- Museum number
- Object: The Buddha preaching flanked by two bodhisattvas.
Panel showing the Buddha preaching between two standing Bodhisattvas.
The haloed and seated Buddha wears the over-robe leaving his right shoulder and feet bare and an undergarment visible below his right shoulder; it lies on the seat beside a fall of gathered drapery from his left wrist which spreads out. The drapery folds are defined mainly by paired grooves separating broad flat strips. The head is a long and regular oval; the hair, representing the Indian snail-shell curl tradition, consists of a series of beaded rows running from side to side and concentric on the uṣṇīṣa. The eyes are rounded and open with prominent lids under gently rounded brows, and there is no ūrṇā. The nose is broad, the mouth shaped, the chin prominent and the concave ears stand out symmetrically. The hands have long fluid fingers, the left index and middle fingers touching the bottom of the right hand in the preaching gesture. The Buddha's seat is the top of an obconical gynoecium tapering into a lotus with two downturned rows of plain petals, the lower row showing another beneath.
The Bodhisattva on the Buddha's left wears a patterned collar and a necklace with a plain strand and one of beads, and the uttarīya loops in the narrow mode. His left hand holds a damaged garland and his right may have been in 'abhayamudra'. The turban has a large crest and tapering central ornament, and retaining bands radiate from below it. The face is oval and long with long, narrow, low-lidded eyes and a long, straight, rather prominent mouth. The earrings have pendent beads. The other Bodhisattva, presumably Maitreya, wears a similar collar and necklace, a cord with a crescentic amulet and three or four boxes, one cylindrical, paridhāna and uttarīya with paired grooves for folds and worn in the wide mode; a water pot was probably held in his lost left hand. Most of his right forearm is lost; the hand may have been in 'abhayamudra' or turned palm inwards. He wears a diadem, earrings with beaded hoop and a horizontal length of hair, knotted over a chignon and looped on one side. His face, similar to that of the other Bodhisattva, is more gently rounded. Both Bodhisattvas lack the ūrṇā, are haloed and stand on feet with long toes on a lotus pedestal like the Buddha's; one lotus also has a short stalk. The three haloes overlap.
Below the Buddha an incense-burner or lamp (showing flames rather than smoke) on a columnar stand is flanked by a worshipper with knee-length tunic, ornamented trousers, moustache, two horizontal rows of curls over the forehead,
vertical bands of curls above and a chignon, kneeling with hands joined while a woman with a prominent band of hair in front and a loop of hair behind kneels opposite; she wears armlets, bracelets, earrings, collar, a tunic, a cloak gathered over her right leg and a scarf. Both have small, protruding, rounded eyes.
Above the haloes may be the remains of flying figures bearing a crown or garland.
- Production date
Diameter: 9.70 centimetres
Height: 40.60 centimetres
Width: 27.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Relatively simple triads of a seated Buddha preaching and flanked by more or less frontal standing Bodhisattvas have been grouped with more complicated, densely inhabited and sometimes architecturally very ornate panels, often with the same Bodhisattvas less prominent, standing or seated, also flanking a preaching Buddha. The Bodhisattva with a water pot is generally accepted as Maitreya but the opposite, turbaned figure is still subject to discussion. Either Bodhisattva may stand on the Buddha's right and can also vary in iconographic detail: both may hold the right hand in 'abhayamudra', but Maitreya may turn the palm inwards, or hold a lotus instead, and the turbaned figure may hold a lotus or garland in his left hand. All too often the hands and attributes are lost. The Buddha usually sits on an open lotus which may, as here, have petals turned down or pointing upwards and sometimes a stalk below rising out of water. Many other details vary.
This group was interpreted, following Divyāvadāna XII, as representing the multiplication aspect of the Miracle of Śrāvastī, the kneeling persons as Lūhasudatta and his wife and the flanking figures as Indra and Brahmā. Subsequent interpretations have been as 'ordinary worshipping scenes' with Bodhisattvas, as a general theophany symbolising immanence and power, as a revelation of doctrine to assemblies as in the Mahāyāna sūtras and as paradisiacal relief scenes with Amitābha in certain instances as the central Buddha. In an unpublished study Filigenzi sees the triads as simplified versions, appropriate for more personal worship, of the more complex theophanies which she interprets as manifestations of the saṃbhogakāya or divine principle as Buddha revealed to Bodhisattvas; while the flanking Bodhisattva with water pot is Maitreya, she sees the turbaned Bodhisattva as Avalokiteśvara and proposes varieties of solar iconography to identify him in Gandhāra. In another unpublished study, which draws much on work in Japanese, Rhi argues in detail against many of the past interpretations but believes it possible, judging iconographically, that what he has called preaching Buddha panels were an early representation of Śākyamuni and the Bodhisattvas Siddhārtha and Maitreya combined without specific textual sanction and offered for reasons of economy on a single relief instead of by means of separate statuary disposed in chapels; complex and later instances, where Avalokiteśvara may have replaced Siddhārtha, in his opinion reflect Śākyamuni expounding in structures and assemblies and exhibit a ritual elaboration drawn from the holding of festivals and processions.
This slab with its worshippers in foreign dress beside a fire altar may be an icon of developing Buddhism. The central Buddha, flanked by Bodhisattvas and preaching, can be seen as expounding fresh doctrine as in many Mahāyāna ‘sūtras’. The Bodhisattvas are, on the left, Maitreya, since his distinguishing flask is almost preserved and, on the right, perhaps Avalokiteśvara, though he lacks the Buddha figure in the head-dress occasionally seen in Gandharan sculptures also in this context. This is an early example of the triads of Buddhas flanked by Bodhisattvas that became common later.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
Buddhism: Art and Faith (BM 1985)
- 1.Grey schist, broken and chipped.
2.Top irregular; left side flat, mainly smooth and lightly incised with 'R25';' right side rounded where undamaged; bottom flat and rough with chisel grooves.
3.Back mainly flat with short chisel marks and 'J' incised on smooth sloping patch in one corner. 4.Round pinhole from front to back.
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Miracle of Śrāvastī
- Acquisition date
- Registration number