Buddhist Art Sanchi

Mark Allon mallon at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Tue Nov 11 19:50:41 UTC 1997

On Sun, 9 Nov 1997, Rolf Heiner Koch wrote:

> The Vizvantara jAtaka (547) is shown in Sanchi the
> scholars repeat since
> decade of years. I am suspicious. Does anyone of
> you came across the habit
> in the Pali or Sanskrit literature: One man takes
> one arm under the right
> arm of a second man and (like usually men and
> woman walk - I am sorry the
> English phrase I do not know) after that the first
> man spoils water out of a
> pot in his open hand.
> Where the habit is described that the donation of
> something should be
> verified by spoiling water on the open hand?
> Anyone knows different interpretations of the
> scenes explained traditionally
> as the Vizvantara jAtaka?
> Heiner

The sauvarNa bhRKgAra '(ceremonial) golden water-jug' is not uncommon in
Buddhist literature. The Pali bhiKkAra or bhiKgAra occurs with or without
sovaNNa/ suvaNNa/ sovaNNamaya, 'golden'. It is variously translated
'(golden) pitcher, vase, water-jug, vessel, pot, jug, bowl, etc.'. To
suvaNNa-bhiKkAra one Pali commentary (Sv II 620) gives
hatthi-soNDa-sadisa-panALin suvaNNa-bhiKkAraM, 'a golden bhiKkAra that
has a spout (shaped) like an elephant's trunk'.

It is used in ceremonies of various kinds, where water is sprinkled or
poured from the bhiKkAra. At DN II 172 (cf. DN III 62, MN III 172) it is
said of a cakkavattin king that, taking the (golden) bhiKkAra in his left
hand, he sprinkles the wheel-treasure with water with his right hand and
commands the wheel-treasure to roll on and mark out his kingdom. In the
rite of presenting or dedicating something or someone to someone the hands
are sprinkled or washed with water from a bhiKkAra. At Vin I 39 this
occurs when king Seniya BimbisAra presents the Bamboo Grove to the Buddha
and Sangha. At AN IV 210=214 a man presents one of his wives in marriage
to another man by holding her hand in his left hand and the bhiKkAra in
his right and cleansing (the hands) of the other man. This similarly
occurs at Mil p. 236 when king Suddhodana gives his son (the future
Buddha) to a learned brahman to be taught and at J II 371 where a king
(the Bodhisattva) gives a valuable elephant to some brahmans by putting
the trunk of the elephant in the brahman's hands and sprinkling them with
scented water from the golden bhiKkAra. At J III 10 when a loyal subject
comes to see the king, the king uses a bhiKkAra to sprinkle the man's
feet while the queen washes them and anoints them with scents (see also J
I 85; Vin IV 156). It is also used in the consecration ceremony of king.
At Dip.11.32, for example, it is one of the things send to the second
coronation of king Azoka from Sri Lanka.

You will also find numerous examples in the Buddhist Sanskrit literature;
e.g. at MPS (MahAparinirvANa-sUtra) 6.9-10 VarSAkAra, the chief minister
of Magadha uses the sauvarNa bhRKgAra to transfer the merit of the meel he
had just given the Buddha to the deities of PATaliputra.

As you note of Sanchi, such events are often depicted in Buddhist

Hope this is helpful.


Mark Allon
Department of Asian Languages and Literature
University of Washington
Box 353521
Seattle, WA 98195-3521

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