Northern Gateway,
Interior View

 

This picture shows the inside of the northern gateway, taken from the processional path that runs around the stupa (some distance above the ground, as one can plainly see).  The topmost torana shows the Chhadanta Jataka, the middle one scenes from the Buddha's life, and the lowest one scenes from the Vessantara Jataka.  In the pillar space in between the lower two is a depiction of the Buddha's birth at left, and on the right a stupa. 

With its rows of elephants and horses set in the middle, this is the busiest of the gates visually.

Photo taken Nov. 2005.

 

This scene from the Chhadanta Jataka shows the elephant-king Chhadanta sporting in the forest with his queens and elephant subjects.  A fuller rendition of this story appears in the South Gateway (click there for details).   

 

This detail shows two important events preceding the Buddha's enlightenment--Sujata's offering and temptation by Mara.  The Buddha is represented by the tree on the left), Sujata is the small figure holding a pot just below it, and in the center and right are Mara and his vanquished demon hosts.  According to tradition, Sujata gave the Future Buddha a plate of rice cooked in milk (she had vowed to offer it to the spirit of a tree, and mistook the man sitting under the tree for that spirit).  The Buddha had previously sought enlightenment by fasting, but this had only weakened his body.  Eating the milk-rice gave him the strength and nourishment enabling him to focus his mind (and become enlightened), but it also illustrates the "middle path" attitude toward the body--caring for it so that it is healthy, but not indulging it. 

As already mentioned, the figure of Mara (here seated just left of center) is a symbol for the desires and attachments that bind people to the world, and in becoming enlightened, the Buddha thereby "vanquished" him.  Aside from sending his demon armies to frighten the Buddha, Mara is also said to have sent his three "daughters"--Discontent, Delight, and Craving"--who are visible just to the right of the tree.  Needless to say, these daughters were also unsuccessful.

 

This shows the end of the Vessantara Jataka, which began on the gateway's exterior.  All the Jataka tales describe the Buddha's past lives, but they also aim to promote virtues in the hearers.  In his last human birth before being born as Siddhartha, the Future Buddha was Prince Vessantara, a paradigm for the virtue of generosity.  The gods decided to test his generosity by a series of trials, during which Vessantara not only freely gave away his kingdom and his belongings, but even his wife and children.  In the end his virtue was rewarded, and all of his possessions were restored to him.  Reading from right to left, this panel shows Vessantara and his wife settling in to mountain cottage, which had been decorated with banana trees by the god Indra, and which (further left) was guarded by three gods in the form of a lion, tiger, and leopard (center, top).  Below the animals it shows Vessantara giving away his children, who are driven off with a stick by their new master.  The grouping below left shows him giving away his wife, but this is prevented by the appearance of Indra, in the conical hat, who reunites him not only with his wife, but with this children (below).  The final bit with the horses (top left) depicts the family's triumphal return to the palace.

 

This shot at the outside edge of the lowest torana continues the story of the Vessantara Jataka.  Here it show Vessantara and his wife (leading one child by the hand and carrying another) going into the forest (the wild animals are below them). 

November 2005

On to Next Page (Final Shots)

 

Introduction East Gate:  Exterior / Interior West Gate: Exterior / Interior Final Shots
South Gate: Exterior / Interior North Gate: Exterior / Interior

 

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Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 27 December 2005