Sculpture of Buddha with kneeling Maitreya

From Sultanganj, Bihar, eastern India
7th century AD

Victorian railway-builders find Buddhist sculpture

The Buddha stands with his right hand in the gesture of giving (varadamudra), while his left hand holds the edge of his robes. Stylistically, the smooth modelling of the flesh is similar to the earlier Gupta-style Buddha images from Sarnath. Kneeling on the Buddha's left is the future Buddha, Maitreya, identified by the small stupa in his hair. He is worshipping the Buddha with his hands in the gesture of devotion or greeting (anjalimudra). The inscriptions on the base are a personal dedication and the Buddhist creed.

This sculpture was discovered in 1861 on the site of a Buddhist monastery at Sultanganj in Bihar. The modern Indian state of Bihar is named after the word for a Buddhist monastery, vihara. There were many monasteries in eastern India before the twelfth-century Islamic invasions of northern India. This image was discovered during the course of railway construction by E.B. Harris along with a large metal Buddha now in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham. The Birmingham Buddha is over two metres in height and the largest surviving Buddha from ancient India.

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More information


W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)


Height: 69.200 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1982.3-31.1


Purchased with the assistance of the Brooke Sewell Fund


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