There was no Freud to help Queen Mayadevi interpret her dream back in 6th century BCE, but to all who heard, it was clear that future greatness lay in store for the boy whose mother had dreamt that a white elephant had descended from heaven and entered her womb. Little wonder then that the depiction of the ‘Dream of Mayadevi’ - Buddha’s mother - is an integral part of Buddhist art, an exhibition of which, titled Buddhist Art from India, is being held at the National Museum.
The 91 pieces on display are part of the collection of the Indian Museum, Kolkata, and have been exhibited to great acclaim in China, Japan and Singapore. Journeying through the centuries and through the different stages in the development of Buddhism, the exhibits range from depictions of Buddhist symbols such as footprints, the wheel and carvings on stupas to depictions of the Buddha’s miracles, statues of the Buddha and of Buddhist deities, and plates and bowls carved with tales from the sutras and jatakas (stories of the Buddha’s previous births). It is believed that statues of Buddha and Buddhist deities were first created in Gandhara and Mathura during the Kushana dynasty.
The exhibition also includes works from countries like Myanmar. Interestingly, the Buddha’s features vary slightly from one image to the next depending on the age and the place of origin. An engaging show especially for those interested in spirituality and its impact, the only drawback seems to be the paucity of detail on the background to each piece. But as Sayan Bhattacharya, education officer, Indian Museum, points out: “Giving more details about each exhibit would have made the display too text-heavy”. The Indian Museum and the National Museum are discussing the possibility of holding workshops focussed on the exhibition.
What: Buddhist Art of India
Where: National Museum, Janpath
When: 10 am to 5 pm, till November 30 (closed on Mondays)