Base of a small stupa carved with four scenes from the Buddha's life, grey schist, 2nd Century AD, Swat Valley.
Height: 21.5 cm, Length: 30.5 cm each end
Acquired from Evert Barger, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Bristol and Philip Wright, V&A Museum, as part of the collection of finds excavated during their expedition to the Swat valley in 1938. This is no. 49 in Barger's lists.
The base is damaged on its surface and broken into two parts. Four scenes from the life of the Buddha are shown on its four sides.
The first scene represents the birth of Siddhartha in the Lumbini Forest. Maya, the Buddha's mother, stands turning slightly turned to her left, where the little Buddha child emerges from her side. Her left arm reaches out to a branch of a sala tree and her right hand holds onto the shoulder of her sister, Mahaprajapati. On the opposite side Indra takes the baby with his outstretched hands to wrap it in a shawl that he is carrying.
In the second scene, from the right the Bodhisattva comes galloping out of the city gate on his favourite horse Kanthaka. Two little devas have placed their hands under Kanthaka's hooves to stifle any possible noise. The horse is confronted by the powerful figure of Mara, holding a bow, to prevent the prince from finding the way to enlightenment.
In the third scene, four monks are kneeling or standing around a base, on which a kneeling atlas figure raises three floral discs on his hands and above his head, which may symbolize the First Sermon. Ackermann believes this scene to represent the worship of the Triratna or Three Jewels of Buddhism, but Zwalf suggests that it probably symbolised the First Sermon.
In the fourth scene, the Buddha is seated in abhaya mudra on a low pedestal under two hanging branches of the bodhi tree. Behind his head there is a large nimbus. Two standing male figures in anjalimudra are on either side of the Buddha. This, according to Ackermann, could be the scene where Indra and Brahma invite the Buddha to announce his teachings.
The scenes are all set between Corinthian-type square-sectioned pillars with sunken vertical panels down the centre of each of the shafts. They rest on a plain base, but there is a decorative frieze above carved with motifs of radiating petals alternating with hanging bell flowers.