- Museum number
- Object: The Death of the Buddha.
Panel showing the Death of the Buddha. Lying on his side, head turned to his right and feet away from each other, the Buddha holds his right hand, apparently emerging from the high neckline, as if in abhaya below his head and against the bordered halo. His left hand is covered by the robe, which continues in pleats below it. The hair is wavy into the uṣṇīṣa, the long oval face has partly open, expressionless eyes. The pillow under and behind the halo has bobbles at the corners, the top of the bed is covered in a textile which hangs between the turned legs with, in the middle, an ornamental scroll down to the footstool. Beside the bed sits a small meditating monk, frontal and in low relief, his robe lying spread in a straight edge below the damaged hands.
At the head of the bed a youthful Vajrapāṇi, his uttarīya plunging below his loincloth, raises his right arm, while his left holds a vajra vertically at shoulder level. Behind the bed stand four figures, each with a crested turban, collar, bracelet, earrings and, save one, an uttarīya; two appear in conversation, one of these raising his hand with the index and middle fingers pointing upwards together and the thumb perhaps extended, while another, also with a long necklace, raises both arms. At the foot of the bed a naked tonsured figure holds a flower in one hand, but the other hand, across the abdomen, seems unfinished; he talks with a monk in three garments, whose right hand with raised index and middle fingers joined makes almost the same gesture as above. These are presumably Mahākāśyapa and an ājīvika. Above them the tree has long narrow branches with evenly paired leaves; behind Vajrapāṇi the trunk is damaged.
A plain fillet frames the bottom of the panel.
- Production date
Height: 30.40 centimetres (on base)
Height: 27.20 centimetres (sculpture only)
Weight: 20 kilograms
Width: 44.30 centimetres
Depth: 9.70 centimetres (base)
Depth: 8.90 centimetres (sculpture only)
- Curator's comments
- Zwalf 1996:
The features are sharply, if clumsily, carved, the faces sometimes heavy, the noses prominent and broad and the mouths set back between jowls.
The Indian texts agree substantially over the Buddha's last days. He became seriously ill near Vaiśālī but was able to reach the Malla country, near Kuśinagara, where Cunda, the smith, prepared him the mysterious sūkaramaddava which again made him ill. Proceeding to Kuśinagara, he lay down on his right side between two sāla trees, his head to the north, and the trees flowered unseasonably. Ānanda attended, grieving, gods assembled and the Mallas of Kuśinagara were summoned, coming in great numbers. The ascetic Subhadra was the Buddha's last convert. When the Buddha was dead, Brahmā, Indra and the monk Anuruddha (Aniruddha) recited verses, monks grieved and the Mallas came to honour his body. They could not lift it for the cremation until Anuruddha had indicated the gods' wishes and it would not burn until Mahākāśyapa, informed on the road by an ājīwika, had arrived with his followers and it then caught fire spontaneously. The Mallas took possession of the remains and would yield none to claimants among the neighbouring tribes who prepared to fight, until a brāhmaṇa had effected a peaceable division; then each erected a stupa in his own territory to enshrine a share.
In representations of the Great Decease the usually haloed Buddha lies invariably on his right side, his covered left hand down his side, the right palm outwards beside the head; a leg can be flexed and the drapery may hang as on a standing figure. The bed, with turned or carved legs, may have a mattress and pillow and a textile, sometimes decorated, hanging between the legs; a small stool also occurs. At each side one of the traditional pair of sāla is represented by a tree, commonly with evenly paired leaves on the branches, and there may be more. Attendants may include Brahmā and Indra, usually Vajrapāṇi, figures indistinguishably gods or Mallas unless, as in Calcutta 5147, they are half-length and flying figures and throwing flowers, and monks identified as Ananda, Anuruddha and Mahākāśyapa. Vajrapāṇi stands at the head of the bed as here and in the following piece, or behind it, or lies beside it, raising one arm in a gesture of grief or holding it across the top of his head. Usually at the foot of the bed is a figure with a wrapped head and a triple staff (tridaṇḍa) or a monk with or without monastic staff, the monk sometimes touching the Buddha's feet or in conversation with a naked and tonsured figure, while the figure with the triple staff, the tridaṇḍin, may be talking with a monk behind or beside the couch. To explain this confusing alternation it has been proposed that the monk behind or beside the couch may be informing the tridaṇḍin of the momentous event or he may, by a use of continuous narration, be Mahākāśyapa, who arrived seven days after the death, learning of it on the road from an ājīvika, the naked and tonsured figure, or, in a sculptural tradition found on Gandhāra reliefs, from another kind of heretical personage instead, the tridaṇḍin. Sometimes a standing monk helps up another; they are identified as Anuruddha and Ānanda. Another figure, variously seated, facing, with back to the viewer or in three-quarter view, and sometimes tonsured, as here, and sometimes with his head covered is identified as Subhadra, the last convert. When this figure has beside him a tripod of three sticks tied to each other to support a suspended bag, explained as a water bag, the reference must be to Subhadra's previous character as a parivrājaka ascetic.
- On display (G33/dc51a/s3)
- Exhibition history
2015 24 Sept-15 Nov, Seoul, National Museum of Korea, Masterpieces of Early Buddhist Scultpure
- 1.Blue-grey schist, broken, chipped and with some soil incrustation.
2.Top with tenon the entire width; smooth in front, rougher behind and with a mason's mark on left; bottom flat with rectangular tenons to both sides; sides, where undamaged, flat.
3.Back partly with horizontal chisel grooves and rebated on both sides for slabs at right angles.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased from General C. S. MacLean.
- Registration number