- Museum number
- Object: railing pillar
Railing pillar carved in limestone ('Palnad marble') with lotus medallions and narrative reliefs. The outer face is lost, but the inner face depicts one half-lotus and a narrative in the central lotus roundel; probably the infant Siddhartha (represented symbolically) nursed by the old man Asita. The lower fluted area depicts the visit of Asita and his nephew Naradatta.
- Production date
Height: 200 centimetres
Width: 84.10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Blurton, 1997:
The great Buddhist stūpa at Amarāvatī was one of the most important centres of Buddhism in southern India from the early centuries of the present era until its complete abandonment some time after the fourteenth century. This pre-eminence was initially based on the economic power of the Sātavāhana kings who are closely associated with the city of Dharaṇīkoṭa, close to the stūpa. During the Sātavāhana period, the city no doubt provided a ready source of patronage, a situation only changed by the rise of the Ikṣvāku dynasty based at Nāgārjunakoṇḍa further up the river Krishna.
In the manner of early Buddhist stūpa, the whole structure was surrounded by a railing fence of which the present example is a part. The railing, vedikā, was made up of upright elements (such as this) and cross-bars which connected these standing, horizontal parts. The outer faces of the uprights were decorated with lotus blossoms and small figural scenes -including those showing gaṇas playing music and dancing. The inner face, as seen here, was the face which would have been seen by devotees performing pradakṣiṇā; this was conceived rather differently. Here scenes from the life of the Buddha and from the jātakas were shown, as moral precepts to be 'read' by those who processed around the stūpa.
Of great interest in the roundel is the symbolic indication of the presence of the holy child, by footprints on the cloth held by the old man in the centre of the roundel. There is no bodily image shown. This relief belongs to that earlier period at Amaravati when the bodily form is still only shown symbolically; during the next century this was to change with profound consequences not only in the Indian subcontinent, but throughout Southeast Asia and the Far East.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
On loan to the National Museum of India at New Delhi.
1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired as the result of the abolition in 1879 of the India Museum (Exhibition Road, London) and the partition of its contents between the British Museum and The South Kensington Museum (Victoria and Albert Museum).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Elliot no 23
Miscellaneous number: IM 1876 no 64