Saturday Art: Stone Stele of Siddartha Discovered In Afghanistan

Bodiless Buddha in Bodhi tree
Bodiless Buddha in a Bodhi Tree

Photo by James Castle
Creative Commons Flickr

Archaeologists discovered in 2010 a stone stele or free standing stone slab with a carving on one side in an ancient Buddhist monastery in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, which is approximately 25 miles (40Km) east of Kabul.

Professor Gérard Fussman, a professor at the Collège de France in Paris examined the stele recently and he believes it depicts the young Prince Gautama Siddartha before he abandoned a life of royal wealth and privilege to seek enlightenment. We know of him today as the Buddha, who founded Buddhism.

Live Science reports:

Standing 11 inches (28 centimeters) high and carved from schist — a stone not found in the area — the stele depicts a prince alongside a monk. Based on a bronze coin found nearby, Fussman estimates the statue dates back at least 1,600 years. Siddhartha lived 25 centuries ago.

The prince is shown sitting on a round wicker stool, his eyes looking down and with his right foot against his left knee. He is “clad in a dhoti (a garment), with a turban, wearing necklaces, earrings and bracelets, sitting under a pipal tree foliage. On the back of the turban, two large rubans [are] flowing from the head to the shoulders,” writes Fussman in his new book. “The turban is decorated by a rich front-ornament, without any human figure in it.”

To see the stele and a photograph of the ruins, go here.

Professor Fussman believes the stele depicts the young prince because of the iconography of the stele and the pipal leaves. He also believes the stele was used by a monastic cult that was dedicated to the worldly prince before he achieved enlightenment. According to their monastic code, they transported the stele in a wagon during a procession.

Professor Fussman has published a book about the stele, The Early Iconography of Avalokitesvara” (Collège de France, 2012).

5 Responses to Saturday Art: Stone Stele of Siddartha Discovered In Afghanistan

  1. mzchief says:

    Padmasambhava apparently came from what we think of today as Afghanistan.

    OT– If you can do anything with respect to these, it’s much appreciated:

    http://thewhitehouseboys.com (Florida state-run facility)

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/08/new-bethany-ifb-teen-homes-abuse (Maryland-connected non-profit with apparently multiple out of state facilities)

    • I scanned the information at both links and felt my guts knot up. I had to put the stories aside, but I bookmarked them and I will go back and read them, thoroughly.

      I don’t think there is much I can do except write about them, which I will do.

      Horrific, absolutely horrific.

      Thanks for informing me.

    • Just wanted to let you know that my wife, Crane-Station, and I published articles today about the White House Boys and tough-love homes for troubled teens.

      I also published my article at the Lake and at the Smirking Chimp.

      She’s going to publish her article at her site and at the Chimp.

      If you like them, please feel free to pass them along to others via twitter, or other medium.

      As you can see, the tough-love homes issue hit me between the eyes. Painful for me to recall and write about.

      That was one of those things where I did the best I could under the circumstances knowing as I did so that it might turn out horrible. Her mother and I at least avoided the real bad schools. like the one in Provo.

      Fortunately, her mother and I could afford it at the time.

      • mzchief says:

        I see your collective efforts on this and have forwarded it for them to read. Thank you!

        It occurs to me that you may find this legal system ( http://www.wisdom-books.com/ProductDetail.asp?PID=10253 ) of interest. It’s practiced in Bhutan ( http://www.judiciary.gov.bt/ ). Clearly this mostly closed country is in the process of making a smart interface to the international legal system as they do not to lose any integrity of their system as it has evolved. I know some who’ve passed the Bhutanese government’s white glove test which is required to gain admittance there and travel. They say it was a magnificent glimpse into what the rest of the world could be.

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