India, Bengal, Bihar, Pala Period (750-1197) / Buddha Calling on Earth to Witness / 9th centuryIndia, Bengal, Bihar, Pala Period (750-1197)
Buddha Calling on Earth to Witness
9th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: India
Creator Active Place: India
Creator Name-CRT: India, Bengal, Bihar, Pala Period (750-1197)
Title: Buddha Calling on Earth to Witness
Title Type: Primary
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 800
Creation End Date: 899
Creation Date: 9th century
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Black chlorite
Dimensions: Overall: 93.98cm
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1935.146
Credit Line: Dudley P. Allen Fund
Context: Although early Indian art is dominated by Buddhism, by the seventh century the religion survived only in its original home, Magadha, today the states of Bihar, Bengal, and Bangladesh. Hinduism, which replaced Buddhism at the time in the rest of India, to some degree left its mark on eastern India as well, but this part of the country remained the stronghold of the Buddhist faith. Buddhist images produced under the auspices of the Pala dynasty represent a late form of Buddhism known in India as Vajrayanaor Tantric, after vajra (scepter in the shape of a thunderbolt), or tantra (scripture). This form of Buddhism was strongly influenced by the newly revived Hinduism, and consequently one frequently finds deities with many arms as well as ferocious lookingrepresentations of protectors of the disappearing faith. The Pala style continued to a great extent the Gupta tradition of plasticity and three-dimensionality but became harsher in execution and, with time, richer in ornamentation. The typical images of Buddha, especially in the early Pala style, still owed a great deal to Gupta influence. In turn the Pala school provided inspiration for both early Himalayan and Southeast Asian art. This beautiful high-relief stele depicts a subject favored by Pala Buddhist sculptors--the moment of Buddha's enlightenment. In Gupta art, seated images of Buddha from Sarnath (where Shakyamuni preached Buddhist doctrine for the first time) most frequently show him with his hands in a preaching gesture (dharmachakra mudra); in Pala art (where the most important place of pilgrimage was Bodh Gaya--where Shakyamuni achieved his enlightenment) he is shown with his hands in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsa) and meditation (dhyana), signifying the stages leading to his enlightenment. While seated cross-legged in mediation under the bodhi tree (here shown above his head), the buddha-to-be was tempted by the evil forces of Mara, who tried to prevent his enlightenment. The earth-touching gesture refers to that temptation--when Buddha touched the ground calling the earth goddess, Bhumi Devi, to witness his temptation. Buddha is seated on a double-lotus flanked by two standing buddhas clothed in transparent garments. The central image wears a monastic robe (sanghati) with carefullymarked folds that reveals the modeling of the body underneath. The great plasticity and sensitivity in the sculptural rendering of this image and the similarity of the side buddhas to Gupta-Sarnath images, indicate an early date for this stele, no later than the ninth to tenth centuries. Similarly the round top is characteristic of early Pala pieces. In later examples stelae become pointed at the top and more stylized and mannered. Buddha's throne is supported by an elephant flanked by two lions, symbolsappropriate to the Shakya clan. Framing the lions on both extremes are ascetic figures: one bearing a garland, another worshiping with his hands clasped in the namaskara gesture. Ornamental foliage decorates the back of the throne and a halo with flying celestials (vidyadharas) encircles Buddha's head. The inscription in the lotus petals of the image quotes a Buddhist credo proclaiming: "States of being which arise from a cause--their cause the Tathagata has told; and also their cessation--thus the GreatMonk speaks." The other inscription above the niche with the elephant, has thus far eluded translation. S.C.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1935.146
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, The Cleveland Museum of Art

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