JACQUES-EDOUARD BERGER FOUNDATION:World Art Treasures

The original Lalita foresees the Buddha's birth at the 17th hour after the queen's arrival in Lumbini, as if he would sense their arrival there. And indeed, 17 hours after their arrival, the Queen Maya Devi felt birth pains, as described in beautiful terms in the Lalita: she felt pain in her bosom and not in her womb. Feeling suffocated, and in need of catching her breath, she hangs on to a branch of a tree, at which point her womb bursts open. After the baby falls to the ground, he immediately stands up and takes four steps, one to each of the four cardinal points where, at each step, a lotus blossom is born.

The central lotus blossom marking the spot where the Buddha falls to the ground, and the four blossoms at the cardinal points, form the five lotus blossoms representing Buddha's revelation. The interesting point here is that in Buddhism, the Buddha's predestination is conveyed from the very instant he appears on earth: we are immediately confronted with the renowned five points that are to become the saintly sage's five paradises. The Queen Maya Devi is often depicted grasping a tree branch - for example, at the South central India sites of Ajanta and Ellora and, in Burma, at the Ananta Temple of Pagan. By contrast, the steps taken by the newborn Buddha are rarely depicted, so this representation is particularly rare, which makes it a shame indeed that it is in such a poor condition.


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