A Kushān bodhisattva and early Indian sculpture


The National Gallery of Victoria recently acquired its most important example of early Indian sculpture, a freestanding male figure produced at Mathura in north India during the Kushān period, 1st to 3rd century A.D. (fig. 1). The figure is very likely that of a Buddhist attendant and may most convincingly be explained as representing a bodhisattva, an enlightened being capable of final extinction (nirvāna), who came over time to acquire saviour-like qualities. The motifs utilised in this image can be identified within the established repertoire of Indian art as it was inherited by the Kushān dynasty in the 1st century A.D. In this article I will explore both the conventional nature of the image and those considerations of iconographic function and dating which locate this figure within the tradition of Indian sculpture. 

The sculptor has achieved a plasticity of form and realistic treatment of surface which together with the subtle handling of the tribhaṅga, (‘three bends’) posture, reveals an artist working at the forefront of Kushān conventions. This gently inflected posture with one flexed leg and the serpentine sway of the torso is characteristic of persons attending a superior being, secular or sacred. 

The sophisticated sculptural qualities of the Melbourne Bodhisattva set it apart from much of the work of this period and call for closer examination. The mass of the stone is lightened by the unlaboured modelling and fluid linear contour. The figure is conceived in the round although it is most fully worked on the front and sides, and summarily finished at the back, suggesting possible placement in a niche. 

The figure in its complete form would have appeared with its left hand, of which only the fist and bracelets remain, resting on the hip, and the right arm raised back to the shoulder (fig. 2). Fine striations on the back of the right shoulder suggest that this arm was holding a flywhisk (caurī) (cf. fig. 4). The figure is clad in a form-revealing waist cloth (dhotī) which has the effect of wet drapery, and is visible only in the graceful contour of the hemline and where it gathers into folds between the legs. The thighs and genitals are clearly defined beneath the drapery. The ends of the waist sash securing the dhotī fall onto the left thigh and are decorated with striated ends, suggesting tassels, and incised rosettes. The waist is swathed in a massive scarf which is drawn diagonally across the hips and terminates in a great knot, the ends of which cascade, in loops and folds, almost to the ankle. This device, together with the clenched fist and developed physique, gives the figure a strength which is softened only by the tribhaṅga pose. A necklace and elaborate bracelets adorn the figure. Variations in the depth of cutting of the scarf and other items of costume jewellery enliven the surface. The head, regrettably lost, would in all probability have displayed the characteristic Kushān turban with an elaborate cockade, as seen on the attendant bodhisattvas in the Kaṭrā relief (fig. 8). 

The original site of this sculpture is not known but the Sikri stone from which it is carved, a red sandstone mottled with buff impurities, quarried in the region between Mathura and Agra, was the favoured medium for the Mathuran workshops. Sculptures in this material were widely exported throughout the Kushān empire. A. Cunningham observed late last century that ‘everywhere in the north-east I find that the old Buddhist statues are made of the Sikri sandstone, from which it would appear that Mathura must have been the great manufactory for the supply of Buddhist sculptures in Northern India’.1A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India Report Vol. XI, Indological Book House, Varanasi, 1968, p. 75. Examples have been reported from at least thirty-two sites to date, mostly in northern India, as far east as Rajgir, but also extending to Taxila in the north-west and Amaravati in the south.2J. E. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, ‘Gandhara and Mathura: Their Cultural Relationship’ in P. Pal (ed.), Aspects of Indian Art, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1972, pp. 27–43. The majority of examples, however, have been excavated from the numerous mounds in the district of Mathura which mark the sites of temples, shrines and monasteries of Kushān Mathura.3Archaeological investigations over the last century have revealed the devastated remains of not only Buddhist but also Jain, Brahmanical and nature-worship cult temples, largely of brick construction with stone lintels, pillars and other structural components often richly carved with narrative or decorative reliefs. They have also revealed freestanding sculptures belonging to each of the deities worshipped at Mathura, including a small group of Kushān royal portraits, unique in Indian art, which may relate to a cult involving deified kings. For a review of sculptural finds at the sites of Mathura, see J. Ph. Vogel, ‘Explorations at Mathura’, in Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1911–12, pp. 120–33; V. A. Smith, The Jain Stupa and Other Antiquities of Mathura, Allahabad, 1901; H. Hartel, ‘Some Results of the Excavations at Sonkh’, in German Scholars in India vol. II, 1976. (reprint as The Excavations at Sonkh, National Museum, New Delhi, 1977). 

The fame of the city of Mathura in the ancient world was considerable. Ptolemy knew of it, referring to it as ‘Mathura, city of the gods’.4C. L. Fabri, ‘Mathura of the Gods’, Marg VII, 2, 1958, pp. 8–22. Under the Kushāns, tribesmen of Scythian descent who consolidated their control over north India in the course of the 1st century A.D., Mathura became the seat of power in north India. Mathura was strategically located on the ancient trade routes, connecting Taxila and the Gandharan region of the north-west with Pataliputra (Patna) in the heart of the Gangetic basin further east, and had an active trade with the port of Bharukaccha on the west coast which had links with the Roman Mediterranean.5See M. Chandra, Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, Abhinav, New Delhi, 1977, and for examples of Roman finds in India, see K. Khandalavala, ‘Brahmapuri. A Consideration of the Metal Objects Found in the Kundangar Hoard’, Lalit Kala 7, 1960, pp 29–75. As further evidence of this trade, an ivory mirror handle carved in the form of a woman and attributed to Maharastra or the Andra region, circa 1st century A.D., was excavated at Pompeii, see M. Chandra, ‘An Ivory Figure from Ter’, Lalit Kala 8, 1960, pp. 7–14. The period, 1st to 3rd century A.D., was characterised by interaction with the Iranian and Roman worlds and a syncretic approach to religion. Theistic developments appear to have universally demanded the representation of deities in human form.6Early Hindu deities, especially Śiva and Vishnu, appear to have been iconographically represented by the 2nd century B.C., if not earlier. See J. N. Banerjea, The Development of Hindu Iconography, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1974, p. 102 (reprint 1956 edn). 

 

In pre-Kushān Buddhist art the Buddha Śākyamuni was represented only in reliefs, and by symbols rather than in human form, although freestanding sculptures of other deities are known already in the late Maurya and Śuṅga periods, 2nd to 1st century B.C. (cf. fig. 4). 

The sculpture produced at Mathura in this period, however, marked an important phase in the development of Buddhist art. There was a shift from the architectural relief in favour of the freestanding stele or statue. Of specific concern to the Melbourne Bodhisattva is the appearance of the earliest anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha Śākyamuni and bodhisattvas, spiritually advanced beings capable of attaining bodhi (enlightenment), both of which appear for the first time early in the Kushān period.7The definition of bodhisattva given is essentially Mahāyānist. The emergence of the bodhisattva concept from tenets in early Hīnayāna is discussed by A. L. Basham, ‘The Evolution of the Concept of the Bodhisattva’ in L. S. Kawamura (ed.), The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhism, Wildfred Laurier University Press, Waterloo, 1981, pp 19–59. 

Mathura appears to have been an early centre for iconographic innovation. Much of the iconographic language seen in early Buddhist sculpture already existed in the images associated with Hindu and nature-worship cults at Mathura and was largely taken over by the Buddhists, absorbed and adapted to their system of meaning. The iconographic continuity with earlier periods was paralleled in stylistic developments in the Kushān period. Mathuran art of this time is most readily understood in terms of the earlier relief sculptures of the great north Indian Buddhist monuments of the Śuṅga period, the stūpas of Bharhut and Sanchi,8See A. Ghosh, Remains of the Bharhut Stupa in the Indian Museum, Indian Museum, Calcutta, 1978 and J. Marshall, Monuments of Sanchi, 3 vols, London, 1940. and most specifically the images of yakṣas and yakṣinīs, nāgas and nāginīs, semi-divine nature spirits, associated with tree and serpent worship.9A. K. Coomaraswamy, ‘Yaksas’, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, No. 2926, vol. 80, 1928, and no. 2959, 1929 (reprint, New Delhi), and J. Ph. Vogel, Indian Serpent-Lore or The Nagas in Hindu Legend and Art, Indological Book House, Varanasi, 1972 (reprint 1926 edn). 

The earliest known representations of the Buddha in human form appear during the 1st century A.D. In these sculptures the Mathuran artists followed the conventions and style of the models provided by the yakṣa figures, which had been sculptured in the freestanding form from at least the 1st century B.C. The characteristic yakṣa figure, depicted in a relaxed posture with one hand resting on the hip and the other raised, often holding a flywhisk (caurī), or flower, can be identified as the source of the early Buddha/bodhisattva sculptures; as seen for example in the yakṣa Manibhadra, found at Gwalior (fig. 4). The artists working on the four great gateways (toraṇas) added to Stūpa No. 1 at Sanchi in the 1st century A.D. displayed perhaps the finest workmanship seen in Indian sculpture to date. The depiction of yakṣa figures as guardians, attendants and worshippers in early Buddhist art occurs long before the central figure was anthropomorphically represented (fig. 5). 

 

A second source of the attendant-bodhisattva figure-type lies in sculptures belonging to the practice of nāga worship. Early Hīnayāna Buddhist texts make frequent reference to nāga cults and the role of nāgas and nāginīs as protectors of the Buddha Śākyamuni.10For example, the legend of the Nāgarāja Mucalinda sheltering the Buddha from rain during a seven-day meditation, J. Ph. Vogel, op. cit., p. 102. The protective nāga was also absorbed into Hindu worship associated with both Vishnu and Śiva, and into Jainism.11It is clear, however, that at Mathura nāga worship still retained its independence and authority as an important cult under the Kushāns. Recent excavations in the vicinity of Sonkh, Mathura district, have revealed an apsidal temple containing stone and terracotta nāga images, and a lintel with reliefs depicting a nāgarāja and nāginī, clearly indicating that the temple, dated by H. Hartell to the later 1st century A.D., was dedicated to the nāga cult. See H. Hartel, ‘A Kusana Naga Temple at Sonkh’, Bulletin of Museums and Archaeology in U.P. 11–12, 1973, pp. 1–6. A number of major cult images of nāgarājas are known from the Kushān period. The Chargaon and Musée Guimet examples (figs 6 & 7) are perhaps the most distinguished and both relate, in plastic terms, to the Melbourne Bodhisattva. The Musée Guimet’s Nāgarāja is closer to the Melbourne figure in the energy and grace of the tribhaṅga pose whilst the Chargaon example maintains the bold wide-legged stance known in Kushān royal portrait sculpture and adopted by the earliest standing Buddha/bodhisattva sculptures (see fig. 9). 

The Melbourne Bodhisattva can thus be seen to have derived from conventions firmly established in the yakṣa and nāga imagery of early Indian art. The parallels are not confined to form alone, but extend into aspects of iconographic function. The early attendant-bodhisattvas in Mathuran art do not appear to be iconographically identified as specific bodhisattvas, lacking personal iconographies. They appear to function as attendants and protectors of the Buddha, in much the same way that yakṣas and nāgas attended the Buddha in his emblematic guise as an empty throne, tree, wheel or stūpa. They are not objects of worship in their own right. It is hardly surprising that the earliest bodhisattva figures attending the Buddha resemble nāga figures, considering their similar function and, one suspects, close identification in the mind of the artist.12The borrowing of established conventions of both form and function to the service of the newly emerging theism in Indian religion was not confined to Buddhism. Images of the Jina (‘Saviour’) display similar caurī bearing attendants, though in Jainism they never assume the semi-divine status of the Mahāyānist bodhisattva. 

The Melbourne Bodhisattva was probably intended to flank a lifesize image of the Buddha, as part of a triad. No complete freestanding group of this kind is extant, but a number of relief sculptures depict the configuration clearly enough. The finest known example, found at the Kaṭrā mound in Mathura, depicts, according to its own inscription, ‘the Bodhisattva’, seated as a yogi but displaying all the alertness and authority of a supreme ruler (cakravartin) (fig. 8). He is flanked by two caurī-bearing attendants. The attendant seen on the left relates most directly to the Melbourne figure in the treatment of drapery, especially the characteristic knot of the waist-scarf. The princely taste of the day can be seen in the adornment of bodhisattvas with jewellery and elaborate headdress. 

Few freestanding attendant figures have survived from Mathura and of these caurī bearers are the most prominent. J. Gonda has observed that in the regalia of Indian kingship a pair of flywhisks (caurī) are ‘absolutely indispensable, constituting the emblem par excellence’ of a royal presence.13J. Gonda, Ancient Indian Kingship from the Religious Point of View, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1966, p. 37. The Buddhists borrowed much of the potent symbolism associated with kingship in order to benefit from the authority instilled in it.14The most notable borrowing is seen in the use of the wheel (cakra). The cakra, representing the secular domain, ‘… over which a king may ride in his chariot’, became the Buddhist wheel of law (dharmacakra), the symbol of the universality of the Buddha’s spiritual domain. Caurī-bearers attended secular royalty, so their appearance in the sacred realm, attending the Buddha, is hardly surprising. The problem however, is to establish when such figures ceased to be merely attendants and began to assume the status of bodhisattvas. J. Ph. Vogel, an early scholar of Mathuran art and archaeology, wrote in 1909 of the two caurī-bearers in the Kaṭrā triad (fig. 8), that ‘whether they represent Bodhisattvas, it is impossible to say, but they occupy certainly the usual place of those divinities, at both sides of the central figure, and if not Bodhisattvas, they must be their prototypes’.15J. Ph. Vogel, ‘The Mathura School of Sculpture’, Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1909–10, p 64. 

The emergence of the concept of the bodhisattva in early Buddhist thought and practice is central to this problem. The background to this must be sought in the developing schism between the original Hīnayāna (‘Lesser Wheel’) and the ‘reformist’ and popularist Mahāyāna (‘Greater Wheel’) sects.16The Hīnayānas laid stress on the personal striving, through successive rebirths if necessary, for sambodhi (‘supreme wisdom’) at the attainment of which one entered nirvāṇa as an arhat (‘worthy one’), a state of Buddahood. The Mahāyānists gave growing emphasis to the adoration of a supreme being and allowed for the possibility of divine intervention by a compassionate deity, a saviour figure, a bodhisattva. The emphasis shifted from the historic personage of the Buddha Śākyamuni to the concept of Buddhahood as a state to be strived for by all, aided by the intervention of bodhisattvas. The seeds of the Mahāyānist concept of bodhisattva are to be found in the Hīnayāna Jataka stories, moralistic accounts of the historic Buddha’s previous lives as a bodhisattva and the selfless deeds he performed in his kindness to all living creatures. The word ‘bodhisattva’ recurs repeatedly in this context and such stories found visual expression in the relief sculptures on the stūpa railing at Bharhut, around 100 B.C.17See A. Ghosh, op. cit.

The popularist need to focus worship on an image had long been acknowledged in Buddhist practice, as the early adoption of stūpa veneration clearly indicates. Whilst for monks and nuns the discipline and doctrine of the Buddha’s teachings were of primary importance, for the mass of lay Buddhists, bhakti, devotional worship in the form of prayers and offerings, became the essence of the faith. The toraṇa reliefs at Sanchi, 1st century A.D., display numerous scenes of celebratory worship, in which the garlanded stūpa or bodhi tree is being venerated by worshippers making offerings of flowers and music, highly suggestive of bhakti. In these scenes no monks are depicted, supporting a popularist motivation in the origins of bhakti. It is a short step from the veneration of symbolic representations of the Buddha to demanding representations in human form of the Buddha, and of those ‘attainers of bodhi’, the bodhisattvas. Competition from Brahmanical sects and the Jains, both of whom appear to have produced anthropomorphic images of their deities before the Buddhists, would have been an added incentive. 

The erecting of images was seen as a meritorious act, the spiritual benefits of which could be shared with others.18The epigraphic evidence relating to patronage indicates the active involvement of monks and nuns in the commissioning of images alongside wealthy merchants and traders. The source of this patronage points to a growing acceptance of the Mahāyānist concept of transfer of merit, an elaboration of the accumulation of merit doctrine. A number of the extant Buddha images from Mathura bear dedicatory inscriptions in the Brahmī script characteristic of early Kushān epigraphy. Whilst the statues are recognisable as Buddhas, displaying many of the supernatural marks of Buddhahood (lakṣaṇa), the inscriptions identify them as ‘the Bodhisattva’. This can be most satisfactorily explained as a Hīnayāna usage, the images being that of the Buddha Śākyamuni before his enlightenment. 

Two inscriptions are particularly helpful in attempting to date the emergence of the bodhisattva as an object of worship. The first appears on a silver scroll excavated at Taxila, which A. L. Basham maintains cannot be later than the second half of the 1st century A.D.19A. L. Basham, op. cit., p. 29. This inscription refers to a private bodhisattva chapel (Bosisatvagaha). The second inscription was found at Govindnagar in Mathura in 1976. It is a dated inscription on the excavated base of a now lost image, which describes the figure as ‘Amitābha Buddha’.20R. C. Sharma, ‘New Buddhist Sculptures from Mathura (Pre-Gupta Epoch)’, Lalit Kala 19, 1979, pp. 19–26. In the Mahāyānist trikāya system, Amitābha is one of the dhyānibuddhas, spiritual counterparts to the human Buddha, out of whom emanates the dhyānibodhisattvas Padmapāṇi and Manjúsrī, two of the most important bodhisattvas in the early Mahāyānist pantheon. R. Sharma equates the inscription date to A.D. 106. In addition there is the case recently presented by P. Pal for dating the Ahicchatra Maitreya (fig. 10) to A.D. c.82, on the basis of stylistic parallelism, which would make it the earliest known representation of the bodhisattva in India.21P. Pal, ‘A Kushan Indra and some related sculptures’, Oriental Art XXV, 2, 1979, pp. 212–26. 

It remains to place the Melbourne Bodhisattva in the context of the emergence of the bodhisattva concept in its Mahāyānist guise. In the absence of dated inscriptions this can only be done on the basis of style and iconographic function. Identifiable freestanding bodhisattvas surviving from Kushān Mathura, as represented by the Ahicchatra Maitreya (fig. 10), assume the wide legged stance of the early standing Buddha (‘Bodhisattva’) images commissioned by Friar Bala (fig. 9) which look back to both royal portraiture and the yakṣa tradition. The relaxed posture characteristic of attendant figures relates most directly to the tradition found in nāga cult images. Iconographically identifiable attendant bodhisattvas are rare in Mathuran art, but not unknown. The seated Buddha in abhayamudra from Ahicchatra is of the Kaṭrā-type (fig. 8) and the two attending bodhisattvas are clearly identifiable as Padmapāṇi and Vajrapāṇi.22D. L. Snellgrove (ed.), The Image of the Buddha, Unesco/Kodansha, Paris, 1978, pl. 30. The lotus flower (padma), Padmapāṇi’s attribute, is held in a manner resembling the caurī held by traditional attendants and represents another instance of the adaption of existing models to new iconographic functions. Vajrapāṇi, identified by his thunderbolt (vajra), is represented in another example as companion to a caurī-bearing attendant, see J. Rosenfield, ‘The Arts of Buddhist India’, Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin LXIII, Boston, 1965, fig. 11. 

  

In the 1st century context of an ascendant Mahāyānist school and the demands of popularist worship the figures attending the Buddha were already assuming semi-divine status and were soon to be ascribed personal qualities and powers, represented by symbolic attributes. The Melbourne figure, though incomplete, does not appear to have had any attributes other than the caurī, a symbol borrowed from royalty which in Buddhist context came to symbolise compassion, its use avoiding harm to even the smallest creature. The scale of the figure, and the princely beauty and authority which it assumes, suggests it stands at the transition from a generalised Buddhist attendant-bodhisattva to the iconographically specific form. To make a figure freestanding was, at this time, to attach considerable significance to it as an image inviting veneration. As such it represents a critical stage in the process of stylistic and iconographic appropriation undertaken by propagators of Mahāyānist Buddhism. 

The Melbourne Bodhisattva would appear to post-date stylistically the dated standing Buddhas dedicated by Friar Bala in the early years of Kaniṣka’s reign, most probably around A.D. 80.23The dates of Kaniṣka, and of the reigns of other Kushān rulers, are not yet firmly established. The controversy remains unresolved, and in the opinion of A. L. Basham, unprovable, until further epigraphic evidence is forthcoming. See A. L. Basham (ed.), Papers on the date of Kaniṣka, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1968. I accept A.D. 78 as the most likely date for the beginning of Kaniṣka’s reign, and date inscriptions with regnal dates from that year. They are massive images in static attitude (fig. 9) which represent the Buddha as cakravartin (‘supreme ruler’) a king-like figure in the robes of a monk.24A notion absorbed into Buddhism from Indian kingship beliefs, see J. Gonda, op. cit. The flexed posture of the Melbourne figure distances it from such rigidity, placing it closer to the Ahicchatra Maitreya (fig. 10) in its naturalistic form and superbly modelled contour. The treatment of costume and jewellery is remarkably similar as seen in the detailing of the bracelets, necklace, rosette motifs and waist-scarf. The Ahicchatra Maitreya (fig. 10), which represents a considerable advance on the Buddhas of Friar Bala (fig. 9), is attributed by P. Pal to A.D. 82 on its stylistic association with a dated image of Indra. Pal attributes the differences to the individual achievements of different workshops rather than a necessary distance in time.25P. Pal, op. cit. It is not necessary to accept the argument for a workshop located at Ahicchatra for Pal’s general point to stand. 

If the standing Buddhas dedicated by Friar Bala around A.D. 80 and the Ahicchatra Maitreya provide the earliest limits for dating the Melbourne Bodhisattva, then the Chargaon Nāgarāja, dated to the 40th year of the era of Kaniṣka, A.D. c.118, may be seen as the later limit to be considered (fig. 6). The Melbourne figure displays the relaxed, confident modelling emerging in the Ahicchatra Maitreya which in the Chargaon Nāgarāja is becoming schematised and, in its expressive elements, exaggerated.26This element in Kushān period art finds its full realisation in the ‘baroque’ excesses of much of the sculpture of Amaravati and Nagarjunikonda. See D. Barrett, Sculptures from Amaravati in the British Museum, British Museum, London, 1954. I would, therefore, place the Melbourne figure later than the Ahicchatra Maitreya but a little earlier than the Chargaon Nāgarāja, perhaps within the first two decades of the 2nd century A.D. 

On current evidence Kushān art at Mathura experienced a relatively short apogee from the latter half of the 1st century A.D. through the early to middle 2nd century A.D. The new style successfully integrated the inherited imagery of early Indian art, reinterpreting it with an expressiveness which reverberated into the art of Gupta India and beyond. The Melbourne Bodhisattva may be firmly placed within this great period of sculptural achievement at Mathura. 

John Guy, Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, National Gallery of Victoria (in 1983).

Acknowledgement

I wish to express my thanks to Dr Pratapaditya Pal, Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for reading a draft of this paper and for his constructive comments. 

 

Note

1          A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India Report Vol. XI, Indological Book House, Varanasi, 1968, p. 75. 

2          J. E. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, ‘Gandhara and Mathura: Their Cultural Relationship’ in P. Pal (ed.), Aspects of Indian Art, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1972, pp. 27–43. 

3          Archaeological investigations over the last century have revealed the devastated remains of not only Buddhist but also Jain, Brahmanical and nature-worship cult temples, largely of brick construction with stone lintels, pillars and other structural components often richly carved with narrative or decorative reliefs. They have also revealed freestanding sculptures belonging to each of the deities worshipped at Mathura, including a small group of Kushān royal portraits, unique in Indian art, which may relate to a cult involving deified kings. For a review of sculptural finds at the sites of Mathura, see J. Ph. Vogel, ‘Explorations at Mathura’, in Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1911–12, pp. 120–33; V. A. Smith, The Jain Stupa and Other Antiquities of Mathura, Allahabad, 1901; H. Hartel, ‘Some Results of the Excavations at Sonkh’, in German Scholars in India vol. II, 1976. (reprint as The Excavations at Sonkh, National Museum, New Delhi, 1977). 

4          C. L. Fabri, ‘Mathura of the Gods’, Marg VII, 2, 1958, pp. 8–22. 

5          See M. Chandra, Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, Abhinav, New Delhi, 1977, and for examples of Roman finds in India, see K. Khandalavala, ‘Brahmapuri. A Consideration of the Metal Objects Found in the Kundangar Hoard’, Lalit Kala 7, 1960, pp 29–75. As further evidence of this trade, an ivory mirror handle carved in the form of a woman and attributed to Maharastra or the Andra region, circa 1st century A.D., was excavated at Pompeii, see M. Chandra, ‘An Ivory Figure from Ter’, Lalit Kala 8, 1960, pp. 7–14. 

6          Early Hindu deities, especially Śiva and Vishnu, appear to have been iconographically represented by the 2nd century B.C., if not earlier. See J. N. Banerjea, The Development of Hindu Iconography, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1974, p. 102 (reprint 1956 edn). 

7          The definition of bodhisattva given is essentially Mahāyānist. The emergence of the bodhisattva concept from tenets in early Hīnayāna is discussed by A. L. Basham, ‘The Evolution of the Concept of the Bodhisattva’ in L. S. Kawamura (ed.), The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhism, Wildfred Laurier University Press, Waterloo, 1981, pp 19–59. 

8          See A. Ghosh, Remains of the Bharhut Stupa in the Indian Museum, Indian Museum, Calcutta, 1978 and J. Marshall, Monuments of Sanchi, 3 vols, London, 1940. 

9          A. K. Coomaraswamy, ‘Yaksas’, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, No. 2926, vol. 80, 1928, and no. 2959, 1929 (reprint, New Delhi), and J. Ph. Vogel, Indian Serpent-Lore or The Nagas in Hindu Legend and Art, Indological Book House, Varanasi, 1972 (reprint 1926 edn). 

10         For example, the legend of the Nāgarāja Mucalinda sheltering the Buddha from rain during a seven-day meditation, J. Ph. Vogel, op. cit., p. 102. 

11         It is clear, however, that at Mathura nāga worship still retained its independence and authority as an important cult under the Kushāns. Recent excavations in the vicinity of Sonkh, Mathura district, have revealed an apsidal temple containing stone and terracotta nāga images, and a lintel with reliefs depicting a nāgarāja and nāginī, clearly indicating that the temple, dated by H. Hartell to the later 1st century A.D., was dedicated to the nāga cult. See H. Hartel, ‘A Kusana Naga Temple at Sonkh’, Bulletin of Museums and Archaeology in U.P. 11–12, 1973, pp. 1–6. 

12         The borrowing of established conventions of both form and function to the service of the newly emerging theism in Indian religion was not confined to Buddhism. Images of the Jina (‘Saviour’) display similar caurī bearing attendants, though in Jainism they never assume the semi-divine status of the Mahāyānist bodhisattva

13         J. Gonda, Ancient Indian Kingship from the Religious Point of View, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1966, p. 37. 

14         The most notable borrowing is seen in the use of the wheel (cakra). The cakra, representing the secular domain, ‘… over which a king may ride in his chariot’, became the Buddhist wheel of law (dharmacakra), the symbol of the universality of the Buddha’s spiritual domain. 

15         J. Ph. Vogel, ‘The Mathura School of Sculpture’, Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1909–10, p 64. 

16         The Hīnayānas laid stress on the personal striving, through successive rebirths if necessary, for sambodhi (‘supreme wisdom’) at the attainment of which one entered nirvāṇa as an arhat (‘worthy one’), a state of Buddahood. The Mahāyānists gave growing emphasis to the adoration of a supreme being and allowed for the possibility of divine intervention by a compassionate deity, a saviour figure, a bodhisattva

17         See A. Ghosh, op. cit. 

18         The epigraphic evidence relating to patronage indicates the active involvement of monks and nuns in the commissioning of images alongside wealthy merchants and traders. The source of this patronage points to a growing acceptance of the Mahāyānist concept of transfer of merit, an elaboration of the accumulation of merit doctrine. 

19         A. L. Basham, op. cit., p. 29. 

20         R. C. Sharma, ‘New Buddhist Sculptures from Mathura (Pre-Gupta Epoch)’, Lalit Kala 19, 1979, pp. 19–26. In the Mahāyānist trikāya system, Amitābha is one of the dhyānibuddhas, spiritual counterparts to the human Buddha, out of whom emanates the dhyānibodhisattvas Padmapāṇi and Manjúsrī, two of the most important bodhisattvas in the early Mahāyānist pantheon. 

21         P. Pal, ‘A Kushan Indra and some related sculptures’, Oriental Art XXV, 2, 1979, pp. 212–26. 

22         D. L. Snellgrove (ed.), The Image of the Buddha, Unesco/Kodansha, Paris, 1978, pl. 30. The lotus flower (padma), Padmapāṇi’s attribute, is held in a manner resembling the caurī held by traditional attendants and represents another instance of the adaption of existing models to new iconographic functions. Vajrapāṇi, identified by his thunderbolt (vajra), is represented in another example as companion to a caurī-bearing attendant, see J. Rosenfield, ‘The Arts of Buddhist India’, Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin LXIII, Boston, 1965, fig. 11. 

23         The dates of Kaniṣka, and of the reigns of other Kushān rulers, are not yet firmly established. The controversy remains unresolved, and in the opinion of A. L. Basham, unprovable, until further epigraphic evidence is forthcoming. See A. L. Basham (ed.), Papers on the date of Kaniṣka, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1968. I accept A.D. 78 as the most likely date for the beginning of Kaniṣka’s reign, and date inscriptions with regnal dates from that year. 

24         A notion absorbed into Buddhism from Indian kingship beliefs, see J. Gonda, op. cit. 

25         P. Pal, op. cit. It is not necessary to accept the argument for a workshop located at Ahicchatra for Pal’s general point to stand. 

26         This element in Kushān period art finds its full realisation in the ‘baroque’ excesses of much of the sculpture of Amaravati and Nagarjunikonda. See D. Barrett, Sculptures from Amaravati in the British Museum, British Museum, London, 1954.