Description In this panel, made to adorn the surface of a stupa (a sacred reliquary mound), five disciples wearing monastic robes listen intently as the Buddha offers instruction; his extended hand and the edge of his halo provide clues to the original appearance of the standing figure. The pillar between the Buddha and his disciples is rich with symbolism. The wheel is an emblem of the Buddha’s teachings, and the presence of three wheels alludes to the “three jewels” of Buddhism: the Buddha, his teachings, and the community of monks and nuns. The lion is a symbol of the Buddha; here, the lions supporting the central wheel propagate Buddhist teachings in all four directions (three lions are visible; a fourth, in back, is implied). The female figures supporting the other wheels derive from pre-Buddhist divinities associated with nature and abundance. Known as "yakshis," they were incorporated into the Buddhist traditions, serving and supporting the Buddha’s teachings and followers.
Provenance William Wolf, New York; Walters Art Museum, 1971, by purchase.
Credit Museum purchase, 1971
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