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0614 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 614 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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given them, four gods in the guise of red deer took their places and drew the chariot onwards until Vessantara, on being asked by another Brahman, gave away the chariot also. Moving on afoot and carrying the children, the prince and his wife then retired to a hermitage in the mountains. There finally he was made by the gods to give away in pious gifts, first his children, and then even his faithful consort. After having thus tried his inexhaustible charity by the severest tests, the gods ultimately restored his wife and children to him and caused him to be installed as king by his father, who had come to seek him in the forest. Thus all ended in perfect earthly happiness after the wont of old folk-lore stories.

Scenes of   With the legend once identified, it is easy for us to recognize the scenes presented in the

frieze   photographs of that portion of the frieze which I found extant. On its extreme left (Figs. 134, 135)


we see Vessantara in princely dress riding out of the gate of the royal palace, preceded by Maddi and his two children, in ` a gorgeous carriage with a team of four Sindh horses', just as the 7ataka describes them.5 That the children are shown by the painter as boys is of special interest, as the

âlaka story with characteristic inconsequence speaks of them in some places as a boy (Jâli) and girl (Kanhâjin5.), and in others again as two sons, this apparent variance of tradition being found both in the prose and in the metrical portions of the text, which are probably older.6 We have next before us the magical white elephant and the prince in the act of leading it up for presentation (Figs. 136, 137). The intended gift is indicated quite clearly by the sacrificial vessel which he carries, and from which water will have to be poured out in accordance with the ancient Indian rite of donation distinctly mentioned by the 7alaka in connexion with a similar incident further on in the story.?

Order of   By a kind of anachronism, about the reason of which it would be of little profit to speculate,

incidents   seeing how small a portion of the whole frieze remained, but for which it would be easy to adduce

   represented. parallels from other pictorial representations of sacred lore, the gift of the magical elephant, being   i
one of the most striking incidents of Vessantara's story, is introduced in the course of the prince's progress, though it really preceded his departure from his royal home and all the incidents which followed as recorded by the 7âlaka. One of the earliest of these is the encounter with the four Brahmans to whom the gift of the horses is made. There can be no possible doubt that these are represented by the four figures of mendicants who in the frieze come to meet the prince amidst sylvan scenery. Was it adherence to another version of the legend or merely artistic licence which brought them here face to face with the prince leading the elephant ? No safe answer seems possible at present. Nor can we hope to learn whether the reappearance of the chariot and quadriga immediately beyond, on the broken part of the frieze before the big westward gap, relates to the incident about the gift of the chariot to another Brahman as told in the 7âtaka.

Painter's   Whatever freedom the artist may have claimed in selecting and arranging the scenes for his

adherence composition, we note close adherence to the legend in several characteristic details. Thus the to legendary

details.   jewel-bedecked appearance of the prince in each scene is manifestly designed to emphasize the

priceless ornaments which he wore on his body ', as the 7âlaka tells us, and which he also distributed to beggars when leaving the city. The same intention seems to have guided the painter's hand in the presentation of the miracle-working white elephant, which might well pass for an exact illustra-

   tion of its wonderful ornaments so-diffusely recorded in the 7âtaka. The description there given is   ~f
too long to be quoted in extenso.8 It may suffice to note from this fairy-tale inventory that ` on his back were nets of pearls, of gold, and of jewels, three nets worth three hundred thousand, in the

6 See Cowell and Rouse, The Jalaka, vi. p. 264.   tion of detail in other versions of the legend.

6 Cf. e.g. the mention of boy and girl, toc. cit., pp. 252,   T See loc. cii., vi. p. 283.   1►

264 sq., etc., with the two sons referred to loc. cit., pp. 257,   8 See Cowell and Rouse, TheJeitaka, vi. p. 253.
264. • I am unable to spare time for following up this varia-