The Death of the Buddha (Parinirvana)

Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara)

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 235

According to the Buddhist chronicles, when the Buddha died near the city of Kushinagara, in northern India, he broke free from the cycle of rebirths and attained nirvana, absolute release from karmic rebirth. This panel, which would have been displayed in the harmika enclosure at the summit of a stupa (relic mound), shows the Buddha surrounded by lay and monastic mourners expressing their grief. These reactions are contrasted with the calm of the monk Subhadra, seated facing the Buddha’s corpse, who alone comprehends the true meaning of the Buddha’s death. Images of the Buddha’s paranirvana based on this Gandharan prototype became important icons for veneration across the Buddhist world in the following centuries.

The Death of the Buddha (Parinirvana), Schist, Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara)

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