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Конь без всадника и дерево джамбу: к интерпретации рельефа на восточных воротах большой ступы в Санчи

The article is concerned with one of the relief images of the Stupa 1 in Sanchi representing
“The Great Renunciation” (abhiniṣkramaṇa) of the future Buddha: the hero is leaving his royal palace to
take the path of ascetism. The first researchers of this visual narrative (John Marshall, Alfred Foucher)
were surprised comparing it to the Indian Buddhist texts, because the jambu tree presented in the
middle of this composition does not fit the plot and usually is an element of the other story, which was
connected with “Bodhisattva’s life in the palace”. However, if we turn to the early hagiographic text
preserved in Chinese translation (IIIrd century A.D.), we get the opportunity to explain this
combination of image elements: in this version of the Buddha’s biography the episode of the first
meditation is included into the story of abhiniṣkramaṇa, so the sequence of events in this story
corresponds to the pictorial narrative. Trying to detect any “traces” of such a variant of tradition in
later Indian versions we can find some features in the Lalitavistāra’s story which can be the evidence of
gradual changes in the interpretation of the plot. The scene of veneration of the tree placed in the
middle of the image thus gets the certain content, while the understanding of such images is difficult
because of the absence of the figure of the Buddha in early Buddhist art. Moreover, the comparison of
Chinese text to the relief image from Sanchi gives proof, that this version of Buddha’s story was
widespread in Ancient India.