Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King Sivi

Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King Sivi
Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King Sivi
Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King Sivi
Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King Sivi
Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King Sivi
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Transcript of Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King Sivi

  • 11. Note on a Gandhara Relief Representing the Story of King SiviAuthor(s): M. Longworth Dames and T. A. JoyceSource: Man, Vol. 13 (1913), pp. 17-19Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and IrelandStable URL: .Accessed: 01/01/2015 07:05

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  • 1913.) MAN. fNo. 11. ORIGINAL ARTICLES.

    India. [With Plate B.] Dames: Joyce. Note on a Oandh&ra Relief representing the Story of King Sivi, f

    By M. Longworth Dames and T. A. Joyce, M.A. l The accompanying plate, B, illustrates a steatite relief, in typical Gandhara

    style, which is of particular interest on account both of its high artistic quality and of the subject which it represents. The relief, which is now in the British Museum, was obtained in the Swwat Valley in north-western India, and shows a group of six figures arranged as follows. On the left, on a throne under a canopy, is seated a king; his eyes are balf-closed, his features drawn with pain, and his head droops forward as if he were about to faint. His left hand rests on the shoulders of a woman, who leans towards him with one arm outstretched in a gesture of tender solicitude, and whose whole attitude reflects the pity and grief shown upon her features. Before the royal footstool kneels a man with a knife, who is engaged in cutting off a portion of flesh from the king's left leg; and behind him, to the right, stands a well-executed figure of a man holding a bismar. Immediately to the right of the last is a dignified individual holding a vajra, and distinguished by a headdress of peculiar shape and a nimbus; this figure is easily recognisable as Indra (the Sakka of the Jataka). The sixth figure is also furnished with a nimbus, and is perhaps some divine attendant upon Indra. Finally, close by the leg of the king's throne is a pigeon, while the space between the beads of the balance-holder and the female figure respec- tively is occupied by the mutilated figure of what must have been a flying bird.

    From the point of view of workmanship, the relief belongs to the best class of Gandhara sculpture; the grouping is well arranged, and the individual figures are dignified and graceful, that of the woman expressing a pathos which is not common in Oriental works of art.

    The subject is evidently taken from the story of King $ivi, which is told in the MahAbhArata, book III, chapter 197. One day the Celestials resolved to test the virtue of King eivi; accordingly Agni assumed the shape of a pigeon, and fled before Indra, who pursued him in the form of a hawk. The pigeon took refuge in the lap of the king, who is menitioned as being seated upon a costly seat, and begged for protection, enforcing its claim by the statement that it was a Rishi, learned in the Veda, and of blameless life, who had taken the form of a bird. The demand of the hawk is couched in fewer words. "0 king, it is not proper for you " to interfere with my food by protecting this pigeon ! " The answer of the king is given at length, and consists chiefly of an enumeration of the penalties which the Celestials inflict upon him "who gives up a frightened creature seeking protection " of its enemies." Finally he offers the hawk a bull cooked with rice in place of the pigeon. The hawk replies: "0 king, I do not ask for a bull or any other meat

    more than what is in this pigeon. He is my food to-day ordained by the gods. " Therefore give him up to me." The king still refuses, and offers to do whatever the hawk bids him as a ransom for the pigeon. The hawk then demands a piece of flesh from the king's leg equal in weight to his quarry. Sivi cuts off a piece from his right leg, but the pigeon proves the heavier; he cuts off piece after piece from other portions of his body, but without result, until, finally, he gets bodily into the scale. Upon this the hawk disappears, and the pigeon, revealing himself as Agni, praises the king and promises various rewards for his virtue.

    This, evidently, is the story pictured on the relief, which thus possesses the additional interest of being, apparently, the only known Gandhara representation of this legend.*

    * &e Foueber, L'Art Greco-Boudddhiqve, p. 270. "Nous ne connaissons pas de version " gandharienne du charitable exploit du roi givi, lequel racheta au poids de sa propre chair une " colombe e l'dpervier."

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  • PLATE B. MAN, 1913.

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  • No. 1L.] MAN. [1913. The same scene is depicted upon one of the sculptures from the Amarawati tope

    (British Museum), but the details differ, in so far as the king is shown with a sword, operating upon himself. An interesting feature of the Gandhara relief is the bisinar, held by the central figure, which corresponds very closely to the Madrasi specimen figured by Ling Roth in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. XLII, p. 223, a similar bismar appears in the Amaravati sculpture.

    The story of Sivi is undoubtedly of early origin; the king's offer to kill a bull as ransom for the pigeon would seem to relate it to pre-Buddbist Hinduism, and it must have been adopted by the Buddhists, who saw in King Sivi a previous incarnation of the Buddha.

    The story must have been a well-known Jataka, but does not appear in the collection translated in the Cambridge Jataka by Cowell and Rouse from the text edited by Fausboll. No. 499 in that series bears the title of Sivi-Jataka and refers to the self-sacrifice of the same King Sivi, who gave his eyes to a blind Brabman, and expresses also hlis willingness to give his flesh if required. Il appears to be of great antiquity, for it is the second in the list of thirty-four original Jatakas mentionied by Taranatba and alluded to by He-machandra (see S. d'Oldenburg in Journ. Roy. As. Soc., 1893, pp. 307-309). The same King Sivi plays a part in other Jatakas, and his grandson is the hero of the Visvantara or Vessantara Jataka, which often figures in Buddhist art.

    The story of King Sivi and the hawk and pigeon is told in detail iii a translation from a Chinese version (see Abstract of Four Lectures, by S. Beal: Triibner & Co., 1882). In this version the gods who intervene are Sakra (Indra) and Viswakarman, the Artificer or Hephbestus of Indian mythology, and the women of the palace are represented as endeavouring to dissuade the king from his purpose. See also references in Beal's Buddhist Records of the Western World, I, 125, Note 20: Triibner, 1884. In the same work, Vol. 1, pp. cvi, cvii (under the Travels of Sung-yun, another Chinese pilgrim, 200 years or more before Hiouen Thsang), the same story is found located near Peshawar. "Seven days' journey thence the pilgrims arrived at the " place where Sivika-raja delivered the dove." The figures of birds in Plate XLV, 7, Bharhut Stupa, seem to refer to the pigeon and crow in Jataka 42, and not to the legenid under consideration.

    The Chinese pilgrim HioueD Thsang in the seventh century travelled through Udyana, that is the modern Swat, and there found a stiupa built by King Asoka to commemorate the rescue of a pigeon from a hawk by the Bodhisattva, who, as Kinog Sivika, cut flesh from his body to take the place of the pigeon (Stanislas Julien, Voyages des Pel1rins Bouddhistes, Vol. I, p. 137). It seems probable that the stilpa from which this relief comes may be that visited by the Chinese pilgrim, and its discovery may perhaps in the near future be effected by the Archteological Survey of the Frontier Circle, now under the direction of Sir Aurel Stein.

    The story, it will be seen, was localised in Udyalna, nevertheless it is quite possible that the original country of Sivi (which apparently gave its name to the king) was really situated elsewhere, and one is tempted to suggest its identity with the modern Sibi or 8;vi at the foot of the Bolan Pass, and with the block of mountainous country between the Indus and the Bolan, which was known till modern times as Sivistan. At the foot of the mountain wall, where the plateau country falls towards the Indus, is the celebrated shrine of Sakhi Sarwar, now a Musalman saint, but venerated also by Hindus. The shrine is associated with the veneration of 'Ali, and many of the stories told of him are of a markedly Buddhist type. The founder was a blind beggar to whom 'Ali prese