4. The Gateways (Toranas) – Eastern Gateway
This gateway is standing in situ, however it had lost many of its ornamentation. The dharma-chakra, tri-ratna and yakshis above the top architrave is missing now. The pillar capitals have four-elephants joined at their hind-parts, and their mahouts carrying goads in their hands. One of the mahout is carrying a banner on a shaft crowned by a tri-ratna symbol.
South Pillar – Front (East) Face
The topmost panel is identified as Chankama on the basis of similar inscribed panel found at Bharhut. There are two votaries separated by a broad band in between. This band is Chankama, the promenade over which Buddha walked.
The next panel below depicts a shrine enshrining a tri-ratna over a pedestal inside. There are three chaitya arches in front over its roof. From these arches emerges a mango tree. Two kinnaras holding garlands are shown on either side of this tree. Marshall identifies it with the Bodhi-Tree of Gaya under which Buddha got enlightenment. Ashoka built a temple around this tree later.
Korarasa Nagapiyasa Achhavade sethisa dana tabho – Epigrahia Indica vol II – written in Brahmi, language is Pali – A pillar, the gift of Nagapiya (Nagapriya), inhabitant of Kurara, a Sheth in Acchavada.
The panel below the above depicts a miracle in which Budhha walked on the river Nairanjana which was in high flood. The river is shown with wavy lines depicting water and in it are enjoying ducks among the lotus stalks. A crocodile is also seen on the left side. A boat having three people is sailing over the river. Among these three people are Kashyapa and his disciple and a boatman. Four people are shown at the bank, surprised and bent in adoration after witnessing this miracle.
The below-most panel depicts a scene of a royal procession. The king is shown entering from the city gates riding over his chariot. Inside the city an elephant is driven behind a horse. Various multi-storey buildings can be seen inside the city. People are witnessing this procession standing in their balconies. Marshall identifies it with Bimbisara’s retinue which is issuing from the city of Rajagriha on a visit of Buddha.
South Pillar – North Face
The panels on this face are conveying the story of the conversion of Kashyapa by Buddha. A village scene is depicted in the topmost panel where the village Uruvela is shown. Villagers are shown doing their daily chores. There are few huts, a temple or shrine and a big house in this village. A lotus pond is depicted below where ladies are filling their vessels. Three ladies are engaged in grinding spices outside their hut. Cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep are also shown which represent the livestock of the village.
The below next panel shows the main story of this episode. As per the story, Buddha once wanted to stay in the fire temple of Kashyapa’s hermitage. However this temple was infested by a venomous cobra. When Buddha entered the temple, the cobra attacked him but later took refuge in his begging bowl. Three anchorites shown with their matted look on left represent the disciples of Kashyapa who were mesmerized witnessing this miracle. The temple shown cobra with his hood above an empty pedestal representing Buddha. Kashyapa’s hut is shown on right down the corner and he is shown inside the hut. River Nairanjana is flowing nearby where pupils were drawing water and taking bath.
The below-most panel represents the later episode of this story. The brahmanas wanted to do fire oblation however they were not able to do so. They were not able to spilt wood and fan fire without Buddha’s consent. After his consent, they were able to spilt wood and fan the fire to put oblation in that. Notice the stupa in this panel, there is an eye in front of this stupa dome. Putting an eye on stupa was an ancient tradition which we can see in stupas of Sri Lanka as well.
The dvarapala is standing in a relaxed pose against a tree. His one hand is resting on his waist while in another he is holding a flower. He is wearing many ornaments and heavy earrings.
North Pillar – Front (East) Face
The whole face depicts six heavens as per the Buddhist tradition.
The topmost panel depicts the heaven of
gods. The habitant of this heaven indulge in pleasures created for them by others. Mara is the king ruling over here.
The next panel depicts the heaven of Nirmanarati. The habitant of this heaven rejoice in their own creations.
The next panel depicts the heaven of Tushita where Bodhisattva are born before they appear on earth. Maitreya, the future Buddha, resides in this heaven.
The next panel depicts the heaven of Yama, the lord of death. There is no day or night in this heaven.
The next panel depicts the heaven of Tryastrimsha (thirty-three gods) over whom Shakra (Indra) rules.
The blow-most panel shows the heaven of four great kings, the guardian of four quarters.
North Pillar – South Face
The top panel shows a Bodhi-tree with worshippers around it. Dhavalikar identifies it with Adhyeshana story. As per the story Buddha went from the rajayatana tree to the goat-herd’s mango tree as he had not decided whether he would preach the truth he has realized. Hence the gods requested him to preach it for the benefit of the people. The two central figures may represent Brahma and Indra who came to request Buddha.
The panel below above shows the dream of Maya, the mother of Buddha. Maya is shown sleeping on a bed and an elephant is trying to enter in her womb. The gods of Tushita heaven persuaded Bodhisattva to take birth on earth. Bodhisattva came in form of a white elephant which Maya saw in her dream. The royal astrologers of the king Shuddhodana’s court interpreted this dreams as very auspicious and predicted that the boy will be born and he will become a universal monarch or a universal teacher.
The panel below represent the visit of Buddha to Kapilvastu. Buddha was away for seven years from Kapilvastu so his father, Shuddhodana, requested him to visit his capital, Kapilvastu. Buddha came with his disciples and stayed under a banyan tree outside the city. Shuddhodana came with his clansmen, the Shakyas, to receive Buddha and his disciples. But they were confused on who should pay salute to whom as many Shakyas were elder to Buddha. Therefore Buddha performed a miracle by walking in mid air. All the Shakyas went prostrate to him after witnessing this event.
The dvarpala on the blow-most panel is similar to his counterpart on the opposite pillar except his posture. He is also laden with lots of jewelry. His one hand is dangling near his thigh while another one is holding a flower.
Architraves – Front
Nothing has survived except an elephant and a tri-ratna symbol on the top of the architrave superstructure. It can be said that there would have been another elephant and tri-ratna symbol at the respective opposite side and a wheel in the center as the similar scheme is seen on the top of other gates.
The topmost architrave depicts five stupas and two trees representing seven Manushi Buddhas. The two trees are of Shakyamuni and Vipashyin Buddhas. On the both square blocks are shown riders over bulls. At the square blocks in between the top and the middle architrave, at left is shown Maya being bathed by two elephants and at right is a Bodhi tree, Nagapushpa, of Maitreya Buddha.
The middle architrave depicts the scene of Buddha’s Maha-bhiniskramana, leaving Kapilvastu in search of the eternal truth. On the left is shown the city of Kapilvastu with its storied mansions inside. A horse, Kanthaka, without a rider but an umbrella on top held by Chhandaka, is shown coming out of the city and moving towards right. A retinue is following the horse. It represents the departure of Buddha from the city. The horse moves forward and passes by a tree enclosed within a vedica railing. On right most are seen Buddha’s foot prints and below down the horse, without any rider and umbrella on top, is shown coming back with the retinue.
On the square blocks are shown winged lions and at the terminal panels are seen elephants. The square blocks in between middle and lower architrave, at left is shown Buddha’s first sermon which was delivered in Sarnath. Buddha is represented by dharma-chakra (wheel) surrounded by worshippers. At right is shown Maya being bathed by two elephants on top on either side.
The lower architrave shows Ashoka’s visit to a chaitya-shrine from top of which a tree is emerging. Ashoka with his queen, Tishyarakshita, are seated on an elephant while the kings retinue is following them. Many worshipers are seen on the left of the shrine. On the square blocks are seen winged lions. Terminal panels depicts peacocks in forest. Peacock was the royal emblem of the Maurya dynasty.
Architraves – Back
The top architrave shows seven trees representing seven Manushi Buddhas. These trees are, from left, 1) Patali (Bignonia shaveolus)) of Vipashyin, 2) Ashvattha (Pipal) of Shakyamuni, 3) Nyagrodha (Ficus indica) of Kashyapa, 4) Udumbara (Ficus glomerata) of Kanakamuni, 5) Shirisha (Acacia sirisa) of Krakuchchhanda, 6) Shala (Shorea robusta) of Vishvabahu and 7) Pundarika (Fig) of Shikhin. The square blocks have riders over lion-like animal. The square blocks in between top and the middle architrave have stupas being worshipped by many worshippers.
The middle architrave shows animals worshipping Buddha. As per a legend, once Buddha was upset with his clansmen, the Shakyas, and he left for a forest which was infested with wild animals. However these animals in turn started worshiping him. Dhavalikar suggests that this could be a representation of Sama Jataka where Buddha was born as Sama, an anchorite, who was living in a forest. In the panel are seen various animals like, lions, buffalos, a five-hood serpent, garuda or eagle, deer etc all surrounding a Bodhi-tree. The square blocks have camel riders.
The lowest architrave has stupa in middle which is worshipped by elephants from both sides. Marshall suggests that it could the stupa of Ramagrama which was guarded by nagas. The square blocks have animal riders, the animal appears to be goat or antelope.