Friday, 16 April 2021

Interpretation of Queen Maya's Dream (Colombo National Museum)

Interpretation of Queen Maya's Dream
A hard limestone slab depicting the Interpretation of Queen Maya's Dream (Sinhala: මායා දේවියගේ සිහිනයේ අර්ථ දැක්වීම) is presently on the display in the Gallery of Anuradhapura Period in Colombo National Museum, Sri Lanka.

This slab was discovered in 1894 along with another slab depicting "Queen Maya's Dream" during the irrigation works in a paddy field about a mile from Anuradhapura (Bopearachchi, 2012). It is said that these were found in a Bodhighara Shrine popularly known as "Kurunegala-road-shrine" (Bopearachchi, 2012). The stone pediment and the inner basement of this shrine have now been reconstructed at the premises of the Colombo National Museum (Bopearachchi, 2012).

The slab
This slab measures 64 cm x 38 cm x 9 cm (Bopearachchi, 2020). It is believed to have been imported from Nagarjunakonda (Andra Pradesh in South India) as they have their iconographic and stylistic counterparts in many of Amaravati sculptures found there (Bopearachchi, 2012). The slab on which this sculpture has been carved is called Amaravati marble, a kind of hard limestone found in the Nagarjunakonda region (Bopearachchi, 2012).

The scene in the slab portrays the interpretation of Queen Maya's dream by the sages/soothsayers (Bute, 2016). It is said that King Suddhodana consulted soothsayers in order to get Queen Maya's dream interpreted and one of them explained that the child born to the queen would definitely attain Buddhahood. Here, in the remaining part, it shows Suddhodana sitting on a grand throne while Maya is on a high stool surrounded by her female attendants (Bopearachchi, 2020). Under Suddhodana's throne is a soothsayer on a low stool making his own interpretation of the dream. Behind these figures are male and female attendants watching the scene (Bopearachchi, 2020). The presence of the bead and reel border on the right vertical extremity of the relief shows the borrowing from the Greek and Roman world (Bopearachchi, 2020).

Scholars have dated this work to the 2nd-3rd century A.D. (Bute, 2016).

1) Bopearachchi, O., 2012. “Andhra-Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka” Early Buddhist Sculptures of Sri Lanka. New Dimensions of Tamil Epigraphy, pp.49-68.
2) Bopearachchi, O., 2020. Roots of Sri Lankan Art. Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka. ISBN: 978-955-7457-31-4. pp.22-23.  
3) Bute, S.J.R. ed., 2016. Intercultural Relations and Ethnic Conflict in Asia. IGI Global. p.62.

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This page was last updated on 18 February 2023


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