Memory, Memento, and Sacred Bond

Scenes of the Buddha’s Life

  • 75
  • Eastern India, possibly Bodh Gaya
  • 11th–12th century
  • Pyrophyllite with gilding
  • H. 7 3/4 x W. 4 1/2 in. (19.7 x 11.4 cm)
  • Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.90
This easily transportable small stone plaque may have been used for worship in Tibet, as the letter a is inscribed in Tibetan on its backside. It was likely produced as a memento for the faithful who visited the pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya. The central image of the Buddha Shakyamuni is surrounded by two sets of figures. The outer figures represent seven of the Eight Great Events of the Buddha’s life, beginning from the lower left: his birth, the first sermon, the taming of the elephant Nalagiri, the enlightenment, the descent from the realm of Trayastrimsha, the miracle at Shravasti, and the gift of honey. The inner six figures narrate the first seven weeks of the Buddha’s enlightenment, his image representing the first. Carved at the top is an image of the parinirvana, the Buddha’s death and the last of the Great Events, crowned by a stupa.
PHOTO CREDIT: Asia Society, New York

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