Answer :

Art historians had to acquire familiarity with Buddhist literature to understand the sculpture because many early sculptures did not show Buddha in human form but through various symbols for E.g.:

A.1. The Stupa was meant to represent “Mahapari-nibbana”.

2. The wheel stood for the first sermon of the Buddha at Saranath.

3. A tree symbolises that the Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under a tree.

4. The empty seat was meant to indicate the meditation of the Buddha some other sculptures at Sanchi were not directly inspired by Buddhist ideas but were derived from other popular tradition for E.g.:

B.1. The Shalabhanjika motif- This peculiar sculpture at Sanchi depicts a beautiful woman swinging from the edge of the gateway holding on to a tree.

According to popular belief, this was a woman whose touch caused trees to flower and hear fruit.

The Shalabhanjika motif was regarded as an auspicious symbol by the Buddhists as it suggested that many people who turned to Buddhism, enriched it with their own pre-Buddhist and non – Buddhist belief, practices and ideas.

2. Animal Motifs: - At Sanchi, some of the finest depiction of animals are found; like elephants, horses, monkeys cattle etc. Some animals figures can be related to Jataka stories while other were used to depict human attributes for E.g.: Elephants were depicted to signify strength and wisdom.

3. Maya and Gajalakshmi Motif: - This is the motif of a woman surrounded by Lotuses and Elephants which seem to be sprinkling water on her as if performing an “Abhisheka”.

Some historians identify her with Maya, the mother of the Buddha; while other identify her as gajalakshmi- the goddess of good fortune.

4. Serpent Motif – the serpent motif is found on several pillars, this seems to have been derived from popular traditions.

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