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Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

India (Sunga period, Bharhut, Satna District),
circa 100-80 BC
Height: 25.5 cm
Width: 30.5 cm
Depth: 12.2 cm

A finely carved red sandstone panel depicting a pair of stylised lotus roundels or chakras to the front, and a plain uncarved surface to the reverse side.

The left roundel is slightly smaller than the right but both share the same pattern, with the edges of both overlapping. The large lotus petals or lappets to each roundel are framed to the edges by a thin border, which runs from one lotus to the other joining them together. The lappets have a central incision as well as an inner border so giving them more prominence, and overlap other smaller petals behind. An inner circle of smaller lappets surrounds a central bud to the left roundel and depicts the seed pod of the lotus with great clarity surrounding a central rosette. Between the two lotuses one can see further petals to the top and floral stems to the bottom. The two lotuses seem to be like the colliding wheels of destiny and give the fragment a feeling of movement, the carving helping give the piece depth.

This fragment would have been part of a crossbar, which sat between a pair of carved decorative railings in a Buddhist shrine. These railing would have probably surrounded religious edifices. The decorative use of a lotus on crossbars appears to have been the most popular motif in early Buddhist art.

all text & images © Simon Ray

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