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Asian art

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Temple strut (tunala) depicting the birth of Buddha

14th century-16th century


Unknown Artist


This beautifully carved Nepali temple strut depicts Queen Maya giving birth to Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be. According to the legend, the Queen was believed to have become pregnant following a dream in which she saw a white elephant entering her side. This was regarded as a prophecy of an auspicious birth and 10 lunar months later the Queen gave birth from her right side. According to the iconographic convention Queen Maya is depicted rather like a tree-goddess (shalabhanjika), grasping an overhanging flowering branch with her right hand. Her body, although depicted in a stylised pose is swaying and graceful, the pleats of her lower garment adding movement to her elegant figure. Siddhartha is depicted as a diminutive figure emerging from her right side. He is depicted like the adult Buddha with 'ushnisha' and snail shell curls apparently wearing the Buddhist robes. At the lower corner, to the right of her figure, is the god Indra, the King of the gods. He is depicted as a small figure kneeling at her feet with his hands outstretched to receive the new born. This temple strut is a wonderful example of one of the Eight Great Events of Buddhist legend.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, Feb 2000


Place where the work was made

Kathmandu Valley Nepal


14th century-16th century

Media category


Materials used

wood with traces of pigment


59.0 x 17.2 x 10.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


D G Wilson Bequest Fund 2000


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Alex Biancardi, pre 1998, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia

Danny Biancardi, 1998-Feb 2000, Australia, by descent from the Estate of Alex Biancardi. Purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2000.

Referenced in 1 publication


Jackie Menzies (Editor), Buddha: Radiant awakening, Sydney, 2001, 22 (colour illus.), 183. 2