Scenes from the life of the Buddha

Historical period(s)
Kushan dynasty, late 2nd-early 3rd century
H x W x D: 67 x 289.8 x 9.8 cm (26 3/8 x 114 1/8 x 3 7/8 in)
Pakistan or Afghanistan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 02: Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent
Sculpture, Stone

Buddhist frieze

Afghanistan, birth, bodhi tree, Buddha, Buddhism, enlightenment, Kushan dynasty (1st century BCE - 299 CE), monk, Pakistan, parinirvana, preaching, Queen Maya, worship
Provenance research underway.

After meditating for forty days beneath a pipal tree, the Buddha approached the moment of omniscience. Evil demons have failed to distract him, and he calmly touches the earth goddess to witness his attainment of enlightenment. His right hand, lowered in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsha mudra), signals that moment. The Buddha is depicted with the characteristic forehead mole (urna) and cranial bump (ushnisha) that symbolize his immense spiritual capacity.

Published References
  • Buddhism and Its Religious Others: Historical Encounters and Representations. Oxford, May 3, 2022. fig. 7.5.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. cover, pp. 28-31.
  • Un Torbellino de Miradas a la Glandula Tiroides. Mexico. .
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. vol. 11: pl. 85a-b.
  • Dietrich Seckel, Helmut Brinker, John M. Rosenfield. Before and Beyond the Image: Aniconic Symbolism in Buddhist Art. no. 48 Zurich. fig. 54b.
  • E. Dale Saunders. Mudra: A Study of Symbolic Gestures in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture. Bollingen Series, no. 58 New York. pl. 2.
  • John M. Rosenfield. The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans. California Studies in the History of Art, no. 6 Berkeley. pls. 81-82.
  • Ratan Parimoo, Kanak Publications. The Life of Buddha in Indian Sculpture, Ashta-maha-pratiharya: An Iconological Analysis. New Delhi. fig. 38.
  • Jung Hee Lee. The Contemplating Bodhisattva Images of Asia, with Special Emphasis on China and Korea. Ann Arbor. pl. 5.
  • Lawrence S. Cunningham, John J. Reich. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities., 6th ed. Belmont, CA. fig. 5.2.
  • Isao Kurita. The Life Story of Buddha. .
  • Eternal Images of Sakyamuni: Two Gilt-Bronze Korean National Treasures. Seoul. .
  • Vidya Dehejia. Stupas and Sculptures of Early Buddhism. vol. 2, no. 3 New York, Summer 1989. .
  • Capolavori nei secoli: Enciclopedia di tutte i popoli in tutti i tempi. 12 vols., Milan, 1961 - 1964. vol. 3: p. 172.
  • Aschwin Lippe. The Freer Indian Sculptures. Oriental Studies Series, no. 8 Washington, 1970. pl.8, 11, 14, 16.
  • Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Kimberley Heuston. The Ancient South Asian World. The World In Ancient Times London. p. 2.
  • India and Greece: Connections and Parallels. Bombay. p. 2.
  • Treasure House of the Middle East. vol. 8, no. 19 Beirut, May 9, 1957. p. 11.
  • Sonya S. Lee. Surviving Nirvana: Death of the Buddha in Chinese Visual Culture. Hong Kong. pp. 14-15, figs. 1.4, 1.5.
  • Francesco Abbate. Arte dell'Inde e dell'Indonesia. Milan. p. 24.
  • W.J. Duiker, J.J. Spielvogel. The Essential World History., 2nd ed. pp. 26, 37.
  • W. Aubrey Cartwright. Guide to Art Museums in the United States: East Coast, Washington to Miami., 1st ed. New York. p. 35.
  • Will Deming. Rethinking Religion: A Concise Introduction. New York. p. 40.
  • Miranda Shaw. Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton. p. 48.
  • Calendar of Exhibitions. vol. 16, no. 7 Hong Kong, July 1985. p. 56.
  • Michelle C. Wang, Maghiel van Cevel. Maṇḍalas in the Making: The Visual Culture of Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang. Sinica Leidensia, vol. 139 Leiden, The Netherlands. p. 62, fig. 18.
  • Anne Bancroft. Religions of the East. New York. pp. 75, 104.
  • Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi, Matthew Abrahams. In Defense of "Enlightenment". no. 4 Congers, NY, August 2021. pp. 80-81.
  • Phillip E. Bishop. Adventures in the Human Spirit., 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. pp. 92-93, fig. 4.29.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 96-99.
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Rebecca Bloom. Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism. Chicago, December 2017. p. 128, p. 142, fig. 12, fig. 14.
  • Veronica Ions. Indian Mythology. London. pp. 132-133.
  • Susan L. Huntington, John C. Huntington. The Art of Ancient India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain., 1st ed. New York. p. 143.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. p. 163, fig. 1.
  • Baruch S. Blumberg. Goitre in Gandhara. vol. 12, no. 4, Winter 1966. p. 242.
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. pp. 348-49.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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