Collection online

The Dream of Queen Māyā.

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Dream of Queen Māyā.
  • Description

    Stupa drum panel showing the Dream of Māyā. Māyā lies on her left side, her right side somewhat forward, right leg flexed, head high against one or two pillows on their sides next to her open left hand; her right hand on the mattress slightly depresses it. She is wearing a short-sleeved tunic, wreath headdress, earrings, collar and bracelets, and a large overgarment hides her feet and what may be a girt paridhāna. An elephant above is wholly enclosed in an aureole in relief except for the tip of its trunk which protrudes slightly downwards. The couch has legs with turned elements above and lion's paws below and a textile with turned corners hangs down above a small footstool. Behind the bed is a slender post with a burning oil-lamp. The chamber has a fasciated trapezoidal roof on Corinthian half-pilasters and appropriate bases; there is a cross-hatched triangular panel on the left, perhaps a curtain or the return of its roof. The female guard (yavanī) outside, holding a spear, raises her right hand in amazement; she wears a garment from her left shoulder, a paridhāna round it, perhaps a scarf and a wreath headdress with projecting loop of hair, earrings, collar and bracelets.


  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 2ndC-3rdC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 19.3 centimetres
    • Width: 32.4 centimetres
    • Diameter: 6.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Zwalf 1996:
    Connected accounts of the conception or dream of Māyā generally agree in representing Queen Māyā as sleeping and her husband as absent. The Bodhisattva, seen in a dream as an elephant who enters her womb, is superb and white and sometimes six-tusked. The question whether Indian sculptural traditions saw the descent of the Bodhisattva in the form of an elephant as dream or as physical reality has been discussed with reference to the varying testimony of the texts.Zwalf 1985

    The conception of the historical Buddha took place when his mother, Māyā, consort of the Śākya chief Śuddhodana, saw in a dream a white elephant enter her right side. The Bodhisattva as the elephant is here suitably haloed; a female guard watches over the sleeping queen. This theme is one of the oldest in Buddhist narrative sculpture.


  • Bibliography

    • Zwalf 1996 141 bibliographic details
    • Zwalf 1985 17 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    1985, London, BM, 'Buddhism: Art and Faith'
    1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.127
    1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.127
    1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.127
    1996 Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Serinde, Terre du Bouddha'

  • Condition

    1.Grey schist, broken, chipped and with soil incrustation. 2.Top flat and smooth with cramp mortise from front to back; both sides straight but very rough and sloping inwards towards back; bottom very rough. 3.Back with vertical chisel grooves and 'J 17/22' in faint white paint. 4.Curved in section.

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated events

    • Associated Event: Dream of Queen Maya
  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


The dream of Maya carved in grey schist, showing the white elephant entering her side, guarded by a female and flanked by standing amorini.

The dream of Maya carved in grey schist, showing the white elephant entering her side, guarded by a female and flanked by standing amorini.

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: RRI7351

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help