The First Sermon at the Deer Park in Sarnath
Surrounded by ascetics and deities, the Buddha raises one hand in the gesture of reassurance as he offers his first teaching. The wheel and animals on his throne represent, respectively, his teachings and the sermon's location in a deer park. His fine, symmetrical features, wavy topknot, and naturalistically draped monk's robe were adopted from the vocabulary of Greco-Roman art.
Ancient Gandhara was a cosmopolitan crossroads with ties to India, western Asia, and the Hellenistic world. During the Kushan dynasty (mid-first to third century CE), Gandharan artists synthesized elements from these cultural regions to create an image of the Buddha that combined Greco-Roman ideals of beauty with Indian Buddhist concepts and iconography.
These panels, which adorned a monumental stupa (reliquary), depict the four great life events of the Buddha. Artists presented the climactic moment in each event, focusing every composition on a large image of the Buddha or his mother. Devotees viewed the scenes as they walked clockwise around the mound with their right shoulders toward the enshrined relics.