Birth of the Buddha

Birth of the Buddha


Black chlorite

Overall: 46.4 x 27.3 x 11.4 cm (18 1/4 x 10 3/4 x 4 1/2 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1959.349


The historical Buddha known as Shakyamuni was born Prince Siddhartha around the end of the 400s BC near the border of what is today India and Nepal. His mother, Queen Maya, was traveling from her husband’s capital to her family home to give birth, but the baby came early and was born in a grove of shala trees.

The miraculous circumstances of his birth are related in a number of textual sources. They state that he emerged from her right side, so Queen Maya here is shown grasping the branch of a tree with her right hand raised, like a nature divinity. The baby was received by Indra, king of the gods and immediately he took seven steps. The figure at the lower right is Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. In works of Buddhist art, Hindu gods appear as subservient or inferior to the Buddha.

The Sanskrit inscription records a common Buddhist prayer of this period:

Phenomena arise from causes;
The causes have been revealed by the Buddha,
As have the means for their cessation;
Thus has been declared by the Great Ascetic.

See also
Indian Art
Type of artwork: 

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