One face of a fence-rail from Bharhut: Worship at a Stupa

Historical period(s)
Shunga dynasty, early 2nd century BCE
H x W x D: 47.5 x 51.9 x 8 cm (18 11/16 x 20 7/16 x 3 1/8 in)
India, Madhya Pradesh state
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 02: Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent
Sculpture, Stone

Buddhist sculpture

apsara, Buddha, Buddhism, circumabulation, dharmachakra, India, Shunga dynasty (ca. 185 to 75 BCE), stupa, worship
Provenance research underway.

This carving, from a stupa at the site of Bharhut in northwest India, provides an early document of Buddhist faith and art. Images of a man and a woman are repeated three times to represent their movement as they walk around the stupa and kneel before it in worship.  Flying celestial beings above bear offerings of flower garlands with which to adorn the dome of the stupa.  Hand prints on the stupa's base indicate worship by ritual touching.

Published References
  • Freer Gallery of Art. Gallery Book IV: Exhibition of September 24, 1934. Washington, September 24, 1934. .
  • Buddhist Stupas in South Asia: Recent Archaeological, Art-historical, and Historical Perspectives. SOAS studies on South Asia Delhi and Oxford. cover image.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. vol. 11: pl. 2.
  • Ratan Parimoo, Kanak Publications. The Life of Buddha in Indian Sculpture, Ashta-maha-pratiharya: An Iconological Analysis. New Delhi. fig. 41.
  • Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. La Sculpture de Bharhut. Bibliotheque d'art, nouvelle serie; 6 Paris. pl. 25, fig. 65.
  • Eleanor von Erdberg Consten. Kunst und Religion in Indien, China, und Japan. Geisteswissenschaften Heft 120 Cologne. pl. 21.
  • Ludwig Bachhofer. Early Indian Sculpture. 2 vols., New York. vol. 1: pl. 28.
  • Aschwin Lippe. The Freer Indian Sculptures. Oriental Studies Series, no. 8 Washington, 1970. pl. 7.
  • Alexander Cunningham. The Stupa of Bharhut: A Buddhist Monument Ornamented with Numerous Sculptures Illustrative of Buddhist Legend and History in the Third Century B.C. London. pp. 6, 12, 110, pl. 31, fig. 1.
  • Benjamin Rowland. The Evolution of the Buddha Image. Exh. cat. New York. p. 7.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 26-27.
  • Pratapaditya Pal. Art and Ritual of Buddhism. vol. 2, no. 3 New York, Summer 1989. p. 35.
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Rebecca Bloom. Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism. Chicago, December 2017. p. 98, fig. 9.
  • Mireille Benisti. A propos de la sculpture de Bharhut. vol. 5, no. 2 Paris, 1958. p. 131.
  • Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Kimberley Heuston. The Ancient South Asian World. The World In Ancient Times London. p. 134.
  • Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. The Two Reliefs from Bharhut in the Freer Gallery. Calcutta, June/December 1938. pp. 149-162, pl. 34.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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