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Jatakas in stone: Buddha's Miracles at Uruvila
Gautam Buddha, during his lifetime, travelled across India, preaching to people and sometimes performing miracles. Instances of not one but three such miracles are associated with Buddha’s visit to Uruvila. These instances are of utmost importance and make up an essential part of legends and myths surrounding Buddha. The narrative of Buddha’s Uruvila visit is carved beautifully in the toranas of the Sanchi Stupa.
The left pillar of Eastern Gateway depicts miracles at Uruvila; Image source: Wikimedia commons

Story of Uruvila

Throughout his life and travel, Buddha touched the lives of many and showed them the path of true enlightenment. One such instance is the story of Buddha’s visit to Uruvila where he meets the Kasayapa Brahmanas and converts them to Buddhism. The left pillar of the Eastern gateway of the Sanchi stupa depicts the miracles performed by Buddha in Sanchi on both the front and rear sides. Two of these instances directly relate to the conversion of the Kasayapa Brahmanas, while the other two relate to miracles performed by Buddha in Uruvila.

First, on the third panel of the front face of the left pillar, there is depicted the miracle of Buddha walking on the Niranjana river. The river is shown in flood and the Kasyapa Brahamanas are seen hurrying to rescue Buddha in a boat on the upper side of the panel, on the lower side Buddha is depicted in an aniconic fashion walking on water, similar to the depiction of Buddha walking on air in Savrasti while the Kasyapa seems to be paying homage to the same in the lower part of the panel.

Buddha walking on the river Niranjana; Image source; Wikimedia commons
On the rear side of the panel, are depicted the rest of the legends pertaining to Uruvila, the top panels depict visit of Indra and Brahma to Buddha in Uruvila. Brahma and Indra are depicted standing in reverence to an empty throne, the aniconic symbol of Buddha, while the rest of the panel consists of various scenes relating to the rural activities in Uruvila, River Niranjana is depicted in the foreground with a woman drawing water from it.
Indra and Brahma’s visit to Buddha; Image source; Wikimedia commons](https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/secure.notion-static.com/f6de0d8b-f6e4-4822-b335-9d997817f9f1/Untitled.png) Indra and Brahma’s visit to Buddha; Image source; Wikimedia commons
The next two panels constitute mostly the parts of the legend of conversion of Kasaypa Brahaman. The middle panel depicts a multi hooded snake and flames coming out of the hut, this is a clear depiction of the legend of Buddha’s taming of the fearsome Naga. According to the legend, when Buddha met the Kashyapas, he was looking for a place to stay the night, the Kashyapas directed him towards a fire chapel but warned him that a fearsome Naga resides in it, unafraid Buddha took their permission and went inside the chapel. The Naga attacked Buddha with fire and smoke, however, they were redirected back to him, overwhelmed the Naga realised the greatness of Buddha and slithered into his begging bowl. The panel depicts a hut with flames coming out of it and a naga hood above an empty seat, both a sign of Buddha’s victory. Moreover, Brahamana ascetics are shown standing in awe of the miracle.
Buddha taming the fire breathing Naga; Image source; Wikimedia commons
The last panel on the rear side of the left pillar of the eastern gateway depicts the miracle of fire and wood. According to the legend of Kasyapas’ conversion, after the miracle of the fire chapel, the Brahmanas prepared a sacrifice however the wood for the sacrifice would not split, the fire for the sacrifice would not burn and the offering to the sacrifice could not be made until Buddha gave his consent. The scene is depicted dramatically on the lower panel, on the right side a figure is shown with an axe in air as it refused to come down without Buddha’s consent, then immediately next to him the figure is again repeated this time with his axe in the wood. Similarly, an ascetic is shown trying to burn the flame, and then he has been repeated now with fire ablaze after Buddha gives his consent.
The miracle of fire and wood; Image source: Wikimedia commons
The time of the rise of Buddhism and when these images were being made was also a time of competition between different religious sects for patronage and to establish their dominance. The story of the conversion of Kasayapa thus becomes important as it depicts Buddhist dominance over Brahmanical practices. Moreover, depiction of the Uruvila legend in a popular pilgrimage site such as Sanchi, make sure that this message of Buddhist supremacy is spread wide and afar among the visitors and devotees of Buddhism.
Siddharth Tiwari Author
I aspire to read every comic book there is. When I'm not infront of computer working, I'm infront of computer playing videogames.

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