The Buddha and the Sacred Site
Buddha's First Sermon at Sarnath
- Pakistan (ancient Gandhara)
- Kushan period, ca. 2nd century
- Gray schist
- H. 11 1/4 x W. 12 3/4 in. (28.6 x 32.4 cm)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Daniel Slott, 1980, 1980.527.4
This relief panel was likely part of a frieze that embellished a Gandharan stupa. The deer at the base of the Buddha's seat reference the Deer Park at Sarnath, and the wheel on which the Buddha clasps his right hand refers to his preaching after enlightenment. The surrounding figures include the protector Vajrapani and five ascetics converted to Buddhist monks. Buddhism was a proselytizing religion from its inception, and the inclusion of the monks in this relief calls attention to the establishment of the new monastic order. The pilgrimage tradition at stupa sites in Gandhara—a region far from the sites associated with the Buddha in India—was instrumental in spreading Buddhist teachings and practices.