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22 Items in this Learning Collection

Copyright
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Scene from the life of the Buddha: Buddha triumphs over the fire snake at the Fire Temple of Uruvilva Kasyapa (architectural fragment)

Accession Number
1972/2.41

Title
Scene from the life of the Buddha: Buddha triumphs over the fire snake at the Fire Temple of Uruvilva Kasyapa (architectural fragment)

Artist(s)
Artist Unknown, Gandhara (Ancient Pakistan and Afghanistan)

Object Creation Date
200-232

Medium & Support
grey schist

Dimensions
17 11/16 in. x 20 1/4 in. x 3 1/8 in. ( 45 cm x 51.5 cm x 8 cm )

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund

Label copy
Gallery Rotation Fall 2013
Scene from the life of Buddha Shakyamuni: Miracle at the fire temple of Uruvilva Kasyapa
Pakistan, ancient region of Gandhara
Early 3rd century
Grey schist
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund, 1972/2.41
After the Buddha became enlightened, he elected to perform various miracles for skeptics. In this relief, he is converting devotees of the fire god Agni, the three ascetic Kasyapa brothers, and their disciples. The Buddha in this narrative asked to spend the night in the fire temple of Uruvilva Kasyapa. The temple’s fire god worshipers believed that the fearsome fire serpent that dwelled within the temple would vanquish the Buddha. Instead, the fiery radiance of the meditating Buddha overwhelmed the serpent, who crawled into the Buddha’s alms bowl; the defeated snake appears in this sculpture below the Buddha. Meanwhile, the dazzling radiance the Buddha emits has been mistaken for flames, and a fire brigade using ladders and pots of water has been formed to put out the fire. Seated in the posture and gesture of meditation, the Buddha’s calm presence contrasts with the action unfolding around him. The three Kasyapa brothers, with their beards and matted hair, are at the bottom directing it all—two are on the right, and the other is seated at the far left.

Subject matter
A narrative scene from the life of Shakyamuni Buddha in which he sits meditating in a hut unperturbed while the fire serpent attempts to burn him—unsuccessfully. According to the Pali canon of Buddhist scriptures, this is one of the earliest miracles performed by the Buddha after his attainment of awakening. He traveled to the banks of the Neranjara River in the country of Magadha, where he met the three Kasyapa brothers, devotees of the fire god Agni. The Buddha requested to stay the night in the hall of the sacred fire. The eldest brother, Uruvilva, allowed him to do so, believing that the fire serpent in the hall would destroy the Buddha. Buddha emerged unscathed from the temple, and the Kasyapas became his disciples, along with their many followers. Buddha preached to them The Fire Sermon, a key text in early Buddhism.

Physical Description
A fragment of a stone slab, originally a facing on the drum of a small stupa, carved with a narrative scene. In this relief, he is converting devotees of the fire god Agni, the three ascetic Kasyapa brothers and their disciples. In this narrative, the Buddha asked to spend the night in the fire temple of Uruvilva Kasyapa. The temple’s fire god worshipers thought the fearsome fire serpent that dwelled within the temple would vanquish the Buddha. Instead, the fiery radiance of the meditating Buddha overwhelmed the serpent, who crawled into the Buddha’s alms bowl; the defeated snake appears in this sculpture below the Buddha. Meanwhile, the dazzling radiance the Buddha emits has been mistaken for flames and a fire brigade using ladders and pots of water has been formed to put out the fire, as can be seen here. Seated in the posture and gesture of meditation, the Buddha’s calm presence is in contrast to the action unfolding around him. The three Kasyapa brothers, with their beards and matted hair, are at the bottom directing it all – two are on the right and the other is seated at the far left.

Primary Object Classification
Sculpture

Primary Object Type
architectural element

Additional Object Classification(s)
Sculpture

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Buddhas (visual works)
Buddhism
Gandhara
architectural firms
flames
fragments (object portions)
ladders
stupas

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved