The Life of the Buddha: Birth and Bathing
Stupa were structures built to hold the remains of the Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, and this stone carving would have been used to decorate a wall or balustrade of such a building. The centre of the carving seems to protrude slightly outwards, so this may have been affixed to a curved surface.
Many carvings like this one depict the story of the Buddha’s life, from his birth to his death and attainment of supreme enlightenment. Here we can see a depiction of his birth on the lowermost tier, and the carving continues on to show the scene of his ablution.
The fourth figure from the right is Buddha’s mother, Maya. If you look carefully under her right arm, you may be able to see the tiny body of the Buddha Shakyamuni emerging. Buddhist teachings describe the day he was born. Maya was walking through India’s Lumbini Grove one day, when she reached upwards to grasp onto a branch. When she did so, Buddha was born, emerging from her right side. To the left we see the scene of his ablution. The Buddha Shakyamuni – only newly-born – stands atop a pedestal as water is poured over him. One tradition tells that the water was poured by two dragons, but here we see the Indian gods Brahma and Sakra blessing him on the day of his birth.