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    McMaster University


    Open Access Dissertations and Theses Open Dissertations and Theses


    Sakra in Early Buddhist ArtLeona Anderson

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    Recommended CitationAnderson, Leona, "Sakra in Early Buddhist Art" (1978). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5624.[email protected]:[email protected]://
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    'Sl lG'l\ N Ei>ll LY BUDDHIST ART

  • 8/21/2019 Anderson Sakra in Early Buddhist Art


    Sakra in Early Budd.hist Art

    ByLeona Anderson, B Ed. B.A.

    A Thesi.sSubmitted to the School of Graduate Studiesin Part ial Fulfillment of the Requirements

    for the DegreeMaster of Arts

    McMaster University

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    M STER OF ARTS 1978)Religious StudiesTITLE Sakra in Early Buddhist ArtAUTHOR Leona Anderson, B.Ed. B.A. Calgary)SUPERVISOR Dr. Phyllis GranoffNUM ER OF PAGES vii i 129

    McMaster UniversityHamilton, Ontario

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    ,-The fo11ol,in[;; ti1esi s tr.:lces the development of IncrajSal:rain Buddhist iconography in India up to the third century A.D. Thehange in repres(mtations of Indra/Sal:ra p a : I ; : ~ 1 1 e 1 s la rger e\ ol-

    ution of popular Buddhism i t se l f from a religious system, in which thefigure of the his torical Buddha was predominant, into a devotionalcult centered on the figures of both the his torical Buddha and numerous

    h o d c h i s a t ~ v a s The study thus highlights one aspect of th is shift inemphasis from cZlrly H I n a Y ~ r i a Buddhism to l,Iahayana Buddhism. Art formsin conjunction with relevant t e x ~ s provide the context in which Indraappears in early Buddhist art (around the f i r s t century B.C.E. andhis subsequent development in Hahayana ar t (early Gandrllara and NathuriD.

    The f i r s t chapter reviews the character of rndra In non-Buddhistc o n t e ~ ~ t s : the Vedic and Epic t radit ions . E ~ v i d e n c e from these periods

    ....provides the context out of i ~ h i c h the Buddhist Sakra emerged. The Vedic,.Inera developed into the Epic Indra from ~ l h i c h the Buddhist S a t ~ r a seensto have evolved.

    At the early Buddhist si tes of Sanchi and Bharhut Satcra er.Jergesas a devotee of the Buddha. e appears in iconogra?hy and relevanttexts , in a narrative context as one of several characters in the J; takata les . e is ident i f iable ei ther by his iconographic form (a royalfigure ~ l h o sometimes ~ e a r s a cylindrical crown specific to him and

    ~ l h o carries a va jra and/or ja r of a:w::ta), or by vir tue of the context

    U s

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    in ~ h i h he appears.- - ~il.t Gandhara and l: athura ~ a 1 . ~ r a becomes a f igure of greater coro-plexi ty ~ v h o is often removed from any narrat ive context . S a l ~ r a andBrahr.ia at tend the Buddha in prototypical rlapresentat ions of the Buddhistt r iad (tbe Budcha and tHO bocldhisat tvas). This t r iad s ignals an impor-

    t an t development iR the ar t and theology of Buddhism. I t i s ' indicat iveof the' c:evelopment of the 1tlorship of the Buddha as the m lin object ofdevotion accompanied by Sal,ra and Bral:una in ear ly Buddhism and byboc cihisattvas in the l a t e r t rad i t ion . I t i s the emergence of theGe l a t -te r f igures in th i s role ~ ~ h i c h represents the most s igni f icant changein popular Buddhism in India which V1ClS to be t ransmitted to the FarEast . The Buddha has become a t ranshis tor ica l f igure 'l-lorshipped in -dependent of a narrat ive c o n t e ~ ; t Hi.s at tendants though they s t i l ladore the Buddha are l i f t ed from a nar ra t ive context a t ta in ing thes ta tus of Buddhist dei t ies .

    n addi t ion S a ~ : r a is intir.1ately r e la ted to the va j ra -bea re r vlhoemerges a t G a n d h ~ r a Tbe context in ~ 1 h i c h th i s l a t t e r f igure appears,his function, and his primary a t t r i bute, the va j ra indica te the natureof th i s relat ionshi;p. This iconographic form may be proto typica l of thel a t e r boddhisattva Vajrapani and cer ta in ly is tbe bas is of the Nio ~ . h oappear as f i e rce guardian f igures in iconography in Japan and China.

    These t ~ J O deve:lopr:1ents r e f l ec t the emergence of Nahayana Buddhismand are indica t ive of the di rec t ions t l i l l t a ~ : e as t grOlvs and devel -opes in India ~ ; h e r e t arose and outside of Inelia, in China and Japan .

    i i b

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    PageLIST OF ILLUSTRAT]ONS . . . . . . . . . . . iv

    ABBRE\TL1T IO}JS v i i

    A C I r n O l r J L E D G E ~ T S v i i i

    mTRODU T 0 G ,. 1



    cmr LUSION ................................. .................................... . ................................. 86


    FOOTIr 0 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 112.

    BIBLIOGR A PtIY ...... II 01 I I 125

    i i i

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    Figure Page1. Indra a t Bhaja (Ervin Baktay, Die Kunst Indiens ,

    @udapest:. Terra-Verlag, 1963; pI. 67). 92. Vessantara Ja taka , s a . . ~ c h i (John Harshall and Alfred

    Foucher, The Nonuments a t Sanchi, 2 vols. (Delhi:94LO 2: p l 29c) 97

    3. B h i ~ a J ~ t a k a , Bharhut (Ananda Coomaraswamy, LaS ~ u l p t u r e de Bharhut, Annales du Husee Guimet,vol. 6 {paris: Vanoest, 1956J pl . XLV 176). .98

    4. The vis i t of Sakra,_ Bharhut (Coomaraswamy, .Bharhut, pl. XXIV 63). . 985. .The vis i t of Sakra, -Sahchi. (Harshall and Fo:ucher,sanchI, 2: 3 5 b l ~ 986. Descent a t S r u L ~ i ~ a Bh;rhut Coomaraswamy,

    Bharhut, pl XI,31). . . . 997. Descent a t S a i i . k i ~ a t Sartchi (Marshall .and Foucher,s ~ c h i , 2: pl.34c) . . . . . 998. Detalokas, Sanchi ( Ibid. pl . 49a). 9. Heads of Indra t Gandhara (Inghol t , Gandharan Artin Pakistan New York: Pantheon Books, 1957 ,

    pls 331,332). . . . . ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 10010. Dipankara J;:taka, Gandhro-a S , ~ Gaulier , R. Jera-

    Bezard, and Ivl Maillard, ~ h i s m in Afghanistanand Central Asia, 2 vols. Leiden: E.J. Br i l l ,1976 , 2: f ig ,22). . . 100

    11. Birth of the Bodhisat tva, Gandhara (Asch,dn Lippe,The Freer Indian Sculptures, Orienta l Studies ,No. 8 \t ashington: Smithsonian In s t i t u t e , 197Ql,f ig . 8). 101

    12. Bir th of the Bodhisat tva, Gandhara (Lippe, f ig . 9). 101


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    vFigure Pa.ge13.



    Bath of the Bodhisattva, Gandhara (Madeleine Hallada, ~The G a n d h a r ~ Style [tondon: Thames and Hudson, 1968J,p l 87) 102

    Bath of the B0dhisattva, Gandhara (Hans Ackermann,Narrative Stone Reliefs from Gandhara in the Victoriaand Albert Museums ii-J. London, vol. XVII Wome: rsNeo,1975], p l Vii, bJ. o 02.

    The vis i t of "Sakra, Gandhara, (Albert Griinwede1, BuddhistArt in India, trans. A ~ C . Gibson, second ed. ~ o n d o n :Sis i l Gupta,1965], pl . 94), 1q

    16. The visi t of "S'aYJa, Gandhara (Ingho1t, p l 128). 10317. The visi t of Sakra, Gandhara (Ingho1t, pI 129) 104

    1 8 ~ The Buddha and V a j r a p ~ i Gandhara (Ingholt, p l v 3) . 1(419. Departure of the Bodhisattva, Gandhara (Ackermann,pl . l 1;l),. ' ..... I 11 ........ 10520. First Meeting with Brahman, Gandhara (GC'Jl.dharanSculptures from Pakistan, Introduction by B. Rowland

    ~ e w York: The Asia Society Inc. , 1960) p 4). u 10521. Offering of Grass, Gandhara (Rowland, Gandharan

    Sculptures, p 24). o 8 o # lo622. Buddha s Firs t Sermon, Gandhara (Lippe, p l ~ 11;.). 10623.. Buddha preaches to god in Trayastrimeia heaven,Gandhara (Ingho1t, p l 104). 10724. Parinirvana, Gandhara (Ackermann, pl. XLI), 10725. Parinirvana, Gandhara (Lippe, pI 16). 10826. Buddha and female worshippers, Gandhara (Ingholt,

    p l 189) . c827. The Story of the Niligir i Elephant, Gandhara(Ackermann, pl. XXIX a), 10928. Descent a t Sanklsa Gandhara (Ackermann, pl. G13). 109

    BUddha flanked y Sakra and Brahma, GandharaIngholt, p l 243). 110

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    v i

    Figure Page30. Reliquary of Kanishka, Gandhara Ingholt, pl 494 11031. Bimaran Relic Casket, Gandhara Ingho1t, pl. 1). 11132. Preaching Buddha on Lotus Throne, Gandhfu-a Ingho1tpl 253}

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    NG nguttara NikayaBe BuddhacaritaV HarivathsaV alitavistara

    HBh MahabharataMV MahavastuR RimayanaRV Rg VedaS Sanyutta NikazaSB a t a ~ a t h a Brahmana


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    I thank Dr. Phyllis Granoff for her invaluable assistance asa resource person her guidance and for her personal concern for thesuccessful completion of th is thesis ; Dr. David Kinsley and Dr. GrahamMacQueen for their helpful suggestions. Thanks to Marg Moore for herthorough typing and Charles Wing for his photographic work Specialthanks to my mother for long years of moral and financial support.Primarily however I would l ike to tha clc my husband Jack Andersonfor whom my heart beats only for his patient assistance and p e r s e r v e r n c ~during the writing of this thesis .


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    t is the intention of this paper to examine the visualaspects of 'Sakra tn the Buddhist religious tradition and the changesthat occur in his depiction in Buddhist r t a.s i t develops

    ;/The figure of 0akra occurs in reliefs on early Buddhistmonuments. t SanchI and Bharhut as well as in the r t ofGandhara and Mathura. The subjects of the reliefs in which akraappears most often can be established by reference to correspondingtextual accounts. Hence any examination of iconographic representa

    . tions of Sakra in Buddhist r t requires an examination of certainBuddhist texts. The number of texts which correlate with r t is t icrepresentations in this period, ho rever, is precisely limited innumber. Thus, to determine the character and the role of 'Sakra aE heappears in Buddhist r t one need only examine a selection of the va.f.'tcorpus of early Buddhist l i terature.

    In addition to the appearance of akra in Buddhist iconographyand texts ~ k r is intimately conneeted ldth Incra, a well knO lilfigure in pan-Indian mythology. Buddhism arose and developed incontact with popular Hinduism. Indra was incorporated early into theBuddhist tradition and was changed significantly, but not to theextent that he was not clearly recognizable to l l Indian devotees.Hence, in order ful ly to describe the Buddhist ~ k r his relation-ship to the Vedic and Epic Indra must certainly be explore(l. TheEpic descriptions of Indra undoubtedly influencec the subsequent

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    representations of the Buddhist S ~ k r a . The nature of the Epic Incramust be determined in l ight of the texts of this perioe for fewrepresentations sUJ nrive he earliest ffinCiu representation of Inc1raare contemporary with the Buddhist monu na:ents ir Saffchl/Bharhut andappear on coins or Indo-Greek rulers. The f i r s t chapter irill t reatthe Vedic and Epic Indra in an attempt to discern the extent to Fhichtextual descriptions of this figure can be correlated with the earlyBuddhist descriptions and iconographic representations of 'Sakra.

    The f i r s t Buddhist representations of ~ a k r a are round on tbestupes at Sanchi and Bharhut f i r s t century B.C.E ). He appears inthe context of the ..Tataka ta les ano the scenes from the l i fe of theBuddha. Indeed the reliefs a t these early Buddhist monuments pri-marily represent J2:taka tales anc scenes from the l i f e of the Buddha.The presence of the Buddha is the central focus of these iconographicrepresentations and his presence is indicates a t this s.tage symbolica l ly rather than by depiction in human form. The task of identir ication of scenes represented is accomplished by rererence to characterizing attributes such as symbols, by references to the texts i.rhichcorrespond to the rel iefs, anc by rererence to various ic'entif'yinginscriptions round at Bharhut which may be convenientlyapplied to similar scenes a t Sanchi and Bodh Gaya.

    The appeal of the iconography at Sa1ichI and Bharhut seems tohave been widespread rather than limiter' to Buddhist monks and nuns:not only vlere both Sanch and Bharhut sites of sanghas (or commm:dties

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    of Buc.dhist monks), they T,'ere also sites of pilgrimage. Given thiscontext, the reliefs represented must have been popularist r t forms,accessible t and possibly fashiOneo n l ight of an audience Thich inturn reflected the increasing popularity of the B u d c h a ~ s message.Sakra's emergence in distinctive iconographic form in the reliefs tSanchi and Bharhut records the translation of what had previouslybeen a textual and r i tu l is t ic (Fymbolic) presence into a distinctlyBuddhist iconographic form, perhaps the influence of Buddhism'snew emphasis on devotion.

    ~ a k r a is represented at Sa:tchi ano Bharhut as a figure ::ubsid-iary to the Buddha. He sometime's appears with distinctive attributes,the vajra and/or the j r of a'm;ta, C ~ t h o u g h he is most often identif-iable only through the context. of a specific tale. He is representedin the reliefs as a figure amidst a c r o ~ . l d of others. H m , ~ e v e r , rel iefs

    t SanchI and Bharhut d e p i c t i n g ~ a k r a s vis i t to the Buddha, tIndrasalaguha, in which gakra declared his devotion to the B u c ~ h a , aresingular evidence of his distinctly BUddhist character. His role atSanchi and Bharhut is t'\llofold: he attends the Buddha., he activelyserves the Buddha by assisting Buddhist devotees who fine themselvesin problematic situations. In both caf',es he sets an example forBuddhists and others to folIo..,, . As such he is an agent of Bucdhistmorality.

    An examination of Sakra's role in both the early periodrepresented at Sanch and Bharhut and l ter periods r e p r e s e n t e ( ~ by

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    Gandharan and Y ~ t h u r a n reliefs can certainly aid in a ~ c e r t a i n i n gwhether or not his function in the Buddhist tradition changen in anyway. In so far as Sakra's role coes change from Sanchi to Gandharaand the nature of this change can be establishec, i t becomes thenlegitimate to remark on the degree to 'toJhich this change correlates;,lith the more general development of Buddhism in these periods. Thedegree to i hich iconographic representations alter anc. the specificforms and motifs 1.,rhich reflect this change i t ; l i l1 be suggested maybe taken as reflecting a more general change in the historical develop-ment of Buddhism.

    The various shifts in emphasies from early Buddhism (f.econecentury B.G.E. to f i r s t century G.E.) to la ter Buddhism f i r s t centuryG.E. to fourth century G.E.) constitutes a major area of Buc.ohistEcholarship.l Both the conceptual basis ant the outward physicalmanifestations of early Buddhism are eviG.encen by the iconography a tSanchi and Bharhut and the texts of the early Buc.dhist Canon. Thereliefs from GandhaCt'a and Nathura as ;.re11 as me.ny texts, such e.s theBuc1dhacarita,2 Lalitavistara,.3 and 1-fu.havastu, I the p:dme.ryevidence for the f i rst to the fourth century G.E. I t in th isla t ter period that many of the iconographic motifs cha.racteristic ofthe fully developed Hahayana tradition vere established. Thuf interms of historical continuity the ar t froms a t Gandhara ano Hathurerepresent a curious mixture of both early ana la ter B U ~ d h i s : n suchthat neither do they represent only the oleer phat=e nor they

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    r1epresent the newer phaseThe context of the early reliefs a t S8:nchI and Bharhut is

    narrative. The figures in these reliefs thus a.ppear subject tonarrative considerations, specifically, those applying to the JatA.kasand scenes in the pref;',ent l i fe of the Buddha. In la ter Bur'l( hist ar tthese same narrative contexts pen i s t but are represented on a fullerscale both in scope and in the number of scenes depicteo. Indee6, inthese la ter Gane:haran and Mathuran reliefs one can differentiate bymeans of form and detail bet't-leen the various figures portrayed.

    These means of identification, i e. the forms in .rhichfigures are represented and the various attributes .,yhich can beassociatec with them, although available to us at Sanchi and Bhayhut,

    are facilitated, by developments in the art of Gandhara and Hathura.As noted above the Buddha is never represented in human form atSanchi and Bharhutbut rather is indicatec symbolically_ He doeeappear in human form a t Gandhara ana 1fi..athura. At Gandhara otherfigures, among them 'Sakra, emerge in dist inct anc identifiable roms.Reliefs depicting specific subjects a t S8:ffchI and Bharhut become 8tGandhara stabilized motifs which vrill continue to denote these events.Moreover, i t is at Ganc3.hara that not only motifs remove(l from narI'&'-t ive contexts but also the well-knoi'U representations of the BuNhe.flankec by t;.. ro bodhisatbTa:o f i r s t appear.

    Specifically, t is n this la ter period a t Gandhara and}futhura that ~ a k r a s role as an attendant to the Buocha becomes

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    stande.rcized. This role, which had founD form in the early San-chi andBharhut reliefs, becomes more fully developed in this la ter perio ) e ndextends beyonc representation in narrative contexts to representationremoved from any active consideration: we find ~ a k r a represented inthe isolated ~ a k r a / B u d d h a l Brahma triad. .Horeover, even though Se.kradoes remain variously represented in a narrative context in the er tof Ganchara, there is another vajra-bearer who appears in this periodfor the f i rs t time and li ho also figures vl thin a narrative context.This figure seems to be related in some way to ~ a k r a Tho is theonly vajra-bearer in the rel iefs of Sanchi an6 Bharhut. 'SakT'a'sfunctions thus diverge, and his role as a protector is usurpe6 by avaira-bearing figure who appears in d.istinct iconographic form atGandhara.

    The origine.tion and function of the figure 'akre. cannot beremoyed from the context of the Buddhist tradition. An historicalexamination of any particular aspect of a larger vrhole highlightingthe evolution and change of that part is also an examination of thelarger context. Thus a definition of the Buddhist deity, 'Sakra,1{hich both texts and art aid. in establishing, i s in a c ~ i t i o n tobeing specific to that deity, explicative of the Budr:'hist tre.ditionas a v hole.

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    Indra is ane or the earl ies t of popular deities He plays adominant role in the Rg Veda5 and his exploits are also recounted inthe subsequent Brahmanas and Epics. Indra also appears to have beenone of the earl ies t Hindu gods to have been represented in concreteform in art as seen on the coins of Indo Greek kings. I t i s animportant question as to what extent Vedic and post Vedic descriptionsof this god condition his early physical representations and to whatextent these in turn influence la ter Buddhist concepts in art and l i t -erature. To answer th is question i t is necessary to examine thecharacter of Indra in the earl iest l i terature.

    This cbapter has thu,s been divided into the folloving parts:an examination of Indra in the Vedic period (the Vedas and Brahmanas);

    - - - - ) 6 . IIndra in the Epics the Mahabharata and Ramayana; and f1nally iconography prior to and contempt::lrary with the early Buddhistmonuments at Sanch and Bharhut.

    The Vedic IndraNotwithstanding the multitude of gods and goddesses who

    appear in the Rg Veda, the early Vedic pantheon comprises few "relldefined figures in comparison to other similar pantheons, e.g. , Greek


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    Roman etc. One exception to this general observation regardingg Vedic deities is the case of Indra, the Indian devaraja, or lord of

    the gods. Indra is closely associated with the elements of rain anathunder but emerges as a distinguishable and well-defined anthropomor-phic personality.

    His powerful physical stature can be outlined as follovTs hehas muscular arms, large hands, a heavy beard, a j alN of gold, a power-ful neck, a throat l ike a large ri'ver and a stomach which is fi l led

    w i t h ~ Further, he has a large appetite and a seemingly insatiablethi rs t for this intoxicant. Vedic texts describe him variously asyoung, strong, and violent; an angry lord and man of action. 7 As amighty. general the epithet 'akra is applied to Indra. 8 t beentranslated as le fort by Gonda.9 Indra is fearless, wise, andintel l igent .

    He is praised in the Rg Veda as a fierce and irresistable.demon-slaying warrior god, the wielder of the vajra. This weapon isdescribed as either bright or made .Iof metal or gold. lO He alsocarries a hook and a bow and arrows. As we shall see below, thevajra is Indra's most characteristit::: weapon and s intimatelyassoc-iated with his effectiveness in matters of force. In the Veda \olefind: The mightiest force is Indra1s bolt of iron when firmlygrasped in both the arms of Indra .12 Indra rides a chariot of goldyoked by t TO magnificient horses. 13 n the Vedic period he haf' noequal: he is the king of the gods and i s dominant in the middle

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    region. 14. One specific sphere of his activities involves the regions

    inhabited by demons whom he vanquishes posthaste. t is in this mytho-logical context that the violent aspect of Indra's character becomesclear and moreover his iconography begins to be defined. Indra'sposition in the Vedic pantheon, unequalled among the gods, may beexplained in part py the role he plays in the destruction of demons.He is not limited to destruction of merely one demon but is responsiblefor a variety of demon d e t h s ~ Indra eliminates demons such as Vrtra,Ahi, Vala, and Namuci. These most famous incidents in Indra' s careerare those which supply us with his unambiguous mark of identification,the vajra or thunderbolt. An example of his activities in this respectis the elimination of the demon Namuci which is recordecl a t leaf't sixtimes in the Rg Vedal5 and occurs several times in the Brahmanas

    The etymology of Namuci is 'not le t t ing go' and in the mythologicalcontext n which Indra functions may mean the demon who Hi thhole s the

    16waten .In the Vedic tradition Indra slays Namuci with his thunder-

    bolt or with the foam of water which serves as a thunderbolt. Hecharacteristically twirls off or pierces Namuci s head. Though Inera,even in the Brahmanas, is a mighty l-larrior, his physical strengthalone, in these texts, does not determine in whose favor the batt lewill be resolved. 17

    In Indra's elimination of the other demons as well the vajra

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    i s his weapon par excellence and he is epithetically referred to asvajrabh;t, the bearer of the thunderbolt. The vaira with which hepierces demons, and, in addition, the release of the waters, are men-,tioned in the description of Indra kil l ing Vrtra. In one cape n theRg Veda this episode i s described as follows: liThe 1>lrathful Indra .lithhis bolt of thunder rushing on the foe, Smote fierce on tremblingV:trats back, and loosed the waters free to run, lauding his ovimperial sway .18 'l'he conquest of demons a nd the l iberation of watersare his mythological essence; by this act he is the constant renewerof l i fe t is significant that the vajra belongs predominantly toIndra and epithets derived from or compounded with this weapon in theRg Veda are almost entirely applied to him.19 This will remain trueof his la ter iconography as well.

    In the myths Indra, in addttion, i s intimately a.ssociatedwith the potent beverage soma. I t is this stimulant rhich immediatelyupon consumption increases his strength .formidably and renders himinvincible. In the Vedic texts, his devotees praise him with increasedfervor in that he i s then better able to protect them, while hisenemies flee him the more he drinks. Indra is in .fact so .fond ofconsuming this elusive elixer that on more than one occafdon in la tertexts i t becomes his down.fall. o ~ i s regularly included in thedescriptions of Indra .found n the w Veda.. For example: liTheis within him, in his .frame vast strength, the thunder in his han andwisdom in his head 20

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    Indra is also mmm as a compassionate helper of his devoteesand s invoked with a view towards protection and material gain. 21Indeed, his generosity receives the same praise as his grea.test feats. 22

    In an historical context, the number and import of the mythsrecorded with respect to the character of Indra reflect the esteem inwhich he was held. The Vedic ideal of a mighty warrior god corresponds to the ideal of a people who '\Irere themselves invading Tarriors.A destroying and conquering lord of batt le is a worthy object ofveneration for a people engaged n precisely this kind of activity_In the Brahmanas hOHever, Indra's accomplishments are honored but hisindividual achievements are somewhat de-emphasized. The events them-selves remain significant .,hile Inara r s role begins to diminish. Theexplanation rests on the role of sacrifice in the Veda a.nd the

    r a n m a n a s ~ Sacrifice 1 13.5 an important aspect of Brahmanic religion.The r a ~ m a n a s thus reflect the evolution in religious orientation ofthe Indian el i te away from an emphasis on physical batt le and tOHarosa preponderance of sacrif icial r i tes . 3 This shi f t in empha.:=is isindicated by the roCle Indra plays in these texts. In the Namuciincident, for example, the 'Tarrior aspect of Inara i s de-emphadzed.His supremacy is maintained not by his might alone but through sa.cri

    . fice. 24 Thus historical conjunctions can be established in terms ofthe modification of the character of Indra even t these early stages.

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    12Indra in the Epic Period

    Indra remains an important figure in the Epic texts. He iss t i l l kno.m as devaraja, the lord of the gods, a nd is described var-iously as I1he of one hundred pO.lers , he of one thousand eyes and

    lord of the thirty-three gods 11.25 He is a s t r ic t upholder ofmorality as long as i t does not challenge his authority. That is hebestows gifts on his favorites but would rather disuade an ascetic frombecoming too virtuous than be usurped by the merit of a.nother which

    h . 26surpasses J.s mm.Indra is called 'Sakra but this a.ppelation is used arc: a

    rather than an epithet. 27 As in the Vedas Indra leads the gods inbat t le . 28 He emerges in the Epics, however, in a new role: he isguardian (dikpala) of the eastern quarter. 29 He is s t i l l praised forhis defeat of demons, and his foremost weapor;l is s t i l l the vajra 1tJhichis described as very terrible, hard as diamond and surpassingly swift.He also confronts his foes with a net, stones, b01-rs and arr01.Js, ahook, noose, and conch. 3D Usually he is victorious in batt le but some-times must rely on the aid of others for the successful defeat. of hisfoes. On more than one occasion Indra finds hinself in ciff icul tsituations and must appeal to other goeJs for help. Inc:ra, for exa.mple,having committed brahmanicide becomes frightenec3 and hides in 3 lotusstalk. 3l His pride, amorous nature, and the difficultie::: Hhich ensuefrom them are detailed rather frequently in the Hahabharata. His mcdncharacter in that text seems to be e;xcessive pric'e anf he is humbledfor i t by the punishment of other gods such as Siva. 32 Indra is

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    powerless before 'Siva; he takes refUge 'With Bra.hma v7hen in doubt; hei s appointed protector by V i ~ g u and on a t leaf ' t one occal' ion begs for

    V i ~ ~ l U s assis tance. 33 In m o s ~ cafes , however, Indra s rela.tions toother gods are those ~ f fr iendly superiority.34

    Epic tex ts describe Indra as having yellotr eyes, sport ing eyellovl beard, and . ,earing red or rhite garments. 35 He i s acornedwith a crown ( k i r i ~ a ) ,36 jewelry, garlands t-lhich never whither, a no i sshaded by an umbrella.. He carr ies a j a r of amrta with which he some-times revives the dead. 57 He i s surrounded by youths ancl remains him-se l f perpetually young in appearance.

    Amaravati i s his residence and the car of v ic tory (mahendra-valla) i s his vehicle. I t i s decorated with gold and clra1 m by goloen

    38steeds. Alternately he r ides the elephant Airavata. I t iE. th isl a t e r vehicle on which Indra appears in certa in iconogra:phic represen-ta t ions (e.g. a.t Bhaja) and v1hich i s useful in identifying him whenrepresente d. Airavata arose from the churning of the ocean anG ,.Jasseized by I n d r a ~ 9 He has four tusks, th ree s t r ~ a m o f water issuefrom his temples, and he i s la rge and white. 40

    Epic texts par t icu lar ly emphasize Indra' s capacity for bestmr-ing gif ts : he grants his favori tes arms, kn01.,ledge, strength, energy,children, happiness and 1'00(1 41 As noted ear l ier he revives the dee.d.His chief gi f t , hovlever, according to Hopkins, i s ra in which he oftenpours down from his seat on Airavata. 42 .Indra as bringer of rainand as bestovmr of gi f t s i s par t icu lar ly signif icant with respect

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    t the role he plays in festivals devoted to him.n tbe context. O:f nOTa feistivals the a.bove characteristics

    of Indra are further clarif ied. ndTa pole festivals according to theMahabharata were instituted by Uparica.ra. 43 Indra gave Uparice.ra avictor 's crown of lotus flowers which protected him in batt le , anr: ebamboo pole, protective of i t s worshippers ana with which Uparicara.might worship him as the slayer of Vrtra. 44 This fest ival dedicatedspecifically to Indra WB S generally adopted by other kings ,ho follO'l: -ed the examples set by Uparicara. 45 The poles (Indrachvaja) are se.iC:to beautify the earth,46 and are the chief objects in InCira :festivals(Indramaha or Indrotsava).

    The festivals are mentioned in la ter texts such e p theHarivamsa in specific association ,ith Indra's capacity to bring>rains. 47 In the dist r ic t of Gokula Krsna stopped the IndTa festivals

    Indra, however, became angry, as the fest ival in his honor wasstopped. He called together the clouds and asked them to showerheavy rain to torment the milkrrlen and their wealth of catt le. Hehimself wanted to lead the cloud.s riding on his' elephant.Then dark clouds massed together and heavy rain with lightning.started. All land became a sea of'; there were flooc s inthe rivers, and t rees were uprooted. The milkmen ',lere fright-ened and thought perhaps the period of dissolution had come andwith i t the deluge. The cat t le suffered extreme distres84 Then the t ruthful Krishna. l i f ted the hi l l and underneath i t thecaves became l ike large halls . Severe rain and hail storms con-tinued, but those who took shelter underneath the raisec uphillgot no inkling of it (HV 14)

    The scene in Hindu iconography of Krsna holding up the mountain a.nfprotecting the CO VIS from the d01.'npour is a familiar one.

    The Ramayana mentions an Indra fest ival occurring in the

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    rainy season and describes mom as actually pouring rain for severalmonths in that season. 48 ndra i s on more than one occasion spoken orin this text as the god of rain is mentioned in t.he Harivamsa inconnection with clouds and thunder.49 Particularly indicative of thespeciric existence of some form or worship of which Indra is the locusis the episode in the a r i v a ~ a described above.

    Thus an alteration occurs in the status of Indra rrom theVedic to the post pedic or Epic period and can be specif ically detai l -ed. Indra loses his Vedic position as Supreme Being and becomes inthe Epics the guardian of the Eastern Quarter. He remains a warriorbut seems to lose his former abi l i ty to overcome his enemies by violentmeans and becomes a rather benign besto ler of ravors. Physical mightis no longer of primary concern in the description or ndra's battlesbut rather his abi l i ty in this respect i s ascribed to maya or magicpower. 50 The Epic Indra orten finds himself in many dilemma::; "'hich,due to his love for ..Q B..and his impetuousness, demand he rely upongods, rais , and ascetics for rescue and assistance. Soma, his sourceof pov.rer in the Vedas, becomes through over-indulgence one source ofhis do-wnfall in the p i c s ~ He beco'mes, in effect, harassed de-feated, reliant on others for counsel and aid. In short, Indra isdevaraja but. he .is no longer the Supreme Being.

    Thus two associated factors are important in Indra's mythicchronology: his role in l ter texts suffers a decline in terms ofhis inrluence; he i s s t i l l devaraia. but this position i t se l f becomes

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    rather insignificant and he remains throughout a c o m p ~ s i o n t e helperand protector of those ~ h o request his assistance.

    Iconographic RepresentationsHowever circumstantial the evidence may seem, i t appears that

    some sort of iconographic forms were indeed created in the Vedicperiod. What- is important in this: context is the degree to vhichthese forms figured in the religious l i f and the manner in which theywere e m p l o y e d ~ The primary evidence '1hich supports this ~ t u d y of theiconographic forms of Indra i s textual and is specifically n refer-ence to his r i tua l worship.

    Although not unambiguous there are a few passages in thewhich contain allusions to both unspecified representations of

    Indra and devotion to him. In the Rg Veda, for example, the follo1idngstanzas appear: 5l

    Indragni ~ u m b h a t a narah (men decorate lndra and Agni)(RV 1,21,2)Ka imam - d a ~ a b h i r n a m e n d _ r a m krinati d h e n u b h i ~ / Yad;vrt;nijawhanadatahanatp. me punar dadat (.Tho 11 ill buy this myIndra for ten cows'] 1tJhen he has slain his foes he maygive him back to m e ~ (RV 4,24,10)lndrasya karta svapastamo bhut the maker of lndra vas amost stalwart being, a most ski l l ful workman) (RV 4,17,4)

    The gods of the period of the Rg Veda were required to fulf i l l thedesires of those who performed s8.crifices in the ir honor and in thecase of lndra these desires seem to range from victory in batt le both

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    on a large national scale and on an individual level to protectionand material gain. The devotee propitiates the goa by offering obla-tions and praise by realizing his o;.rninsignificance n relationshipto the gods and by admitting the inabi l i ty of success without the aidof the deity. In this l ight the above second passage might indicatethat representations of images of Indra were indeed employed inri tuals for the purpose of infl ict ing harm on an enemy. Althoughimages seem to have existed the notion of image worship as a centralaspect of r i tual even in l ight of the above passages is doubtfulgiven the paucity of references to such cult l

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    us to believe that the figure represents Indra, the Indian co.unterpartto. Z e u s ~ 5

    n the coins of Eukratides (170-155 B.C.E.) the figure isenthroned, holding a (.lreath in the right hand and a palm branch inthe lef t ; the forepart o.f an elephant (o.nly rarely is the vlhole animalshown) appears to the right and a conical object on the lef t . The conica l object has been identified as a mountain. The connective elementbetween the figure and th is conical object, or between the figure anathe mountain , is the elephant. Characteristically, Indra is .mentio.ned in association vlith the elephant Airavata, the presidinggenius of Svetavatalaya which .is the residence of -Svetavat, one ofthe names of Indra. This same ta.bleau is repeated on one of thecoins of Antialkidas (140-130 B.C.E.). On another of the coins ofAntiallddas, this figure is standing 1-lith a sceptre (va.jra??) inhis lef t hanel and accompanied by his elephant. One other coin isworthy of mention here. I t is a square copper coin of Maues whereonthe deity is seated on a throne. His le f t hand rests on a humanfigure. Banerjea has identified this figure to the deity s le f t as apersonification of the vaira. 54 On some of the coins of In(ramitraf i r s t century B.C.E.) the figure appears standing on a pedestal

    holding an uncertain object in his right hand and a club in his lef t .Now these figurative representations corresponc to some degree

    with the descriptions of Indra found in Vedic texts. Among thoseelements which appear as distinctly characteristic of IncJra are the

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    personified vaira and the juxtaposition of animal and deity. Theseare then the only extant representations of Indra from e.n early periodand are generally ,attributed to the second century B.C.E. The fact ofhis representation on public coinage indicates that he was cultuY'allyirilportant. The prevailing polit ical influence in this period . ras Indo-Grecian and insofar as we can assume that the figure on these coins isrepresentative of Indra, i t is also representative of the Greek Zeus.This has prompted scholars to refer to the figure represented on thesecoins as Indra in the garb of Zeus 55

    There is no extant evidence of iconographic forms, other thanthese Indo-Grecian coins, prior to the images of Inora .Thich appearin early Buddhist reliefs. An interesting representation of Indra. isthat of the great veranda r l i f at Bhaja, an early Budahist ca.vedating early second century B.C. (figure 1). There are on either siaeof a portal two massive sculptures. One has been ioentified 8.1 Surya,the sun god. The other, by virtue of context and situation alone,seems to be Inera. 56 He is riding his elephant A iravataand is accompan-ied by an attendant who carries a banner. The re l ief is mentionec heren that t closely corresponds to the conception of Inara in Vedic and

    Epic texts.

    ConclusionThe character and role of Inera suggestec above unaergoes

    certain transformations from the Veciic to the Epic period. T O majordifferences between the Vedic and Epic Indra emerge. Unlike the

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    Vedic Indra,the Epic Inara figures prominently in cultic ri tuals orIndra festivaI.s... t\1J:lile the iWecic L 1lorn. i s a f..trong man, part icularly with respect to demon slaying, in the Epics, though he continues toslay demons be a goo 3 naturet: rllt often foolish dikoala - protector of the Eastern quarter. In the Vedas he is k n o ~ ~ by theepi het Sakra (the strong). In the Epics Sakra is Usee. rather l ike aname. This as we shall see belm.]' represents more than a mere similari ty of name between the Vedic and Epic Indra ,-lith the Buc.c.ihist ~ a k r aSakra emerges in the BUddhist tradition as an distinct and identifia.bleiconographic form, but with many of his Vedic/Epic t rai ts intact .

    Though no concrete evidence survives i t is not beyond thescope of this study to suggest that images or representations of In6raof some kind were fashioned even as early as the Vedic period. As hasbeen mentioned, the few references contained in the earliest textssuggest that representations of Indra were employed tOVlard the infl ic-t ion of harm. 57 The above cited passages in the R a m a y a ~ aand the H a r i v a m ~ a from the Epic period indicate that a g r o ~ h ndevotional practices had taken plac'r3 and a trend a,-,ray from sa.crificialri tuals towards cultic festivals directly related to Inara and "IiThereinhe functions as the primary object of veneration haa occurec . t isin the context of Indra festivals that one 'Would expect to fine ime.gesof the deity, although the textual evidence on fest ivals inr.icatesthat Indra vas represented by his pole or dhvaia. Indra does appee.rin the sculptures and reliefs of the la ter Hindu perioe, vrhich fa.lloutside the purvie lil of the present study.

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    t should be noted that early Buddhist reliefs, inclucing theBhaja relief , are executed with a. degree of sophistic8,tion suggestiveof cumulative experience. The similarities between the descriptionsof Indra in the Vedas and the form he takes in early Buddhist reliefswould seem to indicate that corresponding images o f Indra were fa:= hioned. One can only infer therefore given Vedic textual evidence ~ m lgiven the above Buddhist correlative, the.t Indra,as Tell as the otherfigures who appear in these rel iefs, was given iconographic form inthe Vedic period and early Epic period.

    Those features which are important in identifying 10dra inBuddhist reliefs emerge, therefore J in both Vedic and Epic texts.The vajra appears in Indra s hand in the Vedas and is effective incombat. In the Epics Indra s elephant Airavata emerges from thechurning of the ocean and Indra is described So carrying a jar ofamrta. In both the Epics and'Vedas Indra i s a warrior/kingly figure

    and i t is in this form and with these implements that 100ra emergesin Buddhist iconography.

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    t i s the aim of this chapter to discuss the character of~ a k r a as he is represented a t Sanch and Bharhut with reference tocorresponding episodes which are related in the Pali Canon. In th iswayan understanding may be reached of the identi ty of Sakra and therole he plays n the Buddhism of this period.

    The Buddhist 'Sakra, then, appears in the early reliefs a tSanchi, Bharhut, certain rel iefs a t Bodh Gayi, and in the texts of

    - 58the PaIi Canon. He figures fa i r ly prominently in the Ji3.taka tales,or stories of the past l ives of the Buddha, wh1ch are representee a tBharhut and Sanchi, as well as in a variety of episodes in the pres-ent l i fe of the Buddha. The fact that he is accorde8 special recogniin the SakkaPallha Suttanta of the Digha Nik;ya (that Suttanta beingdevoted entirely to ~ a k r a v s visi t to the Buddha a t Indrasalaguha)leads us to believe he s more than just a nominal figure in theBuddhist t r a d i t i o n ~ 5 9 Indeed'Sakra is one of the few deit ies, amongwhom we may include Brahma, who emerges in Buddhism as a distinguishable character. ~ a k r a and Brahma attain the status of attendant/pro-teetor figures in Buddhist texts and ar t by accompanying the Buddha.on his descent a t S a n k i ~ a and they are positioned on either side ofthe BUddha n the earliest reliefs of this event a t Sanch and Bharhut.


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    This. relationship o f ~ a k r a to Indra is of a complex nature.The evidence suggests that 'Sakra is in terms of forms and deeds, theIndra of the H-indus60 while in terms of his function be s a distinct-ly Buddhist character. As noted earl ier , the mightyvajra-wielc1inggeneral of the g Veda had by the time of theearly Buddhist Canon(c.200 B.C.E.) undergone a transfoTIll.ation. In the Vedas, Inera sepithetically referred to as ~ a k r a an .epithet which often refers toIndra s capacity as a compassionatlB helper. 61 Sakra n th e Jg Vede.just as n Buddhist sources is the lord of the heavens of thirty-threegods and is the slayer of demons. In addition, Sakra wields thethunderbolt, which is an attribute corresponding well with the %Vedic vajra. 62 Ho ,ever, the Buddhist vision of 13akra is more closelyrelated to the textual description of Indra n the Epic texts. InBUddhist i c o n o g r a p h y ~ a k r a is given form with specific physicalattributes: for example, he wears a special c r o ~ m ( k i r i ~ a ~ ) , 6 3 hecarries an amrta flask (the liquid contained herein restores humanl ife) ,64 is dressed in the att ire of a royal personage.1anc is shadedby an umbrella. He is not the Supreme Being in the Epics nor is ~ a k r athe Supreme Being in the Buddhist tradition. The attention of theEpics is beginning to be focused away from Indra towaro the eventualsupremacy of Visnu and Siva. 65 The Indra of the Vedas has lost muchof the grandeur he held by the time we find him n the Epics and bythe time we find sakra figured n the earliest reliefs ana texts ofthe Buddhists.

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    The appearance of an Indra-like figure must certainly have hadan effect in the amelioration of the strangeness of the Buddhist t radition in i t s early stages. The appearance of a familiar dist:i.nguish-able character who figures in the Hindu tradition would no doubt renderearly Buddhism more appealing. The relationship between Inora ana

    ~ a k r a appears to be evolutionary: Indra.has become the Buddhist devaSakra,. Thus Indra was incorporated into Buddhism as a Vedic/Epicfigure whose character necessitated modification in accordance withBuddhist doctrine. Indra and 13akra. share common characteristics andare historical ly connected. But ~ a k r a is different.fromthe Epic/VedicIndra. I t cannot therefore be maintained that the Indra of the Epic. .period and the Sakra of the early Buddhist period are one and the

    .. .same. Despite the similarities bet.,een Indra and Sakra., Sakra actsn Buddhism n a distinctly BUddhist manner. .- . -Both Sakra and Brahma

    pay homage to the BUddha. ~ a k r a is conspicuous for his geniality andsoftness of character attributes somewhat de-emphasized in the Vedas).His ethical character, only one of his attr ibutes in the Vedas, isparticularly emphasized in Buddhism: he is prone to performing goodacts . 66 He is certainly vulnerable to the same pitfa l ls as mankind. 67His status as a god in adoration of' the Buddha carries particularweight in legitimizing the position of the Buddha.

    Few heavenly beings can be distinguishec. in early Buddhism asdistinct figures. The emergence o f ~ a k r a as one of these few distinctfigures in both texts and iconography of early Buddhism is indicativeof the importance of the position he holds in the Buddhist tradition.

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    25Early Buddhist Monuments

    Among the earliest reliefs which have survived from e.ncientIndia are those which decorate the stupas t S;nchl ana Bh;rhut. Onemust rely almost entirely on these: monuments for early representa.tions

    tof Sakra. His representations here in conjunction with the contempor-ary texts of the Pali Canon make i t possible to present a reasonablyaccurate analysis of the Buddhist figure of Sab-a.

    These rel iefs t Sanchi and Bharhut are the only survivingevidence of the steps in the iconographic developments which occuredin North India t this time. As b th SanchI and Bharhut are situatedon what were important trade routes, they are not the 1 rork of an 1so-lated populace. The representations there reflect the influx of newideas, the interchange of those ideas with local ideas, and thus thedevelopment of Buddhist tradition. There is no reaf'on, hovever, toassume that Sanchi and Bharhut werel the most important of .earlyBuddhist sites. One can assume that these monuments were among sever-13 1 such monuments. Not even the Chinese pilgrims who visited Indiafrom the third to the sixth century C.E. deem Sanchi important enoughto document as they did other monuments. 68 Nor is Sanchi i t se l f

    - 69mentioned in Pali Literature save in the M a h a v a ~ s a Nevertheless,i t is here t SaIichi and Bharhut for the f i rs t time, three to fivecenturies after the death of the Buddha, that one finds concreterepresentations of stories found in ancient Buddhist texts.

    The Bharhut reliefs are somewhat earl ier than the earl iestreliefs at SanchI. The figures are executed in a simple style and

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    possess a certain degree of dignity.The Bharhut rel iefs deal primarily lith the Jataka tales and

    contain many of the detai ls from t,he particular ta le they represent.This of course makes for easier narrative identification.

    The reliefs t Sanchl have been divided into three broad historical groups: early, intermediate and la te .70 Lit t le variety inrepresentational style is found in the e ~ l i e s t stages. These reliefsconcentrate on select events in the l i i e of the Buddha. Yaksas a nddecorative motifs occupy the remaining areas. .t.Sakra does not appee.rin any clearly identifiable form. on the reliefs of this period. Inthe reliefs i rom the intermediate stage certain Jataka tales are re-presented i or the f i rs t time. Of these tales, five have been icentif ieain various reliefs. As well, several new scenes from the l i f e of theBuddha are found which are not in evidence in the reliefs from theearly period. The l ter stage rel iefs t Sanchi B re from the Guptaperiod and bear l i t t le relation to the reliefs of the early Buddhistperiod. t is the intermediate Period at Sanchi, in 1 rhich representations from both the lii e of the Buddha and the Jata.ka ta.les e.ppear, anClcertain reliefs from Bharhut which are significant for our study.

    Few of the i igures at these sites are recognizable outside ofthe narrative context. The majority of reliefs deal with the l i fe ofthe Buddha ; rho i s himself not represented in hume n form; select 2ymboIs indicate his presence. The surviving rel iefs from Bharhut areinvaluable in deciphering the partilcular narrative meanings of the

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    rel iefs at Sanchi thanks to the inscriptions a large number of themcontain. From these inscriptions one can identify specific gToupingsrepresenting scenes in Buddhist legends. I-1ithout the presence ofidentifying features, the figures cannot be identified.

    Identifying FeaturesSakra appears in the reliefs of each of the early u d ~ h i s t

    monuments t SanchI, Bharhut, and Bodh Gaya in one or more of the fol -lowing forms: with a turban-like headdress of the usual Anchra type;with this same turban-like headdress but lith the additional attr ibutesof the amrta flask and the va.ira; ,,,ith a different headcress of cylin-drical form (once lith la tera l ly projecting lings); or It ith the cylin-d.rical headdress but with the add.itional attr ibutes of the amrtaflask and the vajra. At Sanchi he appears in three of these forms,t Bharhut in one form, and t Bodh Gaya in one form.

    Table 1 shows the formes) in which ~ k r appearp t each ofthe three monuments. n addition, There he appears t a monument, thespecific textual event d.epicted in the re l ief i s given. The numbersfollo.ling the event are plate numbers from sources to be namec belm7and are given as reference.

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    pI 34a Miracle pI XLVIII.7 B h i ~ a J a t a k ~a t 'Sravasti

    pI 34c Descent atS a n k i ~ a

    pI 35bl IndrasaIaguhapI 18a3 Indra andSacIpl 49c d h y e ~ a n apl 64a2 IIpl 64a3 Indrasalaguha

    pI 49a,bSix devalokas

    pI 29c VessantaraJ8:takapl 65al 'SyamaJataka

    pl :a,III. 8 HigapotakaJ8:taka

    pI XVIII DescentS ~ n k r s a

    PIa te nUlnbers refer to those found In:

    pI XXXIX Incra'Santi

    * Ihrshall , J . , 3.nd Foucher, A., Thp. Honuments of sanehi, Delhi, 19/L 101.Plate n ~ ~ b e r s refer to those found in:

    > CtL.'1ninghao, The Stu';)'3- o f h ~ r h u t V8,ranad: 1962Plate numbers refer to those fotL.'10 in:***. Coomaras,.,ralilY, A., La Sculptllre r18 Borh GIl ro, Paris

    Hhen Sakra is represented in the f i r s t form mentioned abov =l(at C . ; ; : : : c . : ~ ,-:nd B', '-a r', ut ) . i+h onl y the t b 1 1 h d~ u ~ ~ ' .. _ _ ur an- l ~ e e a ; G r e ~ ~ he IS


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    without other identifying features. He does, however, often appearhere dressed in royal garb, accompaniec by attendants, and in closecontact with his elephant, Airavata. This headdress is indicative ofroyal and godly status and s in fact of the early roYal type: Talarge muslin turban interwoven with long hair so that a ball of mater-ia l forms a sort of crest a t Bharhut and the same type but of a moresymetrical crossing of the narrow bands of material above the fore-

    ~ n .head a t a a c h i ~ As figures in the reliefs in which Sakra appearsin this form may also appear with this same headdress, bis identif ica-t ion in these reliefs is made difficul t . His presence in this formmust be deduced from textual evidence alone. "Sakra in this form willbe discussed with refe.rence to the reliefs devoted to Indra s vis i t t

    .the Buddha a t Indrasala.-guha, the descent of the Buddha a t Sanki 5a anda variety of Jataka tales.

    In the second form, takra appears (at S a ~ c h I wearing thissame turban-like headdress. His identif ication is faci l i tated thoughby t lO attributes exclusive to him: the jar of am:-ta (an ambrodal ike liquid) which he holds in his l e f t hand and an object which resem-bles the Greek thunderbolt which he holds in his right hand. He is inthis form often dressed in royal garb and accompanied by attendants.

    takra appears a t Bodh Gaya disguised as the Brahman ~ a n t i .His headgear appears to be that of the third form" 1. e. of the cylin-drical type. I t is a relat ively short object. There s some questionhowever as to the nature of this detaiL Because this re l ief depicts

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    -Sakra in disguise, Bachhofferinfers that this cylindrical form. is72nothing more than hair.

    In a few scenes a t Safi chi Sakra appears in the third form,which is distinctive iconographically. His head apparel is unique tohim alone even at this early stage: a ta l l cylindrical c r o ~ ~ madeapparently of metal, sometimes bejewelled and once represented withwhat appear to be la tera l wings projecting from the sides. Thisheaddress is not a turban. In e a ~ y Indian ar t i t appears only inconnection with Indra. 73 I t is the Greek Polos and has been transmittedto India through the intermediary of Parthian art 74 A th is crownis the exclusive property o f ~ a k r a this feature coupled with thethunderbolt and/or jar of am;-ta .rit.h which i t s invariably r e p r e ~ e n t e da t sa:nchi clearly identify this- figure Sakra (e. g. VessantaraJataka,;yama Jataka).

    1atakas,The J8:takas are tales of the past l ives of the Buecha s nd

    i l lust ra te the virtue which a bodhisattva must possess i f he is toattain perfect enlightenment. Many of them are popular legencs ofpre-Buddhistic origin adapted by Buddhists as i l lust ra t ive of BUddhistdoctrine. The Buddha himself s said to have told many of these asedifying tales n the course of his career as a teacher.75

    In the earl ies t Buddhist rel iefs, i t s both the Jatakap, andscenes from the present l i f e of the Buddha vhich are dominant.

    The reliefs a t both Sanchi and Bharhut are thus narrative and

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    include amaz.ing1y minute doe bails f rom given tale.. At Bharhilt, h 1 1ever, many of these r e p r e s e n t ~ i o n s are accompanied i ~ e n t i f y i n ginscriptions , These tvo i'eatures IOf the Bmrlm t rel.ief's tbe inscr ip-t ions and the attention given to detai l , suggest. that. the tales repres-ented vere not publically familiar and that precaution was taken toinsure correct identification. Otherwise why are not l l of thereliefs inscribed? Identifying inscriptions of this type do notappear t San-chI. In addition, there is an almost complete lack ofperspective. Often in a given re l ief one finos more than one scenefrom a tale juxtaposed to another from the same tale. Certainly theiCCInographic forms and the tales 1-,hich are not inscribed must havebeen familiar enOlugh to render these tangled reliefs readily acce:osible . Without the aid OIf textual sources t is almost impossible forpresent day scholars to identify a story or scene in any particularrel ief .

    -Bakra is one of the few heavenly beings that can be consiBtent-ly identified at S a ~ c h and Bharhut. The Jatakas in which ~ a k r aappears i l lust ra te both his iconographic form and his rele in BudCJ histlegend. He does nOlt, i t should be noted, pl y starring role in e.nyof the reliefs but is rather an important seconda,ry figure. 'Sakraappears in the reliefs t sanchi and Bharhut in the foilo',ring Jat?katales.

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    Vessantara Jat. lka76This important Jataka i s i l lust ra ted a t l e n ~ t h at SanchL77

    t is the ta le of a p a ~ t l i re in ~ m i c h the bodhi:::m.ttvl 1 is born thePrince Vessantara. Devotleo. to giving gi.fts, Vessantara gives away hisiI13.gical elephant. He and his .family are then banisher to the forestwhere he subsequently gives a.Hay everything, i,nclucing his t1 O chilcren.

    ~ a k r a , perceiving Vessantara s vir tue, disguises himself as a brahmanand requests that Vessantara give up his wife. Vessantara c o ~ p l i e sSakra then reveals himself and restores to V s s a n t a r a hiE Y i : e ~ Fin-ally, his children ane kingdom are returnea to him ane they l ivehappily.

    /Sakra s represented in the re l ie f in b I 0 rays: in the disguiseo.f the brahman requesting the Hife of Vessantara; and, in his true.form a t the end o.f the panel to the l e f t in the .final ~ c e n e in whicha l l is restored to Vessantara. .The incident of Sakra disguised as abrahman requesting the wife of Vessantara is representec.78 HereSakra appears in the usual costume of a brahman. /SakrA., reve?.lerl inhis true form, appears in princely earb adorned rith the cylindricalheaddress peculiar to him79 (figure 2). He carries the thunderbolt inhis le f t hand and a jar of am;tr . :In his right. Thi:: i s one of the :e ...scenes a t S ~ n c h i in which ~ a k r a appears wearing this headgear. Therow of figures in which he appears is o t h e ~ ~ i s e ~ ~ i ~ e n t i f i p b l e

    This Jataka was ann s one of the most popular tales r e c o r ~ i n gthe past l ives of the b o ~ h i s ~ t t v n As i l lus t rat ive of o ~ e of the t ~ nvirtues required to 0. t tain I3uc;c:hClhoOG (chari ty) a n ~ a 3 the B u : ~ r ~ h f . s

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    l as t birth as bodhisattva t plays a focal role in BufJdhist tradition.The abi l i ty of -Sakra to grant boons indicates the nature of his pm.reT:i t i s in this l i fe t h t ~ k r can assist man. Although Vessantara isnot pleased with his fate in the forest, he does not ask for I:u' sistance

    '-from the gods and is la ter rewarded by Sakra after having been put tothe tes t Sakra does not neeo to be called for his assistance; heonly appears on earth when a being exercises extreme this case, appears as an essentially moral figure.

    - - 80,:,yama Jataka


    - - 81This tale is represented a t Sanchi. The bodhisattva is bornto an ascetic husband and wife as a result of Sakra. having foreseenthat the couple would lose their sight: he he.s sent the bodhisp..ttvato be born to them. The child is named ~ y m and a.ttencs his parents.One day, a king shoots the lad. Learning of the old couple s physicalaffl ict ion, the king attends upon them himself. Ydraculously, the boyis cured and the parents recover their sight.

    -akra appears with one attendant and above the dead child atthe top of this rel ief . His right hand i s raised in a gesture ofencouragement; his l e f t holds the amrta flask. As in the Vel 88.ntarHJataka, he wears a ta l l cylindrical headdress. H01{eVer, in the rel iefof the 'Sva:ma Jataka his headdress is elaborated to include -That appearto be la tera l ly projecting 1tlings. t is here for the f i rs t time in

    82 ;Indian ar t that this type of headdress appears. Sakre., in thisre l ief is the figure responsible for restoring -;$yama. to l i f e In therel ief , he i s obviously in the air.. Af this figure i s not bound by

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    earthly constraints, he is of godly status. The amrta j r which hecarries is spoken of as earl.yas the Mahiibharata where i t was used byIndra for restoring l i fe to the dead. S3 The earl ies t versions of thePali Jatakas ascribe the act of restoration in this specific tale to agoddess. 84 However, there is no figure in this re l ief identifiable asa goddess. Because of Sakra' s position above the dead .chilo, amrtaflask in hand, we may assume that, in this specific re l ief t Sanchi,

    ~ k r appears not only in the capacity of patron but also in the capac-i ty of the l ife-restorer.K . - 8usa Jataka

    This Jataka represented t Bharhut te l l s the story of a kingwhose wife bore no children. 86 His subjects are notably distressed onthis account and prevail upon the king to t ry l l rightful means inaccordance with the rules of ancient morality to obtain the birth ofa son. Accordingly, the king sends his chief queen out into thestreets as a solemn act under religious sanction in order to find some-one who can give her a child. At th is point the throne of'Sakra gloV s,awakening him to the virtue of the queen. ~ k r carries the queen offto his abode and grants her tyT boons. ne is the conception of anugly but wise son; the other is the conception of a handsome but foolishson. She chooses to have the ugly son f i rs t and accepts the Kusa grassgiven to her by Sakra. She returns to the king. Sakra in disguise asa brahman touches her with his thumb and she immediately conceives thebodhisattva.

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    The focal point of the re l ief representing this Jataka is thequeen informing the king as to her adventures. ~ a k r a is seen behindthe couple, returning to heaven. His back is to t:pe spectator. Sakrais not represented in any iconographic form that would identify him asthe king of T r a v a s t r i m ~ a He is dressed in a nondescript manner. Thus,the only means afforded us for his identification as ~ a k r a are contextual. Again 3akra responds to virtue and acts accordingly. He grantsthe queen two sons and leaves her t.o decide which one (wise or foolish,handsome or ugly) i s preferable. t is a choice in moral terms: adecision is made in favor of good over beauty.

    Miganotaka Jataka87In a number of J ~ t a k a s J l such as the Migepotaka JataJrn, the

    bodhisattva himself is born as ~ a k r a 8 8 In th is particular story,there is a hermit who laments the death of his pet deer. The bodhisa-

    attva born as Sakra appears to the hermit and admonishes him for suchfoolishness. The hermit is ultimately cureo of this madness of t>reep-ing and Sakra returns to his abod.e.

    A re l ief of this Jataka is found a t Bharhut. The figures are/the lamenting hermit, the dead deer, and Sakra who appears in this

    rel ief wearing the turban-like headdress and without other identifiableattributes. This re l ief must be therefore identified contextually.

    Bhisa Jataka90- 91This scene is represented a t Bharhut. In this Jataka the

    story of the bodhisattva who is born into a Brahman family i s tolo.

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    The bodhisattva renounces the world and retires into the mountainswith his sis ter , six b:rothers, two servants, and one companion. A treedeity, a monkey, and an lelephant are his devotees. Each day one ofthe brothers gathers lotus fibre food for a l l and divides it up. Hethen leaves a portion of this food for the others which they must pickup individually. The bodhisattva's share disappears on several occas-ionss Gathering together, they make an oath to the bodhisattva disavow-ing the theft . -Suddenly Sakra appears, admits to the crime and praisesthem for sincerity.

    The bodhisattva, a k ~ a (tree spiri t ) and monkey appear in therelief each with an arm outstretched and thumb in palm, an ancientgesture of oath making. Sakra appears to the right adorned with theroyal t u r b a n l i ~ e headdress offering the stolen lotus stalks. Anelephant appears to the extreme right of the re l ief . The presence of...sakra can only be d etermined contextually. He vears the turban ofroyalty and carries the lotus stalks indicative of his role in thestory (figure .3 . The scene was idlsntified by Rbys Davids only withreference to the inscription which appears here. 92

    Only a small number of Jataka. ta les from the entire Jatakacollection are represented in the reliefs t S;nchi and Bharhut. Thetales are intended. to be instructive, to be i l lust ra t ive of a particul r virtue necessary to Buddhahood, and to remind the reader/viewer ofthe great sacrifice required of the b o d h i s a t t v a ~ U n d e r l y i n ~ thestories is the knowledge that the bodhisattva was to eventually attain

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    supreme e n 1 i g h t e n m e n t ~ t is the concern of the Jatakas to deal withthe nature of the b o d h i s a t t v a ~ , character and this is accomplished wi th in the context of a narrative. The Jataka reliefs in which ~ a k r aappears a t Sanchi and Bharhut i l lus t rate the role he plays in Buddhistlegend. This role is clear ly secondary for t s the bodhisattva.who is the primary subject of both the reliefs and the tales.

    ~ a k r a s iconographic ~ o r m is distinctive a t Sanchi, in thetwo Jatakas in which he appears represented there. In both of thereliefs he wears his distinctive cylindrical headdress and carrieseither one or both of the jar of amrta and the vajra. At Bharhut hisform is either that of a royal personage wearing the turban-likeheaddress or that of a brahman in disguise. s neither form a t Bharhutis unique to Sakra he can only be identified by context.

    Scenes in the Life of the BuddhaIn addition to the Jetakas, or tales of the past l ives of the

    Buddha Sakra figures in the present l i fe of the Buddha. The textsfrom the Pali Canon which deal with this subject are contemporaneouswith the J e t a k a s ~ They will be specified as sources when the reliefsdepicting the events are discussed. ~ a k r a can be identified here inmuch the same manner as we have seen in the section dealing with theJetakas. However in the present l i fe of the Buddha S a k r a r ~ role isalways that of an attendant or devotee of the Buddha. In the reliefsa t San:chl and Bharhut Sakra appears in the following scenes in thel i fe of the Buddha.

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    Th V '.j. 6 k8 ISl 0 ~ I l r aThis event i s described in the S a k k a - P ; J . n h ~ . Suttanta or The

    Questions of Sakka ll 93 The Suttanta begins 'When the Exalted One isresiding on the Vediya mountain in a cave ca.lled Indrasa1aguha wheY'e

    ~ a k r a ane other devas are congregated. ~ a k r a , desiring an auciencewith him, sends Pancasikha, his harpist, with this request. The cavea t this point is described. as bathed in radiance. PailcaHkha, in orcerto gain the attention of the Buddha, proceeds to play his harp andrecite certain verses. The Buddha is 1.,rell pleased with the music andgrants 'Sakra. an audience. Sakra appears with his retinue and asks avariety of questions relating to the Buddhist doctrine the answers towhich suffice to convince him of the Truth of the BUddhist doctrine.Sakra is taught the dharma and realizes that enlightenment is not '.ionby blows or the defeat of asuras (which are Indra s typical feats) but

    94by dharma. Having his questions answered and his doubts dispeller:,~ a k r a worships the Buddha and vows to teach the Dharma himself. 95

    There are three rel iefs depicting this scene which are ofearly date: those from Bharhut, SanchI ana Bodh Gayi.

    The earl iest of these re l ie fs a t Bharhut- is identified bymeans of the inscription I n G r a s ~ l a ~ u h ~ (figure 4).96 The rel ief isnot entirely intact yet one clin discern the characteristics , hich areto become the identifying features of other rel iefs of this subject.The fragment hich ',lOuld identify the m.,rner of the hane' ha=- been lost .Ho, ever in the context of the Sutt::lnta, the harp is sufficient cat a toidentify i t having been part of the a n c a ~ i k h a figure. . /Sakr a doe:::

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    not appear in distinctive i orm. in this reliei '. Either he appears asone of the devas who wait a t the cave or his i'igure been lost qrhe Was not represented a t al l The presence of the Bucdha is indicat-ed by an al tar canopied by an umbrella i rom which hang two garlands.Rocks are piled above the al tar indicating a rocky grotto ,, hich ispolished inside. A small Indrasala tree is ~ h o v n on the upper ridgeof the cave grOi.[ing amongst the reeks. monkeys s i t on rocks abovethe cave and two bears look out from piles of rocks.

    Two dii'ferent rel iefs dealing with th is event appear a t S;nchi.In the i ' i rst (figure 5), the cave is rendered a t the top oi the panelin a manner similar to that found a t Bharhut but with an arched frontand flames issuing from the rocks elt the top.97 Mountain goats on theright and lions on the l e f t replace the monkeys ana bears from Bharhut.Pancaikba appears on the right with his harp. Inside the cave asmall t ree grows in i'ront of which s an al tar indicating the Buddha'spresence. Sakra cannot be r1ecognized by any particular attribute orheaddress. However, i t may be supposed that he i s the central figureof the ten figures representing the devas who appear in h I rows belowthe cave wearing the Andhra type turban. This central figure is Flight-ly larger than the others of this group, and stands, with his back tothe spectator in an attitude of reverent supplication. This rel iefis one of the most lelaborate ana detailed treatments of this particu-l a r event. The second re l ief at SaflchI dealing with this event doesso very minimally: only the outline of the grotto can be deciphered. 98

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    A relief at Bodh Gaya vhieh dates from the f i rs t century B.C.E.,represents this event also. 99 The cave is indicated in the usual man-ner, but, a step and rai l ing have been added externally. n altarwithout an umbrella indicates the Buddha s presence. To the right ofthe cave is That appears to be a tree. To the l e f t is Pa.ncasikhaholding his harp. ~ a k r a is not represented.

    The identifying iconographic features of this event are fixedat Bharhut and a n c h i ~ They are: the cave, the presence of the Salatree, and the figUre of Pa. ricasikha. The inscription i ~ n t i f i s theBharhut re l ief and the above elements, also present at Bharhut, denotethe scene in most subsequent reliefs. The presence of Sakra can onlybe inferred from the texts. f he is represented, he appears as oneof the figures in front of the cave at Bharhut and is a t SaTlchi thecentral figure in the upper row. Distinguishing attributes of otherfigures are lacking except with respect to Panca. sikha. t s thisfigure whose presence alone n the Bodh Gaya re l ief suffices to re-cal l the event. The animals above the cave inc.icate the wilcness ofthe area and the flames issuing from the rocks a t Sanchi corresponcwith the description of the cave in the Sakka paffha Suttanta. lOO Thetree which appears in most of the reliefs may be inoicative of thename of the cave, Indrasalaguha.

    The subject of this event as indicated in the texts and thereliefs is an affirmation of faith by the god Sakra. The implicationis clear: The desirabil i ty of the Buddhist doctrine is emphasizeo in

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    that even the king of the gods, once he h a ~ heard the answers of theMaster, is unable to resis t capitulation. ~ a k r a simply becomes here-af ter a staunch supporter of the new faith. This mythic moce ofaffirmation regarding faith ~ a k r a affirms the Buddhist ooctrine) has

    , ,101 .i t s historical correlative in the a r i v a ~ s a w ~ t h respect to theconfrontation between Indra and Krsna. s noteo, in that event Indraresponds to Krsna's interference with violence and accepts Krsna'ssuperiority only when he is proven unsuccessful. In the Budc3hist context i t is ~ a k r a who takes the ini t ia t ive in seeking out the Budcha foranswers to his questions. After having heard the answers and perceiv-ing them to be true he affirms the Buddha's superior wisdom.actions here test i fy to his nature as a thinking moral being.


    This is reminiscent thematically of the visi t of Indra andVerocana to Prajapati recorded in the Chandogya Upanisad. 102 The pur-pose of the visi t in Pa i and Hindu texts is to seek instruction. ti s therefore suggested by narrative example that the reader seek outthe truth of the claim contained in the texts rather than rely on sec-ondary sources. Indeed, what better example could one fallen than thatof a god to whom one i s devoted?

    The inscription of th is episode t Bharhut is of course cri t ic lto an understanding of the narrative event in which i t figures. Be-cause of the nature of Prakrt, the inscribeo wores can be read n tloTdifferent ways: either as Inara sa1a {Plha (or tbe cave of the Incirasal t ree); or Inara ~ a j 1 a uha (or the rocky cavern of Incra). In

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    both cases the inscription is explanatory. As IUnra sala gyba, i tWould refer to the t r ee 'Which appears in most. of the reliefs inearly Buddhist art which t rea t this event. This same expression occurs

    - - - 103in several passages of the Die-ha N:ikava of the Pali Canon. . A< Inr raSaila guh or InoTa 511a guhi, i t OTould refer to the rock cave inwhich the al tar representing the Buddha appears. These particularwords, Inara sIla guha, appear in an inscription of a relief dealingwith this event on a la ter Buddhist s i te a t Ghosrawa in Bihar.104

    The name I n d r a ~ a i l a g u h i is also used by the Chinese Pilgrims.Fa-hsienand Hsuan-tsang (In-to-lo-shi-lo-kia-ho-shan).105

    Keeping the Indra/gakra relationship in mind, the words Inora.galla guha take on an interesting l ight in the framework of the dev-elopment of th is relationship, and of the relationship between theVedic and the Buddhist historical periods. f indeed the meaning ofthe inscription is the cavern of Indra I , one loula expect to find IndTarepresented n the eave. We do not. Rather i t i s the al tar represent-ing the presence of the BUddha that takes this position in the cave.The Buddha has taken Indra s designated place. Indra has thus beendisplaced passively, as what had been his is nm., the Buddha s. f heis indeed among the devotees in the rel ief, he has been displacedactively, as his act of pilgrimage i s implicative of his acquiescenceto the Buddha. Devotees had praised Indra; now Inara praises theBuddha. In this context, this is nOit only an affirmation or theBuddha's supremacy but an affirmation of Indra s loss of' C'upremacy.

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    Divyavadana, the Dhammapada .Commentary, t h ~ travels of Fa-hsien, andHsuan-tsang.109 In al l o i these c c o u n t ~ of this event, the mainpoints the story remain the same although the details differ. Thestory according to the introduction of the Sarabha miga Jataka is asfo11oHs.

    After having performed the miracles a t ~ r v s t i ~ of mriltiply-ing his person while walking in the air the Bueche. :a scends to Travas-ttimsa heaven in order to teach the gods. There he remains unti l thefestival is over. He then descends to earth a t a b k i ~ a y means astairway which Was constructed by the architect Vivakarma a t the

    /command of Sakra. I t is a single stairway with three paral lel i v i s ~ions: one of gems, one of silver, and one of gold. Sakra, "'hor ies a bowl and robe, Suyama, who bears a yak s t a i l fan, and Brahma,who carries a sunsbade, as well as the deities the ten thousandspheres, pay homage to him. Having descended, the Master questionshis disciples and then declares the Law to the entire company.

    On the west gate of Bhilrhut i s a re l ief of the great ladder bywhich the Buddha descended (figure 6).110 This ladder is portraye0 asa t r iple fl ight of stone steps. At the top of the mid(:le ladder is onefootprint engraved with a wheel indicating the Buddha s teachings tothe gods in T r a y a s t r i m ~ a h e a v e n ~ There is an identical :footprint a tthe bottom of the middle ladder indicating the preaching of the lai- tothose spectators who were present at his descent. This group ofspectators appears n three rows to the l e f t of the ladder wearing

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    The Buddha. asserts himself as master or Indra who himself hac beenmaster of the gods. Moreover we may dra , some inferences from thelabeling of the re l ief as Indra Saila guh ,hen in fact He kri.o r fromextual evidence that the event deals with the god Sakra.

    This voluntary act of accession to the Buddhist Dha 1 la i sgoverned by ethics anc. morality. The demand to choose what is right(in this case Buddhism) renders Sakra an agent of morality.106 Inthe Vedic age, the emphasis in the character of Incre. is not on themoral aspect of his actions: he slays demons because he l ikes toslay demons. As akra acts n favor of good, he is not the Inera ofthe Vedic period but is rather lndra in a Buddhist context. He i sseen here as an esteemed figure. Sakra is a being who 1Jillingly actsin favor of Buddhist truth; and remains both a staunch supporter ofthe new faith and a devotee of the Buddha. 107

    t i s n this role that he appears overwhelmingly in la terBuddhism. The reliefs a t sanchI and Bharhut and the correspondingtexts which represent this event in the present l i fe of the Buddha areamong the earl ies t indications of his career in the Buddhist context.

    The Descent a t Sanklsa (or Samk;sya).Another story in which Sakra plays a role and which is depict

    ed a t SanchI and Bharhut i s that of the descent of the Buadha (devava-tara) from travastrimsa a t a n k r ~ a ~ This event i s relatec in thepreamble to the Sarabha miga Jataka and functions as a story of thepresent l i fe of the Buddha.108 t also occurs in la te r texts: the

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    turbans identical to those of the flying figures above, i . e . the-Andhra-type turban. In the upper portion of the rel ief , to thel e f t and one to the r ight of the ladder, appear three flying figures.A tree grows to the right hand side of the ladder and under t is asea which is cove red 1011th lotus marks and is canopied by e n umbrellafrom which hang garlands. In front of and to the right of this seats a group of individuals who s i t with joined hands and whol are, one

    would assume, l istening to the i Yords of the Master. They wear turbans-of two types: a nondescript turban, or one of the Andhra-type turbans.This mixture of turban types would imply that the group is either com-posed of men and royal personages or men and deit ies.

    A re l ief similar to the above is found t S;nchi figure 7).The ladder is here constructed without divisions. Above the ladGer,the sermon of the Buddha to the gods is represented: six seateddivini t ies, two of whom pl y drum, surround a t ree which i s sur-mounting a seat. At the bottom of the ladder is another seat sur-mounted by a tree. On either side of this are small human figures.n the middle of the re l ief between these two similar groupings and on

    ei her side of the ladder appear two ro,,,s of deities wearing royalAndhra-type turbans who accompany the Buddha on his descent. Thesedeities are larger n stature than the group of human figures appea:r-ing at the bottom of the ladder. Size is a common inoicator n thereliefs t SafichI and is used to denote degree of importance. Gener-ally, the largest figures are deit ies.)

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    n the re l ief the Buddha l.S depicted as teaching the goas inTrayastrima heaven, descending from that heaven, andteaching againon earth. PJLthough n other re l iefs heavens are depicted, this eventi s the f i rs t event represented t SanchI which does not take place onearth but in heaven.

    The task of identifying either Sakra or Bra.bmB: amongst thedeities who appear in these rel iefs i s i m p o s ~ i b l e The above mentionedtexts (which are l ter in date) in which the Descent t a n k i ~ a isrecorded affirm the presence of ~ a k r a and Brahma t this event. However, neither the re l ief t San hI nor the re l ief t Bharhut give usclear iconographic evidence of their presence. ~ l l i a t s icentif iablein these reliefs are figures who represent deities. Later textualversions of this event - the texts used by the sculpures of theGandhara period as referents to this event - clearly specify not only-.Sakra s and Brahma , s presence but their position relative to theBuddha as well. The reliefs t Gandhara actually represent the physicalf orm of the Buddha and, in the reliefs which depict this event, placea r e c o g n i z a b l e ~ a k r a to his le f t and Brahma to his right. This icono-graphic format whic:h appears elsewhere t Gandhara become , in la.terGandharanrelief s the format chosen to represent the Buddha flankedby two borlhisattyas.111 Hence, as both the l ter Budnhist texts andthe reliefs t Gandhara representing this scene give specific informa-tion regarding the presence of akra and Brahma t this event, ano asthe texts of the early Buddhist Canon refer to thei r presence t thisevent, we can assume that , however unidentifiable they are, ~ a k r a and

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    Brahma are present in the reliefs a t sanchi and Bharhut which deal withthis present l i fe of the Buddha.

    In addition, i t should be noted .that these reliefs a t Senchand Bharhut are both preceeded by reliefs identifiable as the miracle

    ;a t Sravasti. f one creClits the la ter Divvavadana as the 'referent forthe ~ r a v a s t I rel iefs, as does Foucher, then the tale must have beenconcurrent with the execution of this re l ief .112 The Divyave.d 1na

    .specifies that the. BudClha flanked by Sakra and Brahma. In theseearly Buddhist reliefs of the miracle of ~ r a v a s t I figures recognizableas deities appear on either side of the. Buddha. this event i s thepreamble to the descent a t Sannsa in the Sarabha niira Jataka, the tHOevents are part of one larger unit. So must the reliefs be vieweo vro of the alcolytes in both of the reliefs dealing with these hro

    events a t sanchi and Bharhut are representations of ~ k r and Brahma. 113The iconogrephic ~ a k r a / B u d d h a / B r a h m a motif has been clearly

    established neither a t Sanch nor at Bharhut. As i t has been establish-ed however, that Sakra and Brahma figure in the texts in some form andattendant to the Buddha, this relationship is implied iconographicallyat this early date. The position of the two figures relative to theBuddha, though, has not been fixed.

    The absolute excellence of the Buddha would of course not beindicated i f he were represented with earthly attendants only. Thenotion of attendant implies service and protection. These in fact arethe two characteristics that Sakra is imbued with and which are

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    exemplified by the Pali Canon with respect to the Buddha and is followers.114 Devas appearing attendant to the Buddha further enhancethe position of the Buddha himself. How could mere men oppose afigure whose well-being is ::afeguarded by not only cevas but Clevas vl oare in his service?

    . .Devas, specifically Sakra, respond to exceptional acts of good-ness and asceticism and grant favors to the wise. The permanent alleg-

    . .iance which Sakra exhibits towards the Buddha i s , however, textuallyunprecedented. The Epic texts, Inara responds reluctantly " ;lhen summon-ed by exceptional rs is and in one case attempts to disuaCle a seer fromo rpractising tapa;:;.1l5 In Buddhist legend Sakra does at one point inthe Alambusa .Tataka attempt to disuade a seer from doing so; hOl,rever,he realizes his folly and subsequently repents. 1l6 . ,In general, Sakradoes not question the authority of BuCldhist doctrine. Rather, praise

    ,'and homage are in order. Brahm[ and Sakra textually and by icono-graphic implication honor the Buddha by accompanying him on his descentto earth. Their presence with the Buddha is to become even more common-place, particularly in la ter iconography.

    Miscellaneous Representations of Sakra~ k r figures in certain early reliefs other than those pre-

    viously described. These are: heavenly scenes, or the scenes ofSakrafs heaven; the visi ts of ~ k r and Brahma; and at Bodh Gaya,Sakra as 'Santi

  • 8/21/2019 Anderson Sakra in Early Buddhist Art



    Heavenly ScenesThere i s a t SanchI a non-narrative representation of the

    worlds of the devas which has no particular textual source (figure 8).117The re l ief is divided into three compartments, each dividec by carvedpi l lars and each representing one or the six Kamavacara heavens. Ineach of these central compartments is a figure wearing an early Andhra-type turban, holding a vajra in his right hand, and an amrta flask inhis le f t Seated next to him is a rigure identiried as a crO ltm ,;prince.118 I t is the upper compartment, which represents Tra.yastriI lsa,

    'ver which Sakra resides properly and immediately presides. The typein a l l of the central compartments is ~ a k r a . He wears the h e a d d r e ~ s

    'f ro