Buddha Preaching the First Sermon at Sarnath

India (Bihar, probably Nalanda)

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 238

A popular subject in medieval Buddhist art is the Buddha preaching his first sermon in a deer forest at Sarnath, north of Bodhgaya, where he had experienced enlightenment some weeks prior. He is seated in a full yogic position with his monastic robe drawn over both shoulders and his raised hand gesturing the turning of the wheel of Buddhist law, or dharma (dharmacakra mudra). A Sanskrit inscription in proto-Bengali script on the lotus-throne base can be read as, “To the cause of the divine religion [by] the stonecutter [sculptor] Vijaka.” This is a rare instance of a Pala-dynasty sculptor being named.

Buddha Preaching the First Sermon at Sarnath, Black stone, India (Bihar, probably Nalanda)

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