Amaravati Art in the Context of Andhra Archaeology

by Sreyashi Ray chowdhuri | 2018 | 90,477 words

This page relates ‘Suruci Jataka’ of the study on Amaravati Art in the Context of Andhra Archaeology, including museum exhibitions of the major archeological antiquities. These pages show how the Buddhist establishment of Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh) survived from 4th century BCE to 14th century CE. It includes references and translations of episodes of Buddha’s life drawn from the Avadanas and Jatakas which are illustrated in Amaravati art.

[Full title: Jātakas and Avadānas in the Amarāvatī Art: Suruci Jātaka]

Story:-

Once a king named Suruci was ruling in Mithilā. He had a son named Suruci kumāra. He went to Taksasilā for study where he met prince Brahmadatta, the prince of Banaras, They agreed to a match between their children. King Suruci had a son whom he named Prince Suruci while Brahmadatta had a daughter named Sumedha. As per the agreement the king Suruci gave his son to Brahmadatta’s daughter. But even after a long time the couple had no issue. The townsfolk asked the king to marry other princesses to have a son. But the king refused. Sumedhā decided to find someone and got him married to many damsels. But they still had neither a son nor a daughter.

All women offered prayers to God for the boon of a child. Then the king asked Sumedha to pray for the son. Sumedhā took upon her eight fold vows and sat meditating. Pleased with Sumedha’s virtue Śakra decided to fulfill the desire. Śakra saw a young boy named Nalakara who in his previous birth served seven Pacceka Buddhas. As a result of this he was reborn in heaven. Perceiving that the younger Nalakara would become the Tathagatha, Śakra requested him to become the son of queen Sumedhā. Nalakara agreed. Śakra then desceneded into the king’s park in the disguise of a sage and said that he will give the boon of a son to the virtuous one. Sumedhā was blessed to have a son very soon.

The queen conceived Nalakara and gave birth to a son who was named Mahāpanāda. The prince was brought up amidst great magnificence and at the age of sixteen he became perfect in all accomplishments. The king after discussing with his queen decided to do the ceremonial sprinkling and to build a fine palace for that occasion. The king sent for a skilled person for defining a lucky place for building. At that time Śakra summoned Viswakarmā to make a palace for Mahāpanadā. He struck on the earth with his stuff and immediately rose up a palace that was seven storeys high. In the palace three ceremonies of Mahapanada were done.

There were seven years of festivities. The king observed that his son didnot laugh during these years. Knowing this, Śakra sent a divine dancer who performed half body dance. When Mahāpanāda saw this he gave a little smile and that was the end of the festival[1].

Depiction:-

At Amarāvatī one of the panels of a coping though broken portrays the jātaka in sequential manner. At the extreme left of the panel is a man seated on a tree holding a child. To the right is a turbaned man wearing a princely dress. Among the three women, one with a raised hand is Sumedhā. Above this is a person, that is, Pacceka Buddha adored by a turbaned man who appears to be Nalakara. Next to it is a scene where the king is shown seated on a throne and his queen is attended by a number of women. The child is brought near him by a turbaned man. Probably it represents the discussions between the king and queen Sumedhā about his son. To the right is a female in anjali mudrā. The inscription on the top of the panel refers to the gift of this sculptured panel by a nun named Roha[2]. This panel is now kept in the Madras Government Museum.

The second broken sequential narrative from Amarāvatī is divided into four sections. This piece is also preserved in the Madras Government Museum[3]. In the upper left portion is a nobel looking person seated on a chair. He appears to be Visvakarmā with a staff in his hand engaged in creating a palace for Mahāpanāda. Next to it is a seated person emptying a water vessel on his head. The prince appears to be pouring ceremonial water brought by his attendants. Below it on the left side of the panel are male and female persons holding unidentifiable object in their hands. On the right compartment is the scene of dancers and tumblers. Details of the remaining part of the story are broken. (Pl 18a)

Two specimens from Nāgārjunakoṇḍa illustrates this jātaka.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Cowell E.B, Op.cit, Vol III-IV, no. 489, pp 198-205.

[2]:

Sivaramamurti C, Op.cit, pp 231-234, pl LV, fig 1.

[3]:

Ibid, pl LV, fig 2.

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