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Mehmet Hassan

1. Andagu Stele with scenes from the Buddha’s life
Northeast India or Burma
12th Century
Phyrophilite with pigments
Dimensions: 16.5 x 11 x 3 cm
Andagu Stele with scenes from the Buddha’s life
Detail: Central Figure

A small number of these Buddhist sculptures in this rare stone have survived, and are commonly referred to as Andagu, the site in Myanmar where a few were discovered. Highly prized in antiquity because of its capacity for intricate and highly polished carving, the actual stone may have originally come from Yunnan, China, and then exported to places as far away as Sri Lanka and Tibet via the various Asian trade routes.

Andagu is a kind of metamorphic rock similar to schist and slate, but with a glossier luster to its surface. It also has a particularly fine texture that allows the stone to be carved very precisely and the carver to achieve a much greater amount of detail.

It is thought that these portable plaques would have been carried on pilgrimage and have been discovered in India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China and especially Tibet.

The central scene depicts Buddha Sakyamuni triumphing over the forces of Mara. He is seated in dhyanasana on a lotus throne sheltered by leaves of the bodhi tree, his hands in bhumisparsa and dhyana mudras, and surrounded by scenes from his life.

G.H.Luce’s exhaustive study ”Old Burma, early Pagan” records only a dozen, but a greater number of other examples are in Western museums and private collections.

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