JACQUES-EDOUARD BERGER FOUNDATION:World Art Treasures

The panel on the temptation of the Buddha is of paramount importance. In the same fashion as Christ, the Buddha was tempted by the gods, who were uneasy with a mortal of such purity. Allegedly, it was Mara, the demon of temptation, who came, but according to the classical Lalita, it was all the gods - Vishnu ("the Preserver", second member of the Trimurti), Indra (god of rain and thunder), Surya (solar deity), etc. - who tried in vain to tempt him. They were never able to weaken the meditating Buddha's silence. The gods are depicted with their respective attributes: a wheel for Vishnu, a big curved saber for Shiva ("the Destroyer"), a hatchet for Durga (goddess of war), etc. The fact that it still portrays the Hindu gods makes this panel, the first Buddhist icon, the oldest and most venerable of such icons. The grottoes of Bhaja in India, featuring bas-reliefs carved 2 centuries BC, have a niche showing the Buddha surrounded by Surya on one side and Indra on the other - exactly the same subject. It is touching to note that the iconography remained altogether traditional despite the lapse of time, 1100 years to be exact.

To tempt the Buddha, Mar (or Mara) even sent her daughters, an episode that is also depicted at Ajanta. All to no avail.


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