Stele with Eight Great Events from the Life of the Buddha, 10th century. India, Bihar, possibly from Nalanda. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (2009.541) | Relief sculptures showing the great pilgrim sites take on increasing importance across north India. The most significant scene is the central Buddha touching the earth at the moment of his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya. Surrounding him are seven other scenes of his life.
This portrait was created for the Riwoche Monastery in eastern Tibet, a branch of the Taklung Monastery, and is intended to invoke the spiritual lineage of the two monasteries. The central figure is not directly named; however, the name Jnanatapa, denoting a famous Indian mahasiddha (a “great perfected one,” one of the spiritual fathers of Tantric Buddhism), appears on a veil attached to the painting, and the deity presiding above the central figure is identified as Avagarbha