The Śrāvastī Miracles: Some Relationships Between their Literary Sources and Visual Representations in Dvāravatī




the Śrāvastī miracles, the miracle narratives, visual representations, Dvāravatī, Moulded tablets, Votive, Buddhism


The Śrāvastī miracles are among the Buddha’s principal miracles and could even be considered the prototypical Buddhist miracle stories. The narrative of these miracles is preserved in a variety of languages in different versions and is represented in the visual art of ancient India, Central Asia, as well as Southeast Asia. The objective of this study is to reexamine the visual representations of the Śrāvastī miracles found in the period of Dvāravatī, which spanned from the seventh to the eleventh centuries CE, via a comparative study of textual sources and their possible relationships to the 24 artefacts (9 types) found in the central, northeastern and southern parts of present-day Thailand. This study reveals that these artefacts illustrate important narrative elements from various Buddhist traditions, such as: (1) the demonstration of miracles (the miraculous growth of a tree and the multiplication of the Buddha, which comprises the Twin Miracle, the Great Miracle, the creation of the duplicate Buddha, and the performance of a miracle akin to the one experienced in the fourth absorption), (2) the depictions of the (six) defeated non-Buddhist ascetics, (3) of King Prasenajit, and (4) of Brahmā and Indra, bodhisattvas, and unspecified deities. The rich corpus of Dvāravatī artefacts illustrating these miracles implies that the artists might have clearly drawn their inspiration from various textual sources based mostly on the Theravādin and Mūlasarvāstivādin records. It is also possible that they were made based on known scriptures of that time, which in turn were the results
of mixed interpretations of the Theravādin, Mūlasarvāstivādin, and other unknown texts. Alternatively, it is also possible that the visual representations do not reflect any connection to textual sources, as these artefacts cannot be attached to any particular Buddhist tradition and even less so to a specific “school.” These findings demonstrate how the key elements of a narrative from the literary sources have been transformed through visual representations, evidenced by these Dvāravatī artefacts showing their local formulation as well.




How to Cite

Sirisawad, N. (2022). The Śrāvastī Miracles: Some Relationships Between their Literary Sources and Visual Representations in Dvāravatī. Entangled Religions, 13(7).