6. The Gateways (Toranas) – Western Gateway
This gateway has suffered a lot and lost many of its original features. All the uprights which are usually found in between architraves are missing. Ornamentation above the top architrave like tri-ratna motif and dharma-chakra are also missing. The pillars have capital of four pot-bellied yaksha figures standing back-to-back with upraised hands supporting the architraves.
North Pillar – Front (West) Face
There are only two panels on this face and both depict similar scenes though the second panel is much deteriorated. The top panel shows four different scenes where people are shown enjoying and merry-making inside a garden. Couples are shown standing below trees and engaged in talks and other amorous activities. One lady is holding a mirror and busy with her makeup while her attendant is busy taking jewelry from the tree branches. Marshall identifies this panel with the paradise of Indra.
North Pillar – South Face
The top panel depicts Sama Jataka story. As per this story, Bodhisattva was born as Sama in his previous birth. His both parents became blind due to a snake bite. Sama was devoted to his parents and was taking good care of them. Once Sama went to fetch water for his parents. But while he was drawing water from a river, he was shot from an arrow of the king of Varanasi. When the king got to know about this, he filled up with remorse and offered his services to the blind parents of Sama. But by the grace of a goddess Sama recovered his life and his parents got back their eyesight.
There are two huts shown in right upper corner which is the abode of Sama and his parents. In left lower corner, Sama is shown with an arrow in his body and the king of Varanasi is in his hunting attire. Upper left corner shows Sama with his parents, his life is recovered and his parents got eyesight, and two Gods in front. Various domestic animals around depicts the common village life of that time.
The panel below depicts a story of Buddha’s life. Buddha spent his fifth week after the enlightenment under the goatherd’s Nyagrodha tree. After it he went to the kingdom of King Muchalinda. But he faced a strong storm on the path and saved by king Muchalinda as he formed an umbrella above Buddha’s head by his hood. King Muchalinda is shown with his retinue. Above him is shown a Bodhi-tree with naga worshippers around it.
The panel below has survived only partially. It depicts a boat consisting a lion shaped head and fish tail. A royal couple is seated under a pavilion in the middle of this boat. Water is shown with wavy lines with lotuses in it. Marshall indentifies this story with the crossing of Ganga by Buddha when he left Rajagriha to visit Vaishali.
South Pillar – Front (West) Face
The top panel depicts Mahakapi Jataka. As per the story, once Bodhisattva was born as a monkey and was the leader of eighty thousand monkeys. He was living near a mango grove on the bank of Ganga near Himalaya region. Brahmadatta, the king of Varanasi, got to know about the delicious mangoes of this mango grove, so he sent his soldiers to get mangoes from this grove. The soldiers surrounded the grove. Bodhisattva monkey tied a bamboo to his waist and crossed the river. But he found that the bamboo was not big enough to make bridge so he stretched his body so that the bridge can be formed and his gang can cross the river. One monkey, Devadatta, was his rival and in jealousy he jumped on Bodhisattva in great force that it broke his heart. The king witnessed this and brought down Bodhisattva in grief. Bodhisattva delivered a sermon to the king.
The mango grove is shown on left and right upper side. Bodhisattva monkey is shown stretched across the river holding on to a tree. Right below this, Bodhisattva is shown seated in front of the king and delivering a sermon. King’s soldiers are shown below the grove.
The panel below depicts Adhyeshana when Brahma and Indra persuade Buddha to preach mankind for the benefit of humanity. Buddha is shown in form of a Bodhi-tree while the gods are shown standing below in adoration.
The panel below also shows a Bodhi-tree with two small trees on either side. Few people, seven in number, are shown standing below. Marshall identifies this with Indra’s visit to Buddha’s hermit.
The panel below shows three lions, one in center and two on sides. Creepers and foliage is shown around the panel.
Aya-chudasa atevasino Balamitrasa dana thabho – Above the panel band – Epigraphia Indica vol II – written in Brahmi, language is Pali – A gift of Balamitra, pupil of Ayachuda (Arya Kshudra), the preacher of dharma (law).
South Pillar – North Face
The top panel represents the enlightenment of Buddha in form of Bodhi-tree. Below near a lake is an empty pedestal around which 3 figures are standing. Dhavalikar suggests that the middle figure is probably Mara who is trying to tempt Buddha.
The panel below represents Buddha’s preaching to his clansmen, the Shakyas.
The panel below shows a dvarpala who is standing holding a spear in one hand and another hand is akimbo. He wears a broad necklace and various ornaments on his wrists. His robe is falling on his arms and the lower garment reached till his ankles.
Architraves – Front
The top architrave shows three stupa and four trees, representing seven Manushi Buddhas. These trees are Shirisha of Krakuchchhanda, Udumbara of Kanakamuni, Nyagrodha of Kashyapa and Pipal of Shakyamuni. However there is a difference in opinion on the rightmost tree, Dhavalikar suggests that it is Pipal while Marshall suggests it to be Nagapushpa, the tree of Maitreya Buddha.
The middle architrave depicts the first sermon delivered in the Mrigadava (Deer Park) at Sarnath. Buddha is represented through dharma-chakra resting over a pedestal. Usually his five earliest pupils are also shown with him in this theme however these cannot be distinguished among the crowd in the present panel.
The lowest architrave represents Chhadanta Jataka where elephants are seen worshipping Bodhi-tree standing in the middle of the panel. A better representation of this story is found on the Northern Gateway.
Architraves – Back
The top architrave depicts the transport of Buddha’s relics. A figure seated on the front elephant is holding a casket above his head. This casket probably consists of Buddha’s relics. The retinue is shown entering into a city which may be Kushinagar where the fight for relics took place. The Mallas of Kushinagar took possession of the bodily relics of Buddha after his funeral. They are shown taking the relics into the city with great pomp and show.
The middle architrave depicts the siege of Kushinagar. A huge army consisting of elephants, chariots, horses and foot soldiers is shown marching towards the city which is carved on left. The seven claimants for the relics can be seen here and distinguished with flags and emblems they are carrying. The seated figure inside the city may be the King of the Mallas.
The lowest architrave has a shrine in the middle. This shrine has a rectangular roof with many chaitya windows in front. The first storey is supported on six pillars, three on either side, with an empty pedestal in middle. A tree emerges out of its roof. Mara’s army is shown on left of the shrine where the grotesque figures are shown falling down. People on right of the shrine are happy on this defeat and are worshiping Buddha.
Kuraraya Nagapiyasa Achhavade sethisa putasa cha Saghasa danam tabho – Epigraphia India vol II – written in Brahmi, language is Pali – The gift of Nagapiya (Nagapriya) in Kurara, Sheth in Achhavada, and of his son Samgha