The Life of Gautama Buddha
Signs & Renunciation

a complete collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Life of the Buddha as told in the Lalitavistara, together with further information.


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Signs & Renunciation


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53. Hrīdeva rouses the Bodhisattva to fulfil his destiny

At that time, about when the Bodhisattva should depart, there came a Tuṣitakāyika gods’ son named Hrīdeva, one who was given to the highest and most perfect Wisdom, in the soundless night, surrounded and followed by thirty two thousand gods’ sons, to the palace where the Bodhisattva dwelt and spoke out of the air to the Bodhisattva, these verses: “What death is, has been set forth, o radiant one; and what birth is, has been expounded, o lion among men. In giving instruction to the women’s apartment, thou hast followed the custom of the world. Many in the world of gods and men have become ripe and have attained the Law. The time is now come; consider well thy resolve to depart.” (183:16).

The palace of the Bodhisattva on the right of the relief is surrounded by a palisade, going first round the bottom edge of the relief and then turning upwards, where there appears a gateway. The Bodhisattva sits on a throne in a pavilion, the right leg in the sling; next to him on a cushion [are] three women, very much damaged, yet evidently asleep. Outside the pavilion left, and still inside the palisade are three peacocks; above that Hrīdeva hovers on a cloud, making a sĕmbah, with the other heavenly ones. Outside the gate sits the armed guard; some of the soldiers are asleep too and help to show that it is night-time. The one nearest to the gate wears his hair like a yakṣa. In the background rises a pĕndapa with doves perched on its roof and the foliage of some trees shows above.

54. The Bodhisattva’s three palaces

And while the Bodhisattva was thus roused by the gods’ son he caused king Śuddhodana to behold this dream in his sleep. He saw the Bodhisattva going away in the dead of night, accompanied by an escort of gods, and afterwards being a wandering monk in a russet garment.

Whereupon he thought: “Without doubt, never must the prince depart (not even) to the pleasure-garden, he must amuse himself here, cheerful in the company of his wives, then he will not depart.” Then king Śuddhodana caused three palaces to be built for the prince’s pleasure, according to the seasons, summer, rain season, and winter. The one for the summer was only cool, that for the season of rains had the qualities of both the others and the winter one was naturally warm. (185:18; 186:7).

The three palaces are here, in a row, a brilliant proof of the sculptor’s artistic skill in giving variation to what might have been three uniform buildings. See Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 25-27 and p. 36 and 92 etc.

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

Ānanda Temple, Pagān
The two side ones are open in front and, owing to the inmates taking up most of the space, look rather like a large decorated niche. To the right the Bodhisattva is seated with two wives, his right leg in the sling. On the left we see five women sitting on a bench, one of whom, also with one leg in the sling, is at her toilet assisted by the others. She looks at herself in a mirror held in the left hand while arranging her hair with the right. A large dish with wreaths is under her bench. The middle palace is closed, probably it is the winter-palace. It has a base decorated with rosette ornament, steps up to the door, in front of which stands a vase. At Pagān three separate scenes are given to the palaces, with the Bodhisattva in each with flowers, latticed windows and a roof decorated with niches and little pinnacles at the corners. Take note of the outlines of cloud behind the roof of this building; they show that it is a great mistake to take it for granted; when the same appear elsewhere on other reliefs, that the scene takes place in the heavens.

55. The Bodhisattva is guarded in his palace

On the steps of each palace five hundred men paced continually up and down. And as they stepped up and down, the sound thereof could be heard half a yojana away. Impossible it was for the prince to leave the palace unnoticed. Soothsayers and diviners had declared : “The prince will depart by the Gate of Salvation.” Then the king caused great double-doors to be made at the Gate of Salvation; each door opened and closed by five hundred men, the sound of which was carried half a yojana away. There the prince enjoyed the five incomparable kinds of love and the young women were always near him with music, song and dance. (186:12).

The same as on No. 53, the palace of the Bodhisattva, on the right, is enclosed within a palisade that runs first along the bottom edge of the relief and then bends upwards, where a gateway is inserted. In a hall of the palace, the upper edge of which is indicated, the Bodhisattva is sitting with a woman also wearing a halo, of course, [it is] Gopā. Behind them, right, sit three women and left, stand three more, the front one with a fly-whisk. Exactly in front of the gateway, outside the palisade, is a porter armed with a sword, showing a beard and hair-dressing like a yakṣa (see No. 53). Opposite to him a curious group of sitting and kneeling men; in front, some with rather high headdress, behind, three in very plain clothes; these three and one other wear swords. We might think they are guards, but they look like people who come from outside and ask for admittance. In the background on the left, is an elephant, its mahout with his aṅkuśa on its back, while nearer the centre three men in fine clothes are standing, one with a large red lotus in his hand; possibly they are gods. It seems to me, something not given in the text is here represented.

56. First Encounter. The Bodhisattva sees an old man

And the Bodhisattva said to his charioteer: “Hasten, charioteer, get ready a chariot, for I will go to the pleasure-garden.” Then a four-fold guard was formed to do honor to the ladies of the prince’s harem. And when the Bodhisattva set out in great splendor through the Eastern gate of the city to the pleasure-garden, by the might of his own power and the action of the Śuddhāvāsakāyika gods’ sons there appeared on the road an old man, aged, worn-out, with swollen veins on his body and broken teeth, wrinkled and grey-haired, bent, crooked as a roof, broken, leaning on a stick, feeble, without youth, his throat uttering inarticulate sounds, his body bent and supported by a staff, trembling in all his limbs and parts of limbs. (186:21; 187:17).

The coachman informs the Bodhisattva that this is old age such as awaits all human beings, and afterwards explains the next appearances (relief No. 57-59) in the same way. The Bodhisattva turns round and goes home again.

The old man is quite on the left, in the form of a beggar holding out his hand; he wears nothing but a loin-cloth, leans on a staff and is led by a child, so he is probably meant to be blind as well. The rest of the relief is occupied by the suite of the Bodhisattva, but the ladies of the party are left out altogether. The military escort is there as a number of soldiers armed with swords and small shield, marching in front. Then comes the carriage-and-pair, an open four-wheeler, rather small, with the Bodhisattva on a seat. Above the horses we can see the head and shoulders of the coachman, making a sĕmbah to his master. After the umbrella-bearer follow some persons in princely robes who may be the Śākya escort of the Bodhisattva, but are more likely the gods who are responsible for the apparition. Here on the ground two or three servants are sitting. Along the upper edge of the whole relief clouds are indicated, to show that the scene takes place in the open air. In the Indian Buddhist art at Ajaṇṭā According to Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 224 (coll. Burgess, Notes p. 6 and pl. 4, Griffiths, Paintings in the Buddhist Cave temples of Ajaṇṭā pl. 49). I agree with him (Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I p. 348) that the relief at Sāñchi No. 33 is not to be considered a representation of one of these encounters. and Pagān, scenes of the Four Encounters are known and the Chinese in the rock-temples of Yun-kang gives this episode as well, and does not refrain from repeating it four times like the sculptors of the Barabuḍur. Chavannes, Mission archeologique dans la Chine septentrionale, fig. 207-210 and pg. 307. The design differs from that on our monument; on the left each time is a palace, more like a gateway, out of which the Bodhisattva is coming, on horseback, followed only by an umbrella-bearer, while the god who is arranging the apparition, hovers above. Away to the right, the apparition itself is found. At Pagān each time nearly the whole relief is taken up by the Bodhisattva in his carriage, and the apparition is given in small size on the right; Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 30-33 and p. 37 etc., 86 and 93 etc.

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

Ānanda Temple, Pagān
at Tun-Huang the first three encounters are condensed into one scene, but the monk and the Bodhisattva himself are absent. Stein, Serindia lI p. 857 and pl. LXXIV.

57. Second Encounter. The Bodhisattva sees a sick man

And when the Bodhisattva another time set out through the South gate of the city, in great splendor to the pleasure-garden, he saw on the road a man sick of a disease, overcome by hot fever, his body exhausted, soiled by his own excrements, without any to help him, without shelter and breathing with difficulty. (189:8).

The style of this scene resembles the preceding one. On the left, under a tree, is the sick man, horribly thin, his belly all sunken, ribs sticking out, the muscles of the neck prominent, and with hollow cheeks; arms, legs and face made to look as diseased and thin as possible without much regard to anatomy. The miserable wretch has his hands crossed over his head and the whole figure is well suited to give the Bodhisattva a nasty shock; a realistic bit of sculpture. The retinue is arranged in the same way as on the preceding relief; first the armed escort, then the carriage with the Bodhisattva and the coachman saluting, then the umbrella-bearer and finally the group of gods. By way of variety, the horses turn their heads back. Cloud-outlines along the top of the whole relief.

58. Third Encounter. The Bodhisattva sees a dead man

And when the Bodhisattva another time set out through the West gate of the city, in great splendor to the pleasure-garden, he saw a dead man, laid out on a bier under a linen sheet, surrounded by a troop of his relations all weeping, lamenting and wailing, with streaming hair, with ashes on their heads, beating their breasts and crying as they followed him.

The Bodhisattva spoke and said: “If there were no old age, no disease and no death, neither would there be the great misfortune that has its root in the five skandhas. But wherefore should man always be bound by age, disease and death? Behold, I will return and meditate on the Salvation.” (190:8; 191:1,6).

From the text we naturally expect to see the corpse being escorted by its funeral train, but on the relief we find it lying in a tent under a tree, nothing better than a few boards with a saddle-shaped covering on sticks. The corpse looks quite as unattractive as the patient in the preceding relief but is not so distinct. Three persons, two of them certainly females, are busy with the dead man, kneeling round him; one supports his head on her arm, they are all much damaged. The Bodhisattva’s soldiers are at the head of his escort again; the carriage is rather larger and has a handsome shaft ornamented with a lion rampant, upon which the coachman sits, his face turned to his master but now without the sĕmbah. Another servant is sitting on the back of the carriage; the Bodhisattva here and in the next scene wears the halo that is missing on the two preceding reliefs; he is now making a gesture of aversion. The figures of the gods are quite dilapidated, for not much is left of the right hand side of the relief; according to Wilsen’s drawing there were two of them, one holding a lotus. The clouds are here, as before.

59. Fourth Encounter. The Bodhisattva sees a monk

And when the Bodhisattva set out another time through the North gate of the city to go to the pleasure-garden, the gods’ sons, through the might of the Bodhisattva, caused a monk to appear by the roadside. The Bodhisattva saw the monk standing on the road, quiet, tranquil, full of discretion and self-control, not allowing his glance to wander, nor looking further than the length of a yoke, having attained the Path that brings peace of mind and honor, showing that peace of mind in his forward and his backward steps, peace of mind in the looking and the turning away of his eyes, peace of mind in his bending and his stretching, peace of mind in the wearing of his coat, begging-bowl and monk’s frock. And the Bodhisattva spoke and said: “The life of the wandering monk has always been praised by the wise, therein is salvation for himself and salvation for other beings, the happiness of life, the sweet draught of immortality and the fruit of existence.” (191:12; 192:8,10).

The monk is here also quite on the right, on a little rise of ground; his right hand against his chest, the left hanging down. He has no bowl but of course the monk’s frock. Some of the soldiers are sitting on the ground; those standing behind point to the monk. The carriage resembles that on the preceding relief and the shaft here too is ornamented with a lion; there are now two persons sitting on it besides the coachman, i.e. another servant with a torch or an incense-burner; both look towards the Bodhisattva, behind whom another servant sits on the carriage. The gods, specially mentioned by the text in this scene, again appear on the right hand side of the relief, whose upper edge has no clouds this time, as were given on the three preceding scenes.

60. The Bodhisattva in the women’s apartments. Gopā comforted after an evil dream (?)

Now king Śuddhodana gave this command in the women’s apartment: “Let music never cease; let all kinds of play and amusement be provided simultaneously. Let the women use all their powers of attraction and bewitch the prince so that his spirit is dimmed by pleasure and he will not go away to wander as a monk.”

Now while Gopā lay on the same couch with the prince, at night, when the night was half spent, she saw this dream: this whole earth trembled, the mountains with their tops, the trees were ravaged by the wind and fell to the ground torn and uprooted; and the sun and moon with all their star-ornaments fell down from the heavens. She saw her hair cut off by her right hand and her diadem drop to pieces etc.

Then when he heard this, he spoke with the voice of the kalaviṅka bird, like that of a kettle drum, the voice of a god, a melodious voice, unto Gopā, saying: “Rejoice; no evil shall befall thee. Those only dream these dreams whose former existence has been virtuous… Be comforted, and have no care; fear not, but be full of joy. Soon shall joy and happiness be given unto thee. Sleep, Gopā, these tokens are favorable to thee.”‘ (192:22; 194:7; 195:5; 196:).

It looks to me rather doubtful if this relief depicts Gopā being comforted by her husband, as the sequence of events in the text requires. The Bodhisattva appears in the middle of a pavilion on a seat with his right leg in the sling; women are sitting on both sides, the front one of both groups seems to hold a utpala; possibly on the left it is a fly-whisk. None of the women are in any way distinguished from the others so as to be identified as Gopā, and if the sculptor intended to illustrate the above conversation between husband and wife, he has taken no trouble to make it plain to the looker-on that anything more is intended than just the Bodhisattva among his wives, in the same style as on No. 52. We might compare this with abb. 34 at Pagān (Seidenstücker p. 39, 82, and 94 etc.), which is much better explained as the Bodhisattva in his harem after the four encounters than as the scene it is supposed to illustrate according to the text.

Ānanda Temple, Pagān
Next to the pavilion, on both sides, is a partition, made up of boxes, trays and dishes; then, again on both sides in the background, a small building, in front of which a few men are sitting. Among those on the left some are armed, so they may be the ordinary palace-guard; on the right, only the last has a sword and the three others have the high headdress of eminent people, so they may be Śākyas or gods who come and take an interest in the proceedings.

61. The Bodhisattva asks his father’s permission to depart

Then this thought came to the Bodhisattva: “It would not become me and would show ingratitude, were I to depart without informing king Śuddhodana and without my father’s consent.” Thereupon in the soundless night he came out of the palace where he dwelt and entered the palace of king Śuddhodana. As soon as the Bodhisattva entered it, that whole palace was filled with radiance.

The king was startled and looking round he saw that lotus-eyed Pure Being; and he would have risen from his couch, but he could not. And he who had a perfect pure spirit, was full of respect towards his father, he came and stood before the king and spake: “Hinder me no more, and be not sorrowful thereat; for the hour of my departure, o king, is come. Therefore be content, o prince, thou and thy people and thy realm”…

And when he heard these words from the best of men, he endeavoured to turn him from his purpose and fought against his son’s desire. (Yet in the end he spake:) “It is thy desire to bring by redemption salvation to the world; let the aim thou hast set before thee, be achieved.” Thereupon the Bodhisattva returned to his palace and lay down on his couch. And no man had knowledge either of his going or return. (198:1,18; 200:8).

The king and his son sit in a pĕndapa in the middle of the scene talking together, both leaning against large cushions, one on a seat, the other only on a dais. In Wilsen’s time it seems, the now worn-away halo was visible round the Bodhisattva’s head and indeed it would not do to be without it just in the scene that describes the radiance he diffuses. On the right next to the pĕndapa is a door leading to the adjacent palace of the Bodhisattva; in the right-hand corner is a guard with yakṣa style of hair fast asleep. A few birds on and near the roof. To the left of the large pĕndapa there is a smaller one, under which the king’s guard are sitting, partly armed with swords. This group too is asleep. The sculptor shows clearly that it is night and that the Bodhisattva, as the text describes, is not seen by anyone. The design of this episode in the caves of Yun-kang is a little different. Chavannes, Mission archeologique dans la Chine septentrionale, fig. 206 and p. 306 etc. Father and son are quite alone; Śuddhodana sits on a raised couch, the Bodhisattva kneels beside him and makes a sĕmbah, evidently just uttering his request.

62. The Bodhisattva is guarded in his harem

At the end of this night, king Śuddhodana called together the whole company of Śākyas and told them of the matter: “The prince will depart, what must now be done?” The Śākyas answered: “We will keep guard over him, o king. For why? We are a great company of Śākyas, and he is but alone. How shall he be able to force a way to depart?”

Māhāprajāpatī Gautamī spake to the many female slaves: “Light up bright lamps, place all sorts of jewels upon the stands, hang necklaces about and illuminate the whole dwelling. Cause music to sound and keep guard this night, unceasingly; keep watch over the prince so that he cannot depart unseen. Armoured and with quiver in your hand, with swords, bows, arrows, spears and lances, must you all strive your utmost to guard my beloved child.” (200:15; 201:9).

The last sentence is remarkable when compared with the relief. It seems that, even where the text expressly demands it, the sculptor cannot get himself to depict armed women. In Hindustan such figures of female slaves in armour and with weapons, in the retinue of a king are quite common; they are not found anywhere on the Barabuḍur, or on any other Javan monument. The omission of these figures even where the text mentions their presence, can only be explained, I think, by the custom of the country, the sculptor hesitating to represent something quite unusual among the Javanese, the public for whom he was working. The Bodhisattva sits with the right leg in the sling, on a cushion in the midst of kneeling women in a pavilion, that is quite on the right of the relief. It has a porch on the left, under which two guards armed with swords and large shields are sitting, it is enclosed in a palisade, going along the bottom edge of the relief and then turning upwards. Outside this, quite on the left, sit another group of men on the ground, bearers of the royal insignia and soldiers. According to Pleyte (p. 94) the foremost figure is the king himself, but this person is not to be distinguished from the others by the usual royal dress. I consider it much more likely they are either the retinue of the crown-prince, or guards sent by the king and if the latter, they would be the Śākyas mentioned in the text, though their garments are not those of the highest circles. At Pagān can be seen on the relief immediately before the scene of the sleeping women, the Bodhisattva lying on his couch, with the female slaves making music. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 37 and p. 40 and 95.

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

63. The sleeping women

Then at that moment the women’s apartment was changed in aspect and put in disorder by the gods’ son Dharmacārin and by the Śuddhāvāsakāyika-gods. When they had changed it and given it a loathsome appearance, they spoke from out the air to the Bodhisattva in verses. Thus spake the gods’ sons, the high and mighty ones, to him with his long-shaped eyes like budding lotuses: “How canst thou find pleasure herein? Thou dwellest in the midst of a graveyard!’’ Urged by the divine rulers he looks for a moment at the company of women; he gazes and the sight moves him to loathing: “I do in truth live in the midst of a graveyard.” And the Bodhisattva looked round upon the whole gathering of women and gazing at them, really saw them. Some with their garments torn away, others with dishevelled hair, some whose ornaments were all fallen off, others with broken diadems; some whose shoulders were bruised and others with naked limbs, and mouths awry and squinting eyes and some slobbering, etc. etc.

And meditating on the idea of purity, and penetrating the idea of impurity, he saw that from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, the body originates in impurity, is compounded of impurity and exhales impurity without end. At this time he spoke this verse: “O hell of living beings, with many entrances; dwelling-place of death and age, what wise man, having looked thereon, would not consider his own body to be his enemy?” (205:17; 208:10, 21).

A large pavilion with pĕndapa adjoining, represents the women’s apartment. The Bodhisattva sits in the middle leaning on a cushion on his couch; the sleeping women are lying or leaning against it on both sides all in confusion. The sculptor has succeeded in giving a vivid impression of the unattractive appearance of this company of females in the most unbecoming attitudes, without degenerating into a rather indecent exhibition; on this point Barabuḍur is as respectable as the Gandhāra-reliefs. Besides the two quoted on p. 157, Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 179 p. 351; lI fig. 447 p. 297. This whole portion is enclosed by a palisade in the usual manner. On the left, outside the fence is another small pĕndapa in which the guards are seated who, like the women, are all asleep.

Here too it is remarkable how the sculptor, faithful in the main, pays little attention to details. The following is an instance; the text (p. 206) says that the instruments of music had dropped out of the women’s hands. On the Gandhāra-reliefs, these are to be seen lying on the floor as described. The Barabuḍur sculptor takes no notice of this detail; he depicts the Bodhisattva awake among the more or less indecorous crowd of sleeping females. This is of course the main thing the text describes; and he does not mind about the rest. Besides the musical instruments, dropped or still in the hand, and the presence of one or two female slaves armed with lances, the Gandhāra reliefs differ again from the Barabuḍur by not forgetting to put in Gopā; in one case Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, fig. 180 p. 353. the sculptor considers it sufficient to represent her all by herself and leave out all the other women. On the contrary a scene at Tun-Huang (Stein p. 868) gives only four sleeping women, musicians and dancers, in the palace-court below, when in the air the Bodhisattva is already escaping on his horse. In the matter of Gopā and the music-instruments, Yun-kang Chavannes, Mission archeologique dans la Chine septentrionale, fig. 211 and pg. 307. agrees with Gandhāra. The artist of Barabuḍur by leaving out Gopā, keeps faithfully to the Lalitavistara that describes the sleeping harem and makes no mention of the prince’s chief spouse. At Pagān Gopā is not there either. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 38 and p. 41 and 95.

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

64. The Bodhisattva’s horse is brought to him

Now the Bodhisattva whose mind was made up, much moved, yet firm of purpose, rose quickly, without hesitating, from his cross-legged position and turning to the East in his music apartment, pushed aside with his right hand the curtains set with jewels and stepped on to the terrace of the palace… When he saw that midnight had come, he roused Chandaka and said: “Quick, Chandaka, delay not, bring me my prince of horses decked with all his ornaments. My salvation is about to be fulfilled; this day will it surely be accomplished.” When Chandaka heard these words, he was heavy of heart and said: “Where wilt thou go”, etc.

Thereupon, the gods’ sons Śāntamati and Lalitavyūha, aware of the Bodhisattva’s intention, caused all the women and men, youths and maidens in the great city of Kapilavastu, to fall into deep sleep, and they silenced all sounds. When the Bodhisattva became aware that all people in the city were asleep and the hour of midnight was come, and that Puṣya had risen to be lord of the constellation and that now the hour of departure had arrived, he spoke to Chandaka: “Discourage me now no more, Chandaka; bring me Kaṇṭhaka caparisoned without further delay.” As soon as the Bodhisattva spoke these words, that same moment the four Guardians of the world who heard the words of the Bodhisattva, hastened each to his dwelling and returned with his own preparations to honor the Bodhisattva, as soon as possible to the great city of Kapilavastu.

Also Śakra, the king of the gods, came with the three and thirty gods, with heavenly flowers, and perfumes, garlands, ointments, powders, garments, umbrellas, banners, streamers, diadems and ornaments.

A thousand koṭis of gods spoke joyful of heart unto Chandaka: “Come, Chandaka, bring out the splendid Kaṇṭhaka, grieve not the Leader.” When Chandaka heard these words of the gods, he said to Kaṇṭhaka: “Here comes the best driver of all beings, neigh thou to him!” And when he had ornamented the rain-colored hoofs with gold, weeping and sad of heart, he led the horse to that Ocean of merit. (209:11; 210:2; 217:5; 218:15; 221:7,15).

The Bodhisattva is depicted standing on a lotus-cushion, outside the palace railings. This palace is quite to the right; in front sit the sleeping guard and a couple of large pots with lids stand on the left. The whole is enclosed in a palisade with a gateway inserted in it; at the side of the palisade is the Bodhisattva, stretching out his hand to Chandaka who kneels before him making a sĕmbah. Behind the coachman is the horse, with a tree in the background, its haunches are hidden by the group of gods standing quite on the left of the relief. The whole design is such that in my opinion it does not allow the scene to be titled as the command given to Chandaka to saddle the horse (Pleyte p. 97), as in the Lalitavistara the order was given while the Bodhisattva was still on the terrace of his palace. Here he has already come down and it is evident that the horse could not be brought up on to the terrace so that if the animal was to appear on the relief, that was reason enough to place the scene out-of-doors. The conception of the Barabuḍur sculptor is, at any rate, far more rational than that of the Gandhāra relief just mentioned, on which the horse is brought inside the room where Gopā is asleep. What the Barabuḍur relief illustrates is, I think, the moment when Chandaka yields to the persuasion of the gods and brings the horse to his master, the moment that is immediately before the Great Departure in the following relief. It is noticeable that at Pagān two separate reliefs appear, the first shows the orders given to Chandaka (where the horse is already present), the second the moment the animal is going to be mounted; in the first, the scene is in a palace, while the second is given out-of-doors. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 39 and 41 and p. 41 etc. and 95 etc.

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

Ānanda Temple, Pagān

65. The Great Departure

And the four Great Kings, after entering the royal palace Aḍakavatī, spoke to the great assemblage of yakṣas: “To-day, o worthy ones, shall the Bodhisattva make his departure, this he must do while the feet of his excellent horse are held fast by you.” All the earth trembled in six kinds of ways, when risen from his couch, he mounted that excellent king of horses, resembling the circle of the full moon. The Guardians of the world placed their hands, stainless as the pure lily, beneath the excellent horse. Śakra and Brahmā went before, both showing the way. A pure immaculate radiance shone out from him and the earth was illuminated; all those beings doomed to destruction, gained rest and happiness and were no longer subject to the torments of the kleśas. The corruptions of the mind. Flowers were strewn and thousands of musical instruments sounded, gods and asuras praised him. After making the circuit of the excellent city, keeping their right side towards it, they proceeded, all filled with joy. When this Bodhisattva, lord of the world, departed, the apsaras glorified him as he passed through the air: “Behold he must be highly honored, he who is the great field of virtue, the field of those who strive after virtue, the giver of the fruit of immortality.” (202:13; 222:1; 223:7).

In the procession of the Bodhisattva’s Mahābhiniṣkramaṇa through the air, two figures of gods are in front, one carrying an umbrella, while flowers fall upon him from above. These are most likely Śakra and Brahmā showing the way. Then comes the Bodhisattva himself squatting on his horse whose hoofs are put two and two on lotus-cushions supported by three floating figures, the first one in any case a yakṣa to judge by his hairdressing. It is yakṣas who, according to the first passage of the text quoted above a passage that appears a good bit earlier in the text than the description of the journey support the hoofs of Kaṇṭhaka. It appears that the Lalitavistara here contradicts itself; not only in the two passages quoted, but also later on when Chandaka tells the tale of the journey, he mentions twice that it was the four Guardians of the world who did this service (233:14 and 236:14). Chandaka helps his master with the sword under his arm as on the preceding he has hold of the horse’s tail. Then comes the company of gods, in two rows one above the other, some with fly-whisks and flowers in their hand. Though not very easily distinguished, several persons below on the right, seem to be women, therefore apsaras; the clouds sketched under this last group and quite to the left, indicate that the procession is moving through the air. Take notice of the tree on the right growing on a rise with the rays of light coming from its side towards the Bodhisattva; a means of showing the radiance, the text speaks of, which he spreads over the earth.

Comparison with other representations of the Great Departure is specially noticeable for what Barabuḍur does not depict of details to be found elsewhere. The figure armed with a bow, to be seen on the Gandhāra reliefs, who is most probably Māra, is not here, but then at this moment he is not playing any part in the Lalitavistara. And we can look in vain for the goddess of the city of Kapilavastu who appears elsewhere and who, the text says, brought a farewell greeting to the Bodhisattva (222:9 etc.) I will here mention also that his companion Vajrapāṇi who is of such importance on the Gandhāra-reliefs and makes his first appearance at the departure without leaving the Bodhisattva after that, is quite unknown on the Barabuḍur.

The representation at Sāñchi Foucher, La porte orientale du stupa de Sanchi (1910) pl. 7. See also Bharhut pl. 20. which of course may not depict the Bodhisattva himself, shows a rider less horse coming out of a town, that in spite of it being night and the inhabitants asleep, seems to be crowded with interested spectators. Chandaka holds an umbrella over his invisible master; four gods hold the hoofs of the horse and others accompany the procession. On another relief at Amarāvatī T.S.W. pl. 98, cf. 96. we see the horse alone with the umbrella coming out of the gate, with two gods in front and two in the air. The umbrella in this kind of scene has more significance than elsewhere as indicating the presence of a person worthy to be honored, but it also asserts itself on the scenes where the Bodhisattva himself is depicted, in spite of there being no practical use for it at that time of night. It is usually yakṣas, not gods, who support the horse in Gandhāra, A.M.I. pl. 80, 129, 130; Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 180, p. 353; 181 p. 355; 182 p. 357; 183 p. 359; 184 p. 361; 187 p. 366; II fig. 404 p. 201; J .LA. I. pl. 19 and 22. we need not notice the instances where they are replaced by one or two women See Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I p. 358-360. also at Amarāvatī T.S.W. pl. 49 or 59, Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, fig. 22 on p. 80; also Burgess, The Buddhist stūpas of Amaravati and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. 16, 32, 38, 40, 41; Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, II fig. 506 p. 563. and Tun-Huang; Stein p. 858, where other representations are compared. See also p. 70. the escort of gods is always present, but there are nowhere two flying in front that should be Śakra and Brahmā. Chinese art at Yun-Kang Chavannes, Mission archeologique dans la Chine septentrionale, fig. 212 and p. 307 etc. gives Śakra holding the umbrella; and the Bodhisattva is alone except for the horse-supporters. At Pagān there are two figures with torches flying in front, as well as the gods in the air and at the feet of the horse, Chandaka too holding on by the tail. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 42 and p. 42 and 96. Ānanda Temple, Pagān

66. The Bodhisattva takes leave of his escort of gods

When the Bodhisattva departed he went through the land of the Śākyas, the Kroḍyas and the Mallas, and was in Anuvaineya in the land of Maineya six yojanas away, at daybreak. Then the Bodhisattva dismounted off Kaṇṭhaka and standing on the ground he took leave of that great company of gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras and mahoragas. (225:5).

The Bodhisattva is still in royal robes, but already stands on the lotus cushion that appeared for the first time on No. 64, when he had taken his decision and will support the feet of the future Buddha from now on; he is turning to the group of standing gods that fills the whole of the right side of the relief. The three figures furthest to the right are yakṣas with wild hair and moustache, the other demi-gods mentioned in the text are not given. Next to the Bodhisattva a figure kneels with an umbrella and a second with a sword. Perhaps these are Śakra and Brahmā, one of whom carried the umbrella on the preceding relief, while the other has the same headdress on both reliefs; or to be more careful: they are probably the two advance figures of the procession (maybe Śakra and Brahmā, maybe not). The man with the sword might be Chandaka who would then be depicted twice: on the left as well, separated from this group by a tree, he is sadly leading off the horse while the faithful beast turns its head round to its master. On two of the Gandhāra-reliefs (Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 184 and 185 p. 361 etc.) Kaṇṭhaka licks his master’s feet (compare Buddhacarita VI, 53), and the same is adopted by the Serindian and old-Chinese art. See Stein p. 858 and pl. LXXV (Tun-Huang), and Chavannes fig. 220 p. 304 (Yun-kang) and fig. 1738 with p. 556. As Pleyte correctly remarks (p. 99), it gives the impression as if the sculptor here intended to illustrate the parting from horse and groom so that we are rather surprised to meet them both again on the next relief.

67. The Bodhisattva takes leave of Chandaka and Kaṇṭhaka, and cuts off his hair

After these were dismissed, he thought to himself: “These ornaments and Kaṇṭhaka I will put into the hands of Chandaka and send them back.” Then the Bodhisattva turned towards Chandaka and spoke: “Go, Chandaka, return with these ornaments and with Kaṇṭhaka.”

Then again the Bodhisattva thought this thought: “How can the wearing of long hair be combined with the life of a wandering monk?” And after cutting off his hair with his sword, he threw it into the air. It was gathered up by the three and thirty gods to do it honor and until this day the feast of the locks of hair is kept by the three and thirty gods. (225:9,15).

On both sides of the relief the style of the landscape is shown by the conventional rocky scene with trees and plants. The Bodhisattva stands in the middle wearing only a loincloth and sacred thread, he is cutting off his hair with a sword. On the right is Chandaka, who holds in his right hand the headdress just received from the Bodhisattva and in his left the sheath of the sword. Kaṇṭhaka stands just behind him; here, the animal has no saddle on, as it had on the preceding relief, and neither bit or bridle: another instance of the sculptor’s indifference to detail. On the other side of the Bodhisattva are some figures of gods, two kneeling, the first of whom reverently holds up a dish of flowers; the large elephant ears of the figure behind him in sĕmbah, make it clear that this must be Śakra’s servant Airāvata, and the one with the flowers will be Śakra himself; Airāvata’s headdress has been knocked off. Behind these two stand three other gods, two of whom make a sĕmbah. Up above, on a cloud, on each side of the Bodhisattva, is a heavenly being; the left one holds a ribbon, probably the hair ribbon, the one on the right has a dish with the coiled-up mass of hair; this seems rather premature for the owner thereof is still busy cutting it off.

In the note on p. 74, I mentioned a couple of Gandhāra-reliefs on which the parting from Chandaka is shown; there too he receives his master’ s tiara with the other ornaments. This is worth noticing because, in the old-Indian art, the gods are seen carrying away the tiara with the hair coiled up inside it; representations of the adoration of it frequently appear Bharhut pl. 16; Sāñchi T.S.W. pl. 30; Amarāvati T.S.W. pl. 59. and the dismissal of Chandaka so as depicted at Sāñchi Foucher, Porte or. pl. 7. agrees with it; here we first see the kneeling servant and the horse, opposite the large footprints that take the place of the Master, and Chandaka has nothing in his hand, while below, where he is going home, he takes garments and ornaments with him, but not the tiara. The Gandhāra art is inconsistent, for sometimes it depicts the tiara being honored by the gods For instance Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 186 p. 365. and at other times puts the tiara into Chandaka’s hands. Barabuḍur’s idea is better, Chandaka gets the tiara and the gods only carry off the hair. Here the sculptor has broken away from the tradition of the adoration of the tiara. The art of Campā also sends away the horse and tiara together. Dong Duong; see Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, II fig. 522 p. 603. The cutting off of only the hair, has also been found on a relief at Sarnāth A.M.I. pl. 67. as well as in Turkestan. See Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I p. 364. Haircutting and leave-taking are treated in the same way as two separate scenes at Ajaṇṭā Foucher, Lettre d'Ajantâ, p. 224. and Tun-Huang. Stein p. 858 and pl. LXXV. Two divine attendants are about to perform the hair-cutting. At Pagān no less than eight reliefs are devoted to the events immediately following the Great Departure up to and including the parting from Chandaka. Seidenstücker, Süd-buddhistische Studien, abb. 43-50 and p. 42-44 and 96-98. The handing over of the ornaments is on 46, the haircutting on 47, the offering of the monk’s dress etc. on 49, the actual parting on 50. Ānanda Temple, PagānĀnanda Temple, PagānĀnanda Temple, PagānĀnanda Temple, Pagān Even at the offering of the monks’ dress he is still to be found.

68. The Bodhisattva receives the russet monk’s frock

And again the Bodhisattva thought: “What has the life of a wandering monk to do with kāśika-clothing? It would be well that I got russet garments suitable to wear in the forest.” Thereupon the thought came to the Śuddhāvāsakāyika gods: “The Bodhisattva is in need of russet garments.” Then one of the gods’ sons put off his divine form and stood, in the shape of a hunter in russet dress, before the Bodhisattva. Then said the Bodhisattva unto him: “If thou, worthy man, givest me thy russet dress, I will give thee these kāśika-garments.” He answered: “Those garments suit you and these suit me.” The Bodhisattva said: “I implore thee.” Then the gods’ son in hunter’s dress gave the russet clothes to the Bodhisattva and received the kāśika-robes. And the gods’ son respectfully, with both hands, placed the garments upon his head and departed to the world of gods to adore them. Now this was seen by Chandaka. (225:20).

The sculptor has taken no notice of the last statement. On one of the Gandhāra-reliefs we can see Chandaka present at the exchange of clothes. Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, I fig. 187 p. 366; J.I.A.I. pl. 22. He is not given a place on this Barabuḍur scene, nor do we find further on, any trace of the lengthy episode, related in the text, of his return to Śuddhodana’s court (p. 229-237). It is just possible that the words “Now this was seen by Chandaka”, may have been added later to the text Foucher, 1.1. p. 367. and we might suppose that this addition did not appear in the text used for the Barabuḍur reliefs. However this conclusion is not necessary, for the sculptor makes free too with another detail in the exchange of clothing; the text speaks expressly of a gods’ son in the shape of a hunter and the Gandhāra-relief actually lays some game at his feet, while at Barabuḍur the artist has not taken the trouble to disguise him and he hands over the garment in his ordinary divine costume.

The right hand side of the relief is taken up by scenery; rocks and trees, animated with a pair of birds and a den in which two tigers lie asleep. On the left of them stands the Bodhisattva, rather dilapidated and headless; he is of course in his undergarments, just receiving the monk’s frock from the hands of the god’s son who stands opposite to him, separated by a large incense-stand. Behind him kneels another god with some object that is broken off, on Wilsen’s drawing a flower; behind stands a third with a bowl of flowers and then comes a whole group seated, many of them with gifts of honor in the hand, up to the edge of the relief, and a tree or two in the background. As seen above, the text makes no mention of all this godly company.

69. The gods express their approval

When the Bodhisattva had cut off his hair and put on the russet garment, at the same moment hundreds of thousands of the gods’ sons, delighted, satisfied, gay and cheerful, with the greatest happiness, joy and transport, gave utterance to their rapture with all kinds of sounds and melody: “Behold friends, prince Siddhartha has become a wanderer. He will attain the highest and most perfect wisdom, and set the wheel of the Law in motion.” (226:14).

A rocky landscape with trees, on both sides of the relief; on the left, are two hares sitting on the rock, on the right several gazelles, while in a cave-like hollow in the ground are placed two round pots with lids, possibly for the use of the Bodhisattva, who stands next on his lotus-cushion. This is the first time we see him in the appearance he will retain for the rest of the series of reliefs: in the monk’ s frock and the hair dressed in small curls forming at the top of the head the uṣṇīṣa. Text reads: in the monk’s frock and the hair dressed in small curls following at the top of the head the from of the uṣṇīṣa ?? He is rather damaged, as also the incense-stand that is next to him. The remaining space is occupied by the adoring gods, kneeling, sitting and standing, many with their hands in sĕmbah. We may notice that the words of the text give no idea that the expressions of joy by the gods over these events, had the character of an adoration of the Bodhisattva as depicted here by the sculptor.


Page 2:
Birth & Youth

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Signs & Renunciation


Photographs and Text by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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