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0613 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 613 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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bodices, green on the left and flesh-coloured on the right, with cloaks coloured in the reverse order across the left shoulder ; the scale-armour skirt over the hips and abdomen is also recognizable in the photograph. The left figure, wearing bangles on the right arm, seemed to point towards the animals, while the other raised the left hand in a gesture which apparently expressed abhorrence or pity. Above the shoulder of this figure three Kharosthi characters tentatively read by me as tlra mi ira (?) were faintly traceable. On the extreme right, and quite close to the edge of the wall still retaining a wooden door jamb, appeared a small youthful figure astride a galloping animal which seemed to have the body of a yellow, black-spotted beast, but the head and neck of a horse (Fig. 141). The rider, lightly clad as if in a vest and ` shorts ', had his arms clasped round the animal's neck. By the side of his breast I could just make out two Kharosthi characters which seemed to read ese, like the first two visible on the inscribed lintel at the beginning of the frieze.

I could not reasonably hope that these sorry remnants of the frieze on the wall of the northern Interpreta-

hemicycle would help towards the interpretation of the scenes presented. It was different with the tion of


animated procession which unrolled itself before me on the fascinating frieze of the remaining southern frieze.

arc. Strangely reminiscent of the distant Hellenistic West as were the background with its fine Pompeian red and a good deal of the details in the drawing, there could be no possible doubt that the subject of the frieze was taken from some Buddhist sacred story. Yet my knowledge of Buddhist hagiology failed me at the time for the identification of it, nor could I subsequently find leisure for a systematic search even when the needful books might have been available. So it was a special gratification to me when, in the summer of 1910, the puzzle as to the subject of the frieze was solved by my friend, M. Foucher. From my photographs and description he very soon recognized scenes from the legend of King Vi§vantara (Vessantara), well known among the hundreds of .7a!akas or

Stories of the Buddha's former births'.

The legend, contained in the Pali 7âlaka and found also in various Sanskrit versions of the Story of

cycle, must have been particularly popular ; for not only is it represented among the sculptures of Yessantaxa-


the old Indian school decorating the Stûpas of Sanchi and Amaravati, but it also is one of the few

alakas of which representations have so far come to light among the relievos of the Gandhara region. Considering that the legend was localized at one of the famous sacred sites of Gandhara, near the present Shahbâzgarhi, it is certainly curious that the illustration of it in Graeco-Buddhist sculpture is confined to three fragments from the relievo panels that once decorated the sides of the Jamalgarhi stairs and are now at the British Museum.3 The story is related at great length in the early Pali version of the 7âtaka, and, as it is conveniently accessible in the translation and otherwise well known, the briefest summary may suffice here.*

It tells how Prince Vessantara, in whom the Buddha had incarnated himself in a previous birth, being heir of a royal family and imbued with excessive devotion to charity, made a pious gift of a wonderful white elephant which could produce rain, as well as of its priceless ornaments, to certain Brahmans. At the desire of the people, who felt alarmed at the loss thus suffered by their kingdom, Vessantara was banished by the king, his father, into the forest. As he left the royal city, taking his wife Maddi (Madri), who insisted on sharing his exile, and his two young children mounted on a chariot, he gave away loads of precious things. He had ` distributed to beggars all he had ', and was moving away from the city, when he was approached by four Brahman mendicants who had come too late for the great giving of alms and now asked for the horses of his chariot. After he had

   9 See Foucher, L'art du Gandhdra, i. pp. 27o sq.,   mention in texts.

   283 sqq. In the latter place references are also given to   ' Cf. E. B. Cowell and W. H. D. Rouse, The Jûlaka, vi.

   other sculptured representations of the legend and to its   pp. 246-306.

1371   3 x


Vessantara's exile.