Jātaka and Avadāna on Level 2 Balustrade at Borobudur

high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating both Jātaka and Avadāna Stories, telling the previous lives of the Buddha and his disciples, together with further information.

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Again on this wall it has proved impossible to find a text that corresponds to the reliefs we find there for the most part. The one or two that have been identified are from Avadāna collections, and so it is at least possible the others come from some unknown collections of Avadānas also.

As we saw on the bottom register of the balustrade at Level 1, we do sometimes get sequences of reliefs with similar themes, there it was visits with kings, which were followed by worshipping at a stūpa; here it appears to be meetings with kings. This type of relief occurs at 12, 19, 31, 36, 46, 52, 54, 56, 69, 77, 79, 80, 82, 83, 84, 86, 89, 91, 92, 93, 95, 96, and, depending on how we classify them, others below.

Something else I wanted to show in this series was the decorative reliefs which separated the narrative reliefs. One thing that is noticeable is how the sculptors could take a theme with very limited number of motifs available and still produce endless variations on it. Here there are three main themes: wish-fulfiling trees, flower vases and kinnaras. I have not included them all, but only ones that are well-preserved, and/or significant in terms of iconography.

When reading the wide narrative reliefs remember we now read left to right, as this wall is on the balustrade, and the pradakṣiṇa proceeds clockwise. This means that if there is more than one event sculpted on a panel, the left one normally occurs first.

Many of the reliefs on this wall are missing, and others quite damaged. Most are also unidentified. Descriptions follow.

Unidentified and Decorative Reliefs

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to navigate through the photos below

01 Missing Relief

02 Making Offerings

A few blocks are missing on this relief. On the left women have come and are holding offerings in their hands. In the centre sit three members of the nobility, who presumably were the recipients. On the right sit some more males, seemingly inside a pavilion.

03 Damaged Corner Relief

Many of the blocks are missing from this relief making the action hard to make out. On the left some people are walking with offerings in their hands, it is outside as we see from the trees. On the right three people are sat, one of which at least is a monk.

03a Kinnaras and Misplaced Stūpa

The relief here was of kinnaras, but it is largely broken now. On top a stūpa has been placed, though it really should be a block higher than it now is.

04 A King at Court

On the far left two nobles sit in an antechamber. Next to them, and placed higher, is the king and his consorts – he supports himself with his arm over one of the consort’s shoulders. A number of blocks are then missing. What looks like a different scene is on the right, but the damage is quite bad and it is hard to make out what might have been happening.

05-06 Missing Reliefs

The next two wide reliefs and their dividers, etc. are missing. We see only the Buddha statues which would have been housed in shrines, but now sit exposed to the elements. The main wall on the right is part of the Gaṇḍavyūha sequence near the beginning.

07 Monks with Books

Parts of this relief, particularly on the left, are damaged. In the middle is a building, and on either side we see monks, a couple of which are holding palm-leaf books. This makes me think the building maybe a library. Outside the building on the right one monk kneels and worships.

07a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

In the centre of this decorative relief we see a wish-fulfiling tree (kalpa-taru), and underneath it are five money-bags. On the left one man who is kneeling has a bowl of offerings; and on the right someone wafts an incense-burner.

08 A King and a Monk

This appears to be two scenes, but how they are related is not clear. On the left we see a king sitting on a cushion, with two consorts kneeling beside him. There are many money-bags on the shelf above him; on the right we see a monk holding a book and teaching Dharma. Perhaps it is the king who is nearest to him, he has four companions, all with the hair-style of the elite. Behind the monk is an elaborate building. Maybe the same library we saw on the previous relief.

08a A Flower Vase

This decorative relief features a large flower vase, with garlands hanging from either side. There are also two trays, with flowers, an incense-burner on the right side, and a holder on the left.

09 A Monk and Four Bodhisattvas

On the left we see four Bodhisattvas, with halos round their heads sitting on the floor and holding various postures. Next to them is a chair with a cushion on it, and behind the chair sits a monk under a tree. Quite possibly the reliefs 7-9 are related, but we do not know how. It is a long time till we see a monk on these reliefs again.

09a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

A decorative relief, with a wish-fulfiling tree (kalpa-taru) above three money bags, which have drawing strings hanging down from them. Unusually there are no donors and no guards in this relief.

09b Two Kinnaras

Another decorative relief, this time with a pair of kinnaras. The female kinnarī on the left holds a dish in one hand, and a large flower in the other; the male kinnara on the right seems to have two different types of flowers.

09c Two Kinnaras

Another pair of kinnaras, the female on the left is rather worn, but appears to hold her hands in añjali; the one on the right holds something I cannot identify.

10 A King and a Queen

The relief is divided into two sections. Again it is hard to know how they are related. On the left we see a king inside a building sitting amongst his women; on the right we have a badly damaged relief, which may have shown a queen, sitting on her throne. Next to her are some women, one of whom is giving suck to a rather large infant.

11 Two Figures in Conversation

Two figures, probably a male on the left and a female on the right, seem to be in conversation inside a pavilion. On either side we see groups of people gathered round, with very fine hair-styles, signifying that they are members of the elite. Towards the right the nobles appear to be guarding bales and pots.

11a A Flower Vase

A rather elaborate design motif, with a large vase with flowers and leaves emerging from its spout, and garlands hanging down.

12 A King receives a Visit

On the left are nine people, all with very elaborate hair-styles, being led by a brahmin who is petitioning the king who sits in a pavilion on the right, surrounded by his consorts. The king holds his hand out, presumably in blessing.

12a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree and Kinnaras

Here we see a combination of motifs. We have a central wish-fulfiling tree, with the usual money-bags underneath; and on the left is a female kinnarī, and on the right is a male kinnara.

13 A Building and a Brahmin

A corner relief, with two different scenes, and, as with others, we do not know how or even if they are connected. On the left is a large building, which has swordsmen protecting it on either side. Two figures seem to look out from inside. On the right a brahmin is being offered something from a bowl held by a lady. Four attendants are behind her on the floor, and one is front.

13a A Flower Vase

A flower vase, with a patterned motif around its centre, and two small dishes topped with a flower to either side. There are also incense burners on the far left and right.

14 A Queen and a Bodhisattva

Two scenes again, apparently unrelated. On the left we see a queen, or lady of high-standing, sitting relaxed on a raised seat, and being waited on by her female attendants; on the right what is probably the Bodhisattva as a prince is in conversation with a brahmin who must be his teacher, judging by the respectful way he is being worshipped.

14a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

A highly decorated wish-fulfiling tree stands in the middle, and has five money bags below it. On the far left we see one figure sitting, and on the right a female holds her hands in añjali.

15 An Interview and a Building

Again we have two scenes. On the left we see what looks like an interview between two people of equal rank taking place in a pavilion; on the right all attention is on a very elaborate building. Three people holding bows and arrows sit on the left and three on the right of the building.

15a A Flower Vase

This is a flower vase with a decoration round the middle, and it is flanked by two dishes having a flower atop them. The incense burners, which are normally portrayed, are here omitted though.

16 A Bodhisattva receives a Delegation

A Bodhisattva, recognised from the halo around his head, sits on a plain, raised seat. In front of him is a bearded man, who is evidently important, as he has a parasol above him, and someone holding a fly-whisk behind him. Behind these characters is an army, including two elephants, and men with shields, and others with bows and arrows.

16a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

A very balanced decorative relief showing a wish-fulfling tree, with large flowers protruding from the rim. Underneath are three money bags.

16b Two Kinnaras

A relief showing two kinnaras, probably one is male and one female, as is the pattern in these reliefs, but their sex is hard to determine in this case. One of them has lost its face. They stand under a hanging garland.

16c Two Kinnaras

This relief is very similar to the previous one, with two kinnaras, one male and one female under a hanging garland.

17 A Bodhisattva journeys to a Lady

This time we seem to have a connected corner relief, with the Bodhisattva traveling on the left side going to meet the lady on the right. The Bodhisattva is being carried on a palaquin, and horses and elephants go before him. The lady, whose face is damaged, sits holding a lotus flower and is surrounded by attendants.

18 A Consecration

On the left we see a man sitting on a raised seat and undergoing consecration (abhiṣeka) by two brahmins. There are a line of witnesses on the far left, who may be gods (devas). On the right we see a brahmin paying respects to presumably the same king who is seated with his two consorts, the one on the left being largely eroded by now.

18a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

We see an elaborate wish-fulfiling tree, which has a large parasol over it at the centre, and two large flowers decorating either side. Underneath a row of money bags, and two male figures, who are kneeling.

19 A King gives his Blessing

A king sits on a plain throne inside a building, and has his hand raised in blessing. Behind him on the right we see his followers, together with two horses and elephants (as in 17 above). On the left are seated six people, dressed in finery, with a parasol, a peacock-feather parasol, and standards above them.

19a A Flower Vase

A decorative vase having flowers protruding from its lips, and hanging down its edges. There is a dish placed on either side at the bottom.

20 A Queen in her Court

At the centre we see a queen inside a building and lying recumbant on her couch. Around her, attendants massage her body, and others sit in various postures, including one holding her face in her hands, and another stretching her hands over her back. There are the usual money bags and a treasure chest under the seat she sits on. Outside we see guards with weapons, and what is maybe a night-light.

20a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

The usual stylistic wish-fulfiling tree is seen, with five money bags underneath it. Two guards holding swords sit with the bags protecting them.

21 A Queen and a Baby

There are two scenes on this relief, but in this case they must be related. On the left a queen, perhaps the same queen as on 20 above, is being attended on by her waiting ladies, who seem to be in some commotion. On the right a nurse holds an oversized male baby, which is presumably the queen’s. On the far right three women are walking in the direction of the next large panel.

21a A Flower Vase

There is a flower vase with a belt of flowers around its centre, and a dish on either side, which have flowers on the top.

22 A Damaged Relief

It is hard to see what the story may be here as the panel is very damaged. It seems there is someone sitting on a cushion just right of centre, it is probably a male figure, and he has a female with him. In front of him on the left are several people who appear to be bringing gifts.

23 A Damaged Corner Relief

Not much at all is left of this corner relief. We can see a couple of people sitting on the far left, and some trees, and then another person is sat and looking at the right side, which is entirely missing.

24 Women and Boys

Large sections of this relief are also missing and damaged. Two women sit near the middle of the relief. They apparently have garlands hanging from their necks. In front of them on the left stand three boys. Behind the women are attendants holding gifts.

24a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

We see a nicely balanced wish-fulfiling tree, with a parasol over the middle of it. Underneath are five money bags, and two guards.

25 At the School

A group of boys attend a school, one of them has his back to us, and another peeks out from the shadows. The boys are mainly holding palm-leaf books. In a separate section of the same building is a large character, presumably the teacher, who looks on. He has one elbow resting on his knee. Outside, on either side, sit guards under the trees.

26 At the School

This is a very similar scene to the last one, almost a mirror of it, but here the teacher is now a monk. On the far right people come with offerings. The boys are sat inside a decorated building, as in the last scene.

26a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

Given the various motifs that could be employed, the Borobudur sculptors seem to have delighted in making new arrangements of them. Here we have a wish-fulfiling tree, with Bodhi leaves, and a large flower in the middle. Underneath are two large money bags, and on either side is an incense burner.

27 A Distribution of Gifts

This presumably follows on from the last major relief, and here we see two young boys who are out and about distributing gifts to a large gathering of people, including brahmins. A servant helps carry the gifts that the boys are giving away.

28 A King gives Audience

This corner relief centres around a king, or person of rank, who sits in a pavilion on a cushion. On the left hand side we see seven male figures, who have a parasol, and other signs of wealth; and on the right there are eight similar figures. They are all sat under trees.

28a A Flower Vase

This is one of the most plain of the decorative reliefs we see in this series. Part of the relief is missing. There is a dish on either side of the vase.

28b Two Kinnaras

A male and female kinnara are depicted on this decorative panel, they stand, or rather perch, under a garlanded awning.

28c Two Kinnaras

Another pair of kinnaras, one of each sex, are portrayed in this panel. The male one on the right looks like he is teaching. The female holds a kind of fly-whisk.

29 A Monk rests in a Forest

This is a very fine wilderness scene, packed with trees, birds and animals of various kinds, who surround, and even perch on a recumbant monk who is resting under a tree. It would be fascinating to know which story it was illustrating!

30 Missing Relief

31 Meeting with a King

A king and his consort sit inside a building, with what appears to be an attendant, or perhaps a courtier, behind them. In front, on the left, are four visitors, holding various postures, who are engaging with the couple.

31a A Flower Vase

There is a nicely balanced decorative flower vase with the usual features on this relief; on either side are an incense burner and a dish.

32 Presenting a Baby to the Brahmins

In the centre of the relief we see a group of women inside a building who are holding a baby, which they are presenting or showing to three brahmins who are sat on stools on the right of the frame. On the left we see attendants who are bringing gifts for the brahmins.

32a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

The top half of this relief is missing, but it was certainly a wish-fulfiling tree. It is rather broader than usual, and has two money bags below it, and an incense burner of the left, and an offering of flowers on the right. On the far left and right sit the guards.

33 Learning from the Brahmins

In this relief we see a group of men in a classroom, most of whom are holding palm-leaf books. They are evidently being taught by the brahmin who sits at a slightly higher level on the right. Large sections of this relief are missing, but nothing crucial to the scene.

34 Teaching some Pupils

This is a very badly damaged corner-relief. Most of the left hand side is missing, apart from a few faces and the tops of trees. On the right we can make out a teacher is sat in a separate room, and in front of him are pupils, one of whom holds a palm-leaf book.

34a A Flower Vase

This is a rather plain decorative relief showing a flower vase, with two dishes underneath.

34b Two Kinnaras

On this somewhat worn relief we see two kinnaras, though it is not clear if they are male and female as normal, or two males. There is a dish between them and hanging garlands above them.

34c Two Kinnaras

This relief has fared better than the previous one and we see two male kinnaras, with an incense burner between them, and the usual hanging garland above.

34d A Flower Vase

This is a rather damaged relief showing a simple and hardly adorned flower vase.

35 A Bodhisattva learning Dharma

The central character is this panel appears with a halo around his head, and is therefore presumbly a Bodhisattva. He is sat lower than the brahmin whom he is addressing. The brahmin has a consort with him, while behind are more female attendants.

36 A Conversation in Court

In the centre is a magnificent building with a king and queen on the left, and what may be a Bodhisattva on his knees and palms on the right. They appear to be in conversation. On the far left and under trees are sat many ladies-in-waiting; and on the far right we see many male courtiers.

36a A Flower Vase

This shows a vase with a flower coming from the top, two pots and two censors at the bottom and elaborate decorations in the upper corners, including bird motifs on either side of the central flower.

37 A Procession

A procession of people are moving to the right and are being led by three horses. The main character is the one slightly behind the parasol, and behind him come his men at arms. The character immediately in front of him has his back to us, and we see his hair hanging down in ringlets.

38 Missing Corner Relief

As we can see, all the blocks in this corner relief have been lost.

The Sages and the Tigers

The story for this sequence is quite unknown, but the following four narrative reliefs (here separated by decorative reliefs) must belong to the same story, and perhaps the one that follows them too, showing a stūpa.

39 Three Sages and two Tigers

On the left two people sit under the trees and one of them appears to be pointing out the scene in front of him to his servant. Next to him we see two tigers who are rather bunched up inside a small, plain building. On top of the building itself we see some monkeys sitting. On the right three sages (ṛṣis) look on at the tigers also.

39a A Flower Vase

An unusual relief in that it is asymmetric. Pictured is a vase in the middle, with a flower-topped dish on the left, and a burning censor on the right. The vase has a pleasant looking band around its middle.

40 A Tiger and Cub approach the Sages

In the centre we again see the three sages who are apparently discussing some matter. A king or noble sits off to the left with his servant. On the right we see one of the tigers, this time with a young cub amongst the rocks and trees. They appear to be approaching the main characters. Notice the pair of peacocks sitting on the far right tree.

40a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

This is a very nicely balanced decorative relief: the tree spreads out expansively and below it are seen two money pots. On either side sit guards ready to defend the riches, both looking outside the frame.

41 Sages fly away from Danger

On the left is the full tiger family, mother, father and two small outlined cubs under the trees, which also has other creatures: birds and squirrels. On the right are the sages, one is still sitting and looking at the tiger family, while the other two have started to fly away in the air.

41a A Flower Vase

This is a rather simple and elegant flower vase decoration, with two flower-topped dishes underneath it.

41b Two Kinnaras

Two kinnaras are seen holding up flowers on their stems. They seem to be inside a building which has garlands hanging from its roof, and pillars on either side.

41d A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

A rather plain tree stands in the middle of the relief, unusually without decoration, or animals or birds. Underneath are two similarly simple money pots, with only a criss-cross design on them, and flowers on the top.

42 Two Sages and the Tiger Family

This relief is quite similar in many ways to 41, but with this difference: the sage who was seated before the tiger family is no longer pictured. The two sages who were flying away though are. What are to presume here? Has the tiger fed the sage to the cubs, who are now in their own dens? Without a known story to attach to the relief it is hard to be sure.

43 Worship at a Stūpa

Similarly if we had the story we might be able to determine whether this relief belongs with the previous story or not. It could quite possibly show the stūpa of the sage eaten by tigers (if that is what happened). It might also just be just an independent ‘worshipping the stūpa’ scene.

* * *

44 Watching Two Dancers

The scene is split in two: on the left we see two dancers and various musicians and others inside a decorated pavilion. The dancers themselves are showing very expressive postures. On the right the king sits inside an elaborate palace in relaxed pose, with his consorts gathered behind him.

44a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

A large spreading wish-fulfiling tree fills the upper half of this relief. Underneath two soldiers hold curved swords to protect the weath in the money pots they sit next to.

45 Distributing Gifts

This is an interesting and fairly well-preserved panel. It shows a king and his consorts on the right inside a decorated building looking on as servants distribute money and clothes to various people on the left of the relief. The character in the middle with the beard holds a large pot with money bags inside which he is evidently passing out to the others.

45a A Flower Vase

A pleasantly decorated flower vase sits at the centre of this relief, with a flower emerging from its mouth. On the top corners is a very pleasing lotus motif. Two plates stand on either side of the vase.

46 Two Conversations

This panel is split into two halves both having similar scenes. On the left the king is sat with two of his consorts, whom he has turned to look at. In front of him are four characters, two having beards, who were evidently in conversation with the king; on the right the king – the same or another we don’t know – is sat with two visitors and conversing with them, while his wives sit behind.

46a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

The kalpa-taru in this case is quite elaborately designed, and underneath are two money pots with two people who must be protecting them, though they are worn and it is hard to see what they were carrying in their hands.

47 In the Forest and in Court

Again we had two halves, this time they appear to be sequential with the same character appearing in each of the scenes. On the left we see what must be a king meeting under the trees with a bearded sage, and one other; then on the right the same person is back in his court and addressing his consorts. Notice the finely drawn horses behind his retinue.

48 Damaged Reliefs

We can see how bad the damage is in this photograph, with missing stones replaced with freshly cut ones, and the whole having a rather disorderly look to it. The exposed Buddha statue is also missing the housing which would have enclosed it.

49 Meeting with a King

This is a damaged and worn relief, but we can still see enough to understand it is a meeting with a king and his consort who are pictured on the far left; in front of them sits a bearded man who holds his hands up is respect, and then his companions, both male and female. A horse features behind the characters on the right.

49a A Flower Vase

A large vase fills up most of this decorative relief, it has some small patterning around its middle, and flowers abound near its rim. Apart from that is is quite plain and unremarkable.

50 A Bodhisattva sits with a King

This is such an interesting relief, and there is so much story in it, we just wish we knew what it was! In the centre a Bodhisattva, marked by a halo, is sat inside a pavilion and at the same height as the person he is visiting, whose features are lost, but whom we may presume was a king. Notice the unusual knee support on this character holds up both knees. Behind the Bodhisattva is a group of persons who have followed him.

51 Bringing Tribute to the King

This is another meeting and conversation scene, what stands out on this one though is the amount of tribute that the attendants are bringing for the king. The main character is in the centre, and may be a Bodhisattva, and in front of him are what looks like three monks.

52 Meeting with a King

The king in this case sits inside a rather elaborately decorated building, with three consorts and a couple of ladies-in-waiting just outside. Between him and his visitors is an incensory, then comes a large group of people with the foremost character being bearded and looking back on the others. Just behind him one person was standing, and was probably the leader of the group, but everything above the legs is missing.

53 A Procession

This is a procession scene with many people, including musicians, moving to the right. Near the front of the line we see a large chest being carried. The foremost of the figures are much smaller than the other and may be children. The whole appears to be outside, as we see some trees pictured under the chest.

53a A Flower Vase

This is a nicely decorated vase with a floral pattern around its middle. Above flowers flow out on either side from the spout, while one of them stands firm and upright.

53b Two Kinnaras

This is a very well-balanced relief showing two kinnaras holding their hands in añjali. Below them is a plate of flowers, and the building they are pictured in is festooned with hanging garlands.

54 Meeting with a King

The king sits inside a solid building with a consort on either side and wielding his own fly-whisk for a change. On the right are more ladies-in-waiting. On the left his visitors are led by a brahmin who stands and addresses the king. His followers are behind and hold swords, arrows and parasols. Above we see the arch which would have contained a Buddha statue, but the latter is missing now.

55 Meeting with a King

Unusually, the king sits alone in his palace here, his women being outside under the trees on the right. He is holding his hands in a teaching posture, but does not appear to be speaking at this point. On the left a group has come to meet him, and the foremost member, who must be a brahmin, is speaking while holding his hands in añjali.

55a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

Two soldiers holding swords protect four money pots, which are placed around the kalpa-taru in this relief. The tree flourishes above them spreading out to the edge of the relief.

56 A King and a Brahmin

This is now the last in this sequence of meetings with kings, and it seems to reverse the normal configuration. The king, whom we would expect to be on the right of the building with his wives behind him, is pictured on the left, while the brahmin, who must be the visitor, as in other reliefs, is placed on the right. One of the characters in his entourage is pictured playfully with his back to us.

56a A Flower Vase

A simply decorated vase sits in the middle with the usual flowers blossoming around it. On the left and right are two unevenly sized bowls holding more flowers piled up on them.

57 The King goes Hunting

The scene is set in the wilderness, with trees, rocks and many animals around, including deer and pigs, and birds in the trees. On the left the king is leading a hunting party and his attendants hold various weapons, swords and bows and arrows amongst them.

58 The Wilderness

This very much looks like an extension of the previous panel, showing more of the wilderness. There are trees, rocks, a river flowing with fish in it, and birds flying overhead. Just a few blocks on the right are missing, so we can’t be certain there were no human figures in this scene.

The Sage and the Hare

The next three panels show a variation on the sage and the hare story, which we have come across in the balustrade on the bottom register at Level 1 (no. 79), and again in the Jātakamālā (Jm VI). Here though it has a different ending.

The story is as follows: one time a sage lived in the wilderness and had a friend, a hare, who was the Bodhisattva in a previous incarnation. When a drought struck the hare decided to offer his body to the sage. In this story he does just that, but evidently here the fire turns into a lotus pond as he tries to sacrifice himself. We do not know the exact origin of this version of the story.

59 The Sage in the Wilderness

This is a corner relief, and much of the left hand side is damaged, but we see a pig and a tree; on the right hand side there is a sage sitting and worshipping the hare (who is the Bodhisattva incarnate) who sits at a higher level and who must have been teaching Dharma. On the far right are more animals and birds in a wilderness setting.

60 Two Scenes with the Sage

This seems to be two scenes. In the first the hare is under the tree on the far left, he is watching the sage tend the sacred fire, which is very nicely portrayed; on the right of the panel the hare appears to be once again in conversation with the sage. Other animals look on from the right.

61 The Hare and the Lotus Pond

This is another wilderness scene with many animals looking on, including an ox, deer, pigs, antelopes and birds. In the top centre of the scene we see the hare sitting atop a lotus flower, which is itself emerging out of a beautiful lotus pond. It seems we are to presume that when the hare tried to offer himself in the fire, it turned into a lotus pond.

The Resplendent Peacock

I give the story according to the Tanjur (Rockhill 1897), pp. 12-14, only the first half of the story is illustrated on the reliefs that remain. The story also occurs in the Avadānasārasamuccaya (Handurukande 1972). A variation of the story is known to the Pāḷi Jātakas in Morajātaka (Jā 159), but it differs in details.

This story is of a peacock (the Bodhisattva) who lived at Mt. Kailaśa whose voice was so lovely the queen of Vārāṇasī longed to see him. The king (later Śāriputra) therefore sent his fowlers to capture him under threat of death if they failed, but still they were unable to achieve their aim.

The peacock learning of their plight offered to come if the king received him with respect. The king therefore himself went to Kailaśa and escorted him back to Vārāṇasī and paid homage to him. He also asked the queen to feed and look after him.

While the king was away the queen became pregnant through an adulterous affair, and fearing the peacock would betray her decided to poison it. This deed had no affect on the peacock, but the queen died and fell into hell.

62 The King, the Queen and the Peacock

This corner panel is divided into two scenes. On the left we see the queen, and it appears that she has already told her request to the king, who now addresses his fowlers; on the right the king of the peacocks appears with his queen in a wilderness setting, along with other animals.

62a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

One of best of the kalpa-taru depicted on this wall, with fairly realistic branches, foilage and flowers. Beneath the tree are two large rotund money pots, and their two guards who hold expressive postures. This is a very pleasing decorative panel.

63 The Peacock and the Fowlers

I think this panel must be divided into two again. On the left we see the fowlers have set up their traps in the wilds and are sitting nearby, but the traps are empty; on the right the peacock is talking with apparently different fowlers and they are explaining why they persist.

64 The Peacock is escorted to Vārāṇasī

This is a very memorable relief as the peacock is being escorted to Vārāṇasī in a large chariot accompanied by nobles of the court. I don’t think the king is among them, or at least he is not distinguished, so maybe the story the sculptors knew varies on this point. A mounted pair of horses lead the way.

65 The Peacock addresses the King

Here we see the peacock is being honoured by being placed on the throne, while the king sits in front of him with his consorts behind him. Those behind the peacock must be the courtiers who brought him from Kailaśa.

The rest of the story concerns the queen’s adultery, poisoning of the peacock, and descent into hell. It may have been shown on 66-67.

66-67 Broken Reliefs

The next two reliefs and their decorative panels are very broken. I include it here to show how poorly preserved many parts of the wall are, and the Buddha statues and housing that were behind them.

68 A Brahmin teaches Dharma to the Nobles

This is another interesting scene, a brahmin, presumably the Bodhisattva, is sat on a high cushion in an elaborate pavilion and has his hand raised in teaching posture; on the right a group of eight nobles sit holding various postures as they listen to the teaching.

69 A Brahmin teaches Dharma to the King

Again we see a brahmin teaching, and he may be the same as the one on the previous panel. This time he sits with the king inside a pavilion, and the king holds his hands in añjali. On the left and right are presumably the king’s men, the foremost of each holds a pot, presumably as an offering to the teacher.

70 A Bodhisattva teaching Dharma

In the middle of the panel we see a Bodhisattva sitting, identified by the halo behind his head. A noble or perhaps a king sits in front of him and holds his hands in worship. His attendants are behind him. Next to him on the right is a throne, but unfortunately we cannot see what was on it because of the damage. A lady sits on the far right.

71 Offerings

Most of this panel is missing, and all we can see now are some peripheral characters holding offerings of one sort or another. It was probably another meeting with a king.

72 A King receives Offerings

Unfortunately a large part of this panel is also missing, and it is hard to make out what is depicted. It appears that a king with a very elaborate headdress is looking back at some people behind him who have come with offerings. The lady who is standing is intruiging, but we do not know her role. On the far right, guards sit under a tree.

73 Damaged Reliefs

Once again we see that a whole set of panels have been broken and replaced with fresh cut stone, obscuring the connection between panels.

74 Ladies with Offerings

A group of ladies are assembled with offerings on the left, the foremost of them having both arms crossed in front of her. Between her and the king is a parasol, then the top part of the king, which is all that is left. On the far right sit soldiers bearing arms.

74a A Flower Vase

A very symmetrical flower vase is pictured with flowers cascading from the rim. Beneath are four censors, two large and two small.

75 Presenting a Child to the Queen

On the left the queen sits on a couch and is being supported and massaged by her ladies-in-waiting and appears quite exhausted. Perhaps she has just given birth, and the child is being brought to her by the nurses who sit in the pavilion in the centre of the relief. On the right sit the guards under the tree.

76 The Child is shown to the Brahmin

Presumably the same child is now being shown by the king and his consorts to the brahmin priest (purohita) who will be predicting his future. It is not clear what is behind the child’s head, which gives him an elf-like appearance. Outside sit ladies-in-waiting and guards.

77 Nobles visit the King

In this panel the king is being attended to by four beautiful women while relaxing on his throne, and there are more ladies-in-waiting on the far left. On the right five nobles have come to visit him, and are sitting under the trees, their guards are on the far right.

78 Bringing Offerings

This is a very damaged corner panel which obscures what the scene was. We can see some people both on the right and the left who have offerings in their hands, but the central characters are missing.

79 The Brahmin who was King

This is rather unusual as the central character is a brahmin, who also appears to be king, rather than an advisor, which is the normal role for a brahmin. He appears here and on the next relief. A woman stands behind him in the pavilion, while outside another brahmin sits with his palms open as though explaining something to the king.

79a A Flower Vase

This is rather nice vase with a slim waist, and only a few flowers emerging from its opening. It is asymmetrical, on the left is a censor, and on the right is a dish with a flower atop it.

80 The Brahmin-King in Discussion

This is presumably the same brahmin-king as we saw on the previous panel. Here he is in discussion with several other brahmins who have come to visit him, and they all sit at the same level. Notice the king has a sword, which again is unusual iconography for a brahmin and for a king.

80a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

A rather slim trunk leads up to its flourishing branches which spread widely on both sides. Underneath are two money pots, and two guards holding, not swords this time, but lotuses in their hands.

81 The King and his Consorts

The king lies back and relaxes while his consorts all around attend to him. Underneath his couch soldiers guard his wealth. Just outside the central pavilion women sit and one plays music on a lute. Notice the two gateways on either side of these quarters. Other people are outside the gates.

81a A Flower Vase

A less decorated vase stands in the middle of this panel with flowers tumbling from its rim. On either side we see a censor and another object, pehaps it holds fragrant water.

82 Meeting with a King

A king and his queen sit inside a decorated pavilion while on the left a group is sat and engaged in conversation with him. The leading two figures seem to be brahmins. On the far right are three female attendants, finely dressed.

83 A Brahmin-King receives the Nobles

It very much looks like we have another brahmin-king here in his pavilion. He is in discussion with the group of nobles who have come to visit him and are sat under the tree. Behind them their attendants are carrying something on their shoulders, which judging by a similar scene on 86 is a pot, but what is in it we can’t be sure.

84 Meeting with a King

In this corner panel we see first on the left a group of people sat on the ground and holding various postures. Behind them there is a pair of well-drawn elephants. On the right the king sits at ease with his ladies to the left. There was someone else sitting with drawn up knees to the right but the top of the figure is missing, and we can’t understand what role he or she plays in the scene.

85 Brahmins attend a Fire

On the far left there is a sacrificial fire with two brahmins attending to it. Behind them two women stand, and then a group of four nobles, and then more women behind them. To the right we see the animals of the forest: elephants, deer, a sheep, a goat and a hare.

86 Meeting with a King

In the pavilion sits a king, this time unaccompanied by his consorts. He is in conversation with the four nobles who sit under trees in front of him. Behind them their men bring tribute in a pot on their shoulders, probably gold. A dwarf holds up a whisk nearby.

86a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

This is a very nicely carved kalpa-taru with Bodhi-leaves hanging from it, and a parasol above it. Below the tree are two large money pots, and on the left the guard holds a censor and a fan to waft the incense on the tree, on the right the guard holds a lotus.

87 A Bodhisattva in the Wilderness

The animals here seem to connect this relief to no. 85 above, and therefore probably to 86 also. In the centre sits someone in meditation posture (dhyāna-mudrā), who is almost certainly a Bodhisattva. There are two nobles on either side. Then three distinct rows of animals which are mirrored on either side, the topmost horses and elephants, the middle goats and cows, and the bottom row of sheep and goats, with a hare slightly above them.

88 A Procession

This corner piece is another of the processions the Borobudur sculptors excelled at. This one is distinguished by the central figure on the left being carried in a palaquin. We see an elephant in the middle of the scene, and to the right five bearded men lead the way into the wilderness, where the lines indicate it is raining heavily breaking a branch from the tree.

Meetings with Kings

Perhaps significantly we here get a series of meetings with kings which continues until the end of panels which are preserved. This has been a constant theme throughout this series, and many of them have had little to distinguish them one from the other.

89 Meeting with a King

The king sits in his pavilion and looks at his two queens, not at the visitors on the right. For their part two sit with their hands held in añjali, while attendants are seen standing behind them. We also see two horses. On the right men still carry the palaquin, and on the far right a bearded men sits in front of an empty throne.

90-91 Missing

92 Meeting with a King

On the right the meeting is taking place with the king and three visitors in conversation. Behind him is the most interesting character: his consort holds up a mirror and attends to her hair. On the far top left we see what must be devas in the air carrying tribute on their shoulders.

93 Meetings with a Queen and a King

There are seemingly two similar scenes in this panel. On the left the queen sits in a pavilion while in front of her are four people with gifts. On the right we see the king, this time with his consort, in conversation with someone sitting at the same height and inside the pavilion. The damage prevents us from determining their exact status.

94 Meeting with a King

This is a heavily damaged relief, but we see enough to know that this again features a king meeting with visitors. The king has his consort behind him, and other ladies-in-waiting are pictured on the right.

95 A Bodhisattva in Meditation

Near the centre a Bodhisattva is sat in meditation posture with a ring of fire around him, perhaps signifying his potency. On the left are some nobles who have come with gifts, while on the right we se a nāga down on all fours in reverence. There is an elaborate building on the right but what it contained is obscured by missing blocks. On the far right stands another nāga.

95a A Wish-Fulfiling Tree

Three large money bags stand in the centre of this decorative panel, with a wish-fulfilling tree above them. On either side stand two pairs of kinnaras, one male and one female.

96 Meeting with a King

The king sits in a very elaborately decorated building with two consorts. On the left his visitors line up under a tree including some who hold swords. On the right are ladies of the court, both sitting and standing.

96a A Flower Vase

Another elaborate flower vase with floral designs flourishing around the top of the vase. Two dishes sit alongside the vase and are topped with lotuses. On the outside are censors.

97 Meeting with a King

This relief once again shows a king and his consort meeting with important visitors, the foremost two of whom are, in this case, very badly worn away. The consort holds up a lotus flower, and behind her sit the ladies-in-waiting.

97a Wish-Fulfiling Tree and Kinnaras

This is two decorative panels in one photograph. On the left we see a simple wish-fulfiling tree, with three money bags underneath. The relief of the right shows two kinnaras, with a large lotus over them, and a censor between them.

98 Meeting with a King

This another of the generic meetings with kings. In this case the main king is standing, and his courtiers sit behind him; in front of him, on the right, is another king, who is raising his hands in añjali, and his entourage.

99-100 Missing

As we began this wall, so we end, with a number of reliefs that are missing. We see two well-preserved, but exposed, Buddha statues with their enclosures missing, and beyond the well-kept Borobudur Park.

It is unfortunate indeed that one of the world’s great works of artistic and spiritual endeavour should have become so derelict in places, and we hope that every effort is made to preserve what remains for future generations to be inspired by.

 

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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