Stele with Eight Great Events from the Life of the Buddha
India, Bihar, possibly from Nalanda
Black schist with traces of gilding
H. 11 1/16 in. (28.1 cm); W. 7 in. (17.8 cm); D. 3/4 in. (1.9 cm); Wt. 11 lbs (5 kg)
Gift of Raymond G. and Marsha Vargas Handley, 2009
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 238
Most significant is the central Buddha touching the earth at the moment of his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, indicated by the branches above his head. Surrounding him are scenes of his life, each one associated with a north Indian pilgrimage center. From lower left, the Buddha is miraculously born out of Maya’s side as she grasps a branch of a sala tree in the Lumbini gardens. Next is the Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath, and above that the Buddha is subduing the rampaging elephant Nalagiri. In the lowest register at right, a monkey offers honey to the Buddha, which ultimately led to his rebirth as a human, allowing him to reach enlightenment. Next the Buddha is performing miracles, though he is shown simply as a teaching Buddha, and above that the Buddha’s descent from Trayastrimsas heaven has been simplified to a standing Buddha. At the very top is the Buddha’s death at Kushinagara, marking the moment he entered nirvana. The black schist and motifs such as the elaborate throne suggest this relief may have been produced at the monastic center of Nalanda.