The Sikri site located at Mardan district of Pakistan probably dated 1st to 3rd century CE was excavated by Lt. Col. H. A. Deane in 1889. As most Gandhara sculptures dismantled from sites had lost their context, the connections between reliefs and architectural structure are arduous to trace. In this sense, the Sikri Stupa becomes a precious stupa remains that were found in situ with reliefs intact with the stupa.
Relief Panel 1
The Prediction of Buddha Dīpaṃkara
In the past life of Siddharta Gotama, he was a young brahmin, named Sumati, passing by the city of Dīpavatī, he realized the Buddha Dīpaṃkara is coming to town. He determined to get flowers for offering to the Buddha Dīpaṃkara but to no avail. Gopā, the young florist lady, traded him the flowers with a promise of matrimony in future lifetime.
Prostrated, Sumati used his hair to cover the muddy ground to make way for Dipaṃkara Buddha to walk through; and he scattered flowers towards the Buddha.
The Dipaṃkara buddha praised for the virtue of Sumati, who soon to the fulfillment of bodhisattva practice. Dipaṃkara has given prognostic blessing that he shall attain enlightenment after ninety-one kalpas of rebirth, becoming a buddha named Sākyamuni.
In the bas-relief, in a continuous narration, Sumati and Gopā standing in front of the city gate; Sumati scattered the flowers towards Dīpaṃkara, and the flowers is seen in Dīpaṃkara’s halo. Then, Sumati kneeling with hair scattered on the feet of the Dīpaṃkara.
Relief Panel 2
Sojourn and Descend from Tuṣita Heaven
In this life as a bodhisattva named Śvetaketu, the Sakyamuni Buddha dwells in Tuṣita Heaven before descending to the world. For kalpas of coursing in bodhisattva practice, the great being is one birth away from the Buddhahood. Assembly of deities in Tuṣita to visit great being and advise on the locality of the descent and the family.
Panel showing the haloed Bodhisattva seating on the lotus throne in dhyāna mudra, revered and flanked by deities in the Tuṣita heaven.
Relief Panel 3
The First Meditation
Siddhartha is now a prince of Kapilavastu at a young age. After witnessing the life of the peasant, cow, and food chains, Siddhartha contemplates the meaning of life under the tree. He arouses the spirit of altruism in the chain of birth, aging, sickness, and death, entering the first dhyāna, the meditation stage.
In this relief, Siddhartha, in meditation posture on the throne, a peasant restraining two cows; on the right, Suddhodana king waywardly kneeling to Siddhartha.
Relief Panel 4
Hymns of Nāga Kālika and Wife
After six years of practicing asceticism, Siddhartha gave up the practice and started realizing the middle path. En route to the bodhi tree to attain enlightenment, the Bodhisattva receives homage from the Nāga Kālika and his wife. Nāga Kālika sings verses of praise for the commendation of his attainment.
In this relief, on the right, Kālika and his consort emerged from an enclosed railing, while Vajrapani on the right follows the Bodhisattva.
Relief Panel 5
Offering of Grass for the Seat of Enlightenment
A grass-cutter named Svastika offers the Bodhisattva a bundle of grass to lay on the seat of enlightenment.
In this relief, the Bodhisattva receive the offering from Svastika. The person behind Svastika and the three persons above are goddesses that witness and honor the moment. The Vajrapani holding thunderbolt follows the Bodhisattva on the right.
Relief Panel 6
Presentation of the Four Bowls
After enlightenment, the Buddha received food alms from two merchants, Trapuṣa and Bhallika. The four kings of gods (lokapālas) intended to present Buddha with a bowl to receive the food. The four lokapālas presented the Buddha golden bowls, silver bowls, lapis lazuli bowls, crystal bowls, emerald bowls, respectively, but were refused by the Buddha. Lastly, the Buddha accepted stone bowls by the four lokapalas. The Buddha combined the four bowls into one.
In this relief, the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree in abhaya mudra. The four lokapalas were carrying bowls, standing in pairs on each side of the Buddha. Few devas on the above as spectators to witness the scene.
Relief Panel 7
Solicitation to Preach the Doctrine by Indra and Brahmā
On seeing the hesitation of the Buddha to deliver a sermon, Indra and Brahmā approach the Buddha to entreat. The Buddha has finally consented to preach dharma.
In the relief, the Indra is standing on the Buddha’s right, Brahmā on his left. They are seen worshipping the Buddha. The other deities above also joining the scene.
Relief Panel 8
Buddha among the Monks
In the relief, the Buddha and monks are in meditation state. The Buddha is seated in the middle, while six other monks are seated beside him, except one monk figure is seen half appear in the air. It might depicting the scene where the Buddha and monks are invited to a summer meditation retreat in Verañjā which is recorded in the Life of the Buddha translated from the Earliest Chinese Tradition (Zhong ben qi jing 中本起经) and vinaya texts. In the story, the Buddha and 500 monks were eating husked rice for three months due to the negligence of a brahmin.
In the relief, the half-appeared monk might be the Buddha’s disciple, Śāriputra, who was invited to Trāyastriṃśa to accept wondrous food offering and only back to the earth after three months.
Relief Panel 9
Preaching in Trayastriṃśa Heaven
The Buddha was invited to Trāyastriṃśa Realm to preach for his mother and deities. This scene may be considered as a filial piety act of the Buddha.
In this relief, the Buddha is seated with abhaya mudra. The Brahmā is in Buddha’s right, Indra on his right. The flanking figure on Buddha’s right is Vajrapāṇi, while the others are deities.
Relief Panel 10
Donation of Mango Grove of lady Amrapālī
An exquisite lady called Amrapālī refused to trade her chance of making donation to the Buddha and monastic members to the wealthy Licchavis. She then presented the monastic community the Mango Grove as a vihāra. It has become one of the five main monasteries where the Buddha dwells.
In this relief, on the left, Amrapālī is holding a water flask as a symbolic donation presentation.
Relief Panel 11
Indra’s visit in Indrasāla cave
At one time, the Buddha resided in the Indrasāla cave, the Sakra goddess intended to visit the Buddha and made inquires. The Sakra asks the Gandharva Panchasikha for assistant. Then Panchasikha slowly wakes the Buddha from the meditation trance by playing harp and singing.
In this relief, Buddha sits in a cave, with flaming patterns and animals around the cave; the Panchasikha is playing the harp in front of the cave while Sakra stands behind Panchasikha with venerated gesture.
Relief Panel 12
Conversion of the Yakṣa Āṭavika
Yakṣa Āṭavika is a demon that devours people daily. A child from the elder being kidnapped to Āṭavika. The elder prays to the Buddha for help. The Buddha then arrived in the palace of the Āṭavika. Āṭavika gets frustrated with the Buddha and attempts to fight with the Buddha. Lastly, the Buddha converted Āṭavika, and he agreed to release the child.
In this relief, the Buddha is seated in the pedestal with abhaya mudra, the yakṣa Āṭavika holding a child to return to the Buddha.
Relief Panel 13
Offering of the Monkey
A monkey had taken the Buddha’s bowl to collect honey then makes an offering to the Buddha. The Buddha eluded him to remove the impurities inside before represented to the Buddha. After the Buddha accepted the honey, the monkey was thrilled with joy, then accidentally fell into a well and died. The monkey subsequently reincarnates as a human.
In this relief, which shows a monkey walking from left to the right, carrying a bowl, then left at the right. Behind the scene, there are two seated monks in meditation on each side of the Buddha.