Buddhist Art in Java

Avadāna, the Traditions about the Bodhisattva, Level 1, Inner Wall at Borobudur

a large collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Previous Lives of the Buddha as told in the Divyāvadāna and elsewhere, together with a text by A. Foucher explaining the stories.

 

1: The Traditions about Sudhana 2: The Traditions about Mandhata 3: The Traditions about Rudrayana 4: The Birth Story of Bhallatiya 5: The Traditions about Maitrakanyaka

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5. Maitrakanyaka's Story

Text by A. Foucher, Buddhist Art in Java

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 106 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 106 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Under a mandapa Maitrakanyaka, seated on the ground with his hands joined, is offering to his mother a purse, which he has just placed before her upon a tray adorned with flowers. The bystanders are numerous : behind the mother are seven women, standing or crouching; behind the son may be counted five of his companions. Quite at the left a house is seen in outline. It will be observed that the left elbow of the mother is as though the joint were twisted : let us not hasten to cry out that this is a mistake on the part of the sculptor, or even a deformity, at least according to the native taste : the skilfully dislocated arms of the Javanese dancing-girls bend no otherwise than in this position.

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 107 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 107 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

An edifice cuts the panel into two distinct parts. On the right Maitrakanyaka is practising his last sedentary occupation, that of a goldsmith, as is proved by the small balance held by a woman, who may be either his mother or a simple customer. In the foreground a purse, bigger than that of the preceding picture, is doubtless supposed to contain the 32 karsapanas. The four legendary gifts would thus have been reduced by the sculptor to two. On the left, in fact, despite the poor state of the bas-relief, we see the mother of Maitrakanyaka vainly prostrated at his feet.

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 108 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 108 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

The supplications of his mother failed to restrain Maitrakanyaka; on the right we see the sad end of his sea-voyage, on the left his encounter with the four first nymphs. Here the sculptor seems to have been afraid neither of repeating himself nor of wearying the spectator by the sight of so many pretty women; for we perceive successively:

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 109 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 109 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

The encounter with the 8 nymphs...

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 110 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 110 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

...The encounter with the 16 nymphs (in point of fact they are only 11)...

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 110 of 120, Maitrakanyaka (detail, left)

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 110 of 120, Maitrakanyaka (detail, left)

A nymph.

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 111 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 111 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

...The encounter with the 32 nymphs (14 in reality)...

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 112 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 112 of 120, Maitrakanyaka

At last the mania for roaming has led Maitrakanyaka as far as a town of hell : apparently he is gathering information from the terrible guardian of the place, whilst in the background we perceive, with a burning wheel upon its head, the condemned soul whose place, unwittingly, he has come to take. For the rest both wear the same costume, with the exception of a few details in the form of their jewels. But these differences, slight though they be, exclude, it appears, the possibility of recognizing Maitrakanyaka a second time in the sufferer. There is every reason for believing, on the contrary, that, owing to a scruple of the artist, just as we did not see him strike his mother, so also we are not witnesses of his punishment : like his crime, his chastisement is only suggested. We must not forget, in fact, that he is the Bodhisattva in person. According to the texts, the wheel of fire has scarcely mounted upon his head, than he forms a vow to endure this terrible suffering for ever with a view to the salvation of humanity : whereupon he is immediately freed from all suffering. Does the left part of the panel forthwith represent this apotheosis? Or does the palisading which intersects the building, while at the same time determining the boundaries of the interior of the infernal town, serve as a framework for a new action? This it is almost impossible for us to decide, so long as we have not identified in their turn the eight panels of the following and final story.

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120 (detail, left)

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120 (detail, left)

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 114 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 114 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120 (detail, centre left)

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120 (detail, centre left)

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120 (detail, centre right)

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 113 of 120 (detail, centre right)

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 115 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 115 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 116 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 116 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 117 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 117 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 118 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 118 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 119 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 119 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 119 of 120 (detail)

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 119 of 120 (detail)

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 120 of 120

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 120 of 120

 

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 120 of 120 (detail, far left)

Divyavadana, East Wall, Panel 120 of 120 (detail, far left)

1: The Traditions about Sudhana 2: The Traditions about Mandhata 3: The Traditions about Rudrayana 4: The Birth Story of Bhallatiya 5: The Traditions about Maitrakanyaka

 

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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