Queen Maya's Dream (Colombo National Museum)

Queen Maya's Dream
A hard limestone slab depicting Queen Maya's Dream (Sinhala: මායා දේවියගේ සිහිනය) 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 "The Interpretation of 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 57 cm x 52 cm x 9.5 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). It probably would have decorated one of the Stupas in Andra.

The scene in the slab portrays Queen Maya's dream. Here Maya who is surrounded by female attendants is lying on a couch to the left dreaming of the birth to come (Bopearachchi, 2020). The part depicting the elephant (it is said that Siddhartha entered his mother's womb in the form of a white elephant) is broken off. The human figures with full breasts, attenuated hips and long limbs of the females dressed only in a short cloth band are considered characteristic features of the Amaravati school.

Scholars have dated this work to the 2nd-3rd century A.D. Similar carvings relating to the same subject have been reported from Sanchi, Bharhut, and Amaravati in India (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.21-22.
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 8 January 2023
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