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Plaque depicting the eight great events from the life of the Buddha, steatite: Asia, South Asia, India, possibly Pala period, 8th - 13th century

Museum reference



World Culture

Object name

Plaque, Figure group

Production information

India, South Asia, ASIA


8th - 13th century

Style / Culture




Physical description

The central scene of this devotional steatite plaque depicts Siddhartha's victory over the demon Mara and his subsequent enlightenment. Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be, sat under a tree in meditation and when it became clear that his enlightenment was near at hand, Mara tried everything in his power to prevent it. He sent his daughters to tempt Siddhartha as well as his armies to disrupt his meditation. The Buddha-to-be responded by touching the earth with his right hand (bhumisparshamudra), a gesture that called the earth goddess to witness his right to achieve enlightenment. She responded positively, Mara and his armies were dispersed, and Siddhartha became the Buddha Shakyamuni. Surrounding the central image on this plaque are depictions of these events (clockwise from lower left): the miraculous birth of the Buddha from the side of his mother Maya; his first sermon at the Deer Park in Sarnath; his taming of the elephant Nalagiri, as indicated by the presence of a kneeling elephant to the right; and at the top, his death. The scenes running down the right side illustrate his descent from Trayastrimsha Heaven, the miracles he performed at Shravasti, and his acceptance of the monkey's offering of honey.


Depicted: Buddha
Mayne, Robert 1859 (fl.)


  • Traditions in Sculpture (29 Jul 2011)
    National Museum of Scotland


Brown, Kathryn Selig. “Life of the Buddha.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. (October 2003)

On display

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