JACQUES-EDOUARD BERGER FOUNDATION:World Art Treasures

The second circle is carved with bas-reliefs illustrating a version of the "Lalita", the hagiographic account of the Buddha's life. The version presented is altogether Mahayanist, contrasting with the original concept of the Buddha as pre-existing his earthly manifestation, as first living in the heavens, from whence, at a certain moment, he decides to descend to come to the rescue of humanity. The Indian Lalita starts with the Buddha's altogether physical and prosaic birth, providing no foreshadowing of his vital predestination. The Buddha sees the light of day in the town of Kapilavastu, as the son of the town's King Suddhodana and Queen Maya Devi. At Ajanta (village in central Maharashtra, S. central India), we see this same scene representing Suddhodana's silence, which is a particularly beautiful Mahayanist idea. Suddhodana adores his wife Maya Devi, but is sad not to have children. Rather than repudiate or chase away his wife, he falls into total silence. He remains altogether impassive, and this is what becomes unbearable to his wife, inciting her to beseech the heavens to send her a child. The bas-relief illustrated here is particularly beautiful, depicting Suddhodana in a fully hieratic stance, while Maya Devi's attitude falls between restrained tenderness and a sort of humility, even guilt. The scene takes place at the well-known moment when, to the distress of their entire court, the royal couple suffers the separation imposed between them by the heirless Suddhodana's silence.


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