The Figure with a Bow in Gandhāran Great Departure Scenes. Some New Readings


  • Jessie Pons



Gandhāra, Buddhist iconography, great departure, Vaiśravaṇa-Kubera, multiple identities, Kushan era


The figure holding a bow on Gandhāran illustrations of the Bodhisattva’s departure from Kapilavastu has been the subject of controversy. First identified as Māra and Indra, the interpretation proposed by K. Tanabe that the protagonist is Vaiśravaṇa-Kubera rallied broader consensus. The present reassessment takes into account the multi-cultural and multi-religious context of production of the images, namely the Kushan era, to offer additional readings of the Gandhāran figure. The approach is two-fold. The examination of written and visual traditions of representing the episode is complemented by the analysis of the Gandhāran iconography in light of material from various cultural strands which came into contact in the region. As a final step, the article considers possible logics which might have constrained the construction of the Gandhāran portrayals and tests the hypothesis that further divinities from religious trends coeval in Gandhāra may be recognized under the guises of the bow-holder.




How to Cite

Pons, J. (2014). The Figure with a Bow in Gandhāran Great Departure Scenes. Some New Readings. Entangled Religions, 1, 15–94.