This sculpture was carved in Gandhara (modern Pakistan) in the late
2nd or early 3rd century AD. Early Buddhas from Gandhara, like this
one, were made from grey schist (a local stone) and originally their
sculptors took Graeco-Roman depictions of Apollo as their model.
This is reflected in the drapery of the monk’s robe worn by the
Buddha which, rather like a toga, is heavy and classical and gives
rise to light and shadow. Originally Indian sculptors only represented
the Buddha in symbolic form rather than as a human, but this changed
around the 1st century AD.
Look closely and you will see that the Buddha is sculpted almost
in the round. Notice also the sparkling quality of the beautiful
grey stone, the deep lines incised into the palm of the right hand
which is raised and reveals some of the undergarment. Originally
sculptures like this would have been gilded and coloured.
This sculpture exhibits the standard iconography of the Buddha:
a mole or whorl of hair in the centre of the forehead and the bun
on the top of the head. The whorl of hair is one of the 84 marks
of Buddhahood and the bun shows that the Buddha came from the warrior
caste. Members of this caste did not cut their hair, choosing instead
to wear it in a bun underneath their turbans. The hands are now
missing, but would have been in the following positions: the right
hand in the abhaya mudra, the gesture of fearlessness and granting
protection, the left holding the folds of his robe. The halo is
of Middle-Eastern origin and was an accepted sign of divinity and
kingship in India and Central Asia.