Visiting the gallery
Amaravati in south-east India, was one of the most important Buddhist sites in India. View some of the sculptures from this important shrine in Room 33a.
Buddhism originated in north India and spread to other parts of the subcontinent in the third century BC.
The Great Shrine of Amaravati, founded around 200 BC in what is now the state of Andhra Pradesh in the south-east, was one of the oldest, largest and most important Buddhist monuments in ancient India.
The shrine, with its solid, domed structure, was a stupa and probably contained a relic – perhaps of a famous teacher. Devotees honoured the enshrined relic by walking around the stupa in a clockwise direction. While doing so, they could also benefit by viewing scenes from the Life of the Buddha sculpted on the railing that surrounded the walkway. Some devotees gave money for the decoration of the stupa and these gifts are recorded in inscriptions.
The shrine is in India, but you can see some of the sculptures, also known as the Amaravati Marbles, at the British Museum. The Amaravati sculptures consist of carved relief panels showing narrative scenes from the life of the Buddha, as well as Buddhist emblems and symbols. They were used to decorate the outside of the stupa.