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Buddha Legends and the Life and Teachings of Śākyamuni: Relief Panels from Gandhara

Buddhism began in Ancient India around the fifth century BCE on the basis of the Buddha Śākyamuni's teachings before spreading to various parts of Asia and beyond. After the Buddha's death, religious devotion centered on stupas enshrining buddha relics grew in popularity, and from around the second century BCE sculpted illustrations of his previous lives and latest life, or "biography," began to appear. Then around the first century CE, buddha statues appeared. In the region of Gandhara in northwest India, a rich Buddhist art flourished that merged Greco-Roman and Iranian nomadic culture, fusing East and West.

The Hanzomon Museum has a collection of statues and relief panels from Gandhara dating from the first to the fourth centuries CE that illustrate the Buddha's life. The following is a description of their defining characteristics and an explanation of their subject matter.

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