9. Rare stupa
Art from Gandhara
2nd c. - 3rd c.
H: 79 cm
Three sides of the rectangular base are decorated with lotus flowers while the fourth has two niches, each with a depiction of Buddha Shakyamuni. Each deity is seated in the lotus position in dhyanasana meditation. Both are the image of the Gandhara Buddha, characterized by profound serenity. Their clothing has obviously been influenced by classic Mediterranean sculpture. The same is true of their hair, represented by gracefully waving lines that end in a bun to symbolize Buddha’s cranial bump. Above the pedestal circles a large checkerboard section and above that several sections of floral or geometric designs. The domed top is finely sculpted with three rows of petals. The harmika is crowned with several circular platters forming a parasol.
After the cremation of the historic Buddha, his relics and ashes were given to eight kings who came to pay their final respects. These kings then placed them inside stupas in various regions of India. Under the reign of Ashoka, the great protector of Buddhism who ruled during the 3rd century B.C.E., the cult of the stupas grew, with worshipers circling clockwise around them.
A stupa evokes the architecture of the cosmos. With the exception of a small inaccessible cavity to hold relics or objects, there is no open space inside. It is undoubtedly the most popular monument in Asia. Its origin lies in the Indian subcontinent but followed the spread of Buddhism, reaching well into the Far East.
Gandhara stupas were decorated with bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the lives of Buddha, with rich iconography and a style not typical of the region.
This exceptional piece is large in size and finely sculpted with precision and naturalism. The perfect balance between the four geometric shapes contributes to the aesthetics of the piece.
Detail: alternate view
Detail: close-up view