side chamber, looking back at his wife to indicate that he is leaving her reluctantly. He carries the Buddha's bowl for him on his begging round at Kapilavastu, the town in southern Nepal where the Buddha's early years were spent and which was the capital of his father's domain.

In the next scene the Buddha ordains Sundarananda. He is kneeling before the Buddha, looking up at him. The Buddha's gaze is cast down at him, and figures look upon this scene from terraces above. According to the story, Sundarananda initially converted unwillingly. He was eager to return to the beautiful Sundari, who had asked him to return soon. His true conversion occurred later, when the Buddha showed him the still greater beauty of the apsarases (nymphs) of Indra's heaven. Despite his ordainment, Sundarananda tries to possess the nymphs through the power he has derived from his penance. This act is discovered and he is shamed by an elder.

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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: 270.000 cm
Width: 83.300 cm
Thickness: 29.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1880.7-9.7

RRI1156

Transferred from the India Museum

Location

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