British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 29.900 cm
Width: 52.100 cm
Depth: 7.000 cm
Asia OA 1900.5-22.1
Room 33: Asia
Limestone relief panel showing the conversion of Sundarananda
From Hadda, Gandhara, Afghanistan, 2rd-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.
W. Zwalf, A catalogue of the Gandhara sc, 2 vols. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)