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Railing Pillar: The Great Departure of Siddhartha, c. 100 B.C.E.

India: Madhya Pradesh, Bharhut, -125-105
54 x 9 x 11 in. (137.2 x 22.9 x 27.9 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Prior to the development of anthropomorphic images of the Buddha, the great sage was represented by symbols associated with his divinity or royal lineage. This pillar chronicles the tale of Prince Siddhartha’s escape from his father’s palace and his pursuit of Buddhahood (enlightenment). The narrative begins at the top of the pillar, with Siddhartha leaving the palace, represented by his wheel-marked footsteps approaching his trusty horse and groomsman. Above the horse, two flywhisks and an umbrella—symbols associated with royalty—represent Siddhartha seated on his steed. On the lower register, flower petals are strewn on the ground to muffle the sound of the horse’s hooves and to symbolize the future Buddha’s divine presence.

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