This depiction of the Buddha shows the figure standing with his right hand raised in abhaya mudra, or a gesture of reassurance. Surrounding the prominent figure are depictions of momentous events from his life—from his miraculous birth to his entry into nirvana—illustrating his journey to enlightenment. Steles, or slabs, such as this one were popular in eastern India under the Pala dynasty (8th–12th centuries), and not all of them depict the Buddha. This particular style draws from Gupta-dynasty sculptures (fourth–sixth centuries), showing the continuing influence of the style. Others venerate gods such as Vishnu or Surya and were carved in various stones. Similar steles are also found throughout the cultures in the ancient world, from Greece to China.
See Stele Depicting the Eight Great Events from the Life of the Buddha and other Asian steles in Gallery 141.
Stele Depicting the Eight Great Events from the Life of the Buddha, Pala dynasty, 10th century. Bihar, India. Promised gift of James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf.