Four Scenes from the Life of the Buddha - (Detail) The Birth of the Buddha


Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art

Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art
Washington, DC, United States

Pakistan-Afghanistan, ancient Gandhara Kushan dynasty, late 2nd—early 3rd century
Purchase F1949.9

Panel 1

The Birth of the Buddha

The Buddha was born in a grove outside Lumbini, Nepal. In the Gandharan relief, the Hindu god Indra proffers a swaddling cloth and attends the Buddha's miraculous birth from his mother's side. Queen Maya, who has the garments and hair style of a Roman matron, stands in an Indian posture associated with female nature spirits who grasp tree branches to make them bloom.

Complete Object:
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.


  • Title: Four Scenes from the Life of the Buddha - (Detail) The Birth of the Buddha
  • Date Created: 0180/0220

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