Gandhara Sculptures: The Appearance of Seven Treasures with the Birth of a Great Man (mahapurusa)

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Date: Dec. 31, 2012
From: Journal of Asian Civilizations(Vol. 35, Issue 2)
Publisher: Knowledge Bylanes
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 2,946 words
Lexile Measure: 1290L

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Byline: Ghani-ur-Rahman and Qamar-un-Nisa


Buddhism and the Buddhist art of Gandhara represent a bright chapter of the past history of the land of present day Pakistan. About Buddhism we find texts in different parts of the world which narrates the life of Buddha and his teachings. Gandhara art has played a very significant role as a visual language which very effectively narrates Buddha's life story and describes the Socio-Religious environment of the times during which it was manifested.

The Buddhist sculpture of Gandhara very beautifully represents the events of the life of Buddha Siddharta. The very first event is the dream of his mother, Maya, who dreamt that a white elephant was entering her body and the other day Brahmans predicted that she would give birth to a great man (mahapurusa). Similarly, the Buddhist text and art side by side narrate his life in a very beautiful manner. He was born in a prodigious way and at the same time seven jewels appeared in the world for him which is the focus of this paper.

The Seven Treasures as Related in the Texts

According to Buddha Sakyamuni every great man bears seven treasures which appear together with him (Sutta 63.5 in Hallade n.d.: 48). Thus according to the Buddhist text with the Buddha Sakyamuni appeared seven treasures.

According to the Introduction to the Jataka: "Now at the very time that our Future Buddha was born in Lumbini Grove there also came into existence the mother of Rahula, and Channa (Chandaka) the courtier, Kaludayi the courtier, Kanthaka the king of horses, the Great Bo-tree, and the four urns full of treasure [. . . .] These seven (The Future Buddha be counted as number 1 and the treasure together as number 7) are called the Connate Ones." (Warren 1986: 48)

In the Lakkhana Sutta, that is mainly about the thirty-two marks of a Great Man, Buddha relates that a great man who possesses thirty-two marks, is also possessed of seven treasures if he lives a house hold life and that he will become a cakravartin monarch (Walshe 1987: 441).

According to Foucher, the universal monarch is possessed by seven great treasures, namely the most perfect of wheels, elephants, precious stones, women, ministers and generals. It was obligatory that these seven treasures should manifest themselves at the same time as the heir to the throne of the Sakyas (Foucher 2003: 36).

Discussing some important treasures Foucher says: . . . none of our text disputes this, but even the conscientious efforts made by all to agree could not be expected to meet with complete success. The discus or the "wheel" easily became the symbolic of the wheel of the doctrine, and its being set in motion for the first time was synonymous with the first sermon. The precious stones and the ministers often were left out because they were of no use. It was also difficult to have a large ceremonial elephant born at the same time as the prince, for...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A335804415