The Āyāgapaṭas of Mathura
The Mathura school is known for its beautiful sculpture but the āyāgapaṭas, which were an integral part of this school, have not received the attention they deserve. The āyāgapaṭas are stone slabs carved in low relief generally depicting either an image of Jina or dharmacakra in the centre. Some of them also show stūpas. Those which are carved with an object of worship in the centre are also surrounded by aṣṭamaṅgalas. Thus, they were not merely slabs of stone masonry; rather they were unique artefacts signifying the worship of symbols and images combined in one beautifully carved stone slab. The religious connotation of āyāgapaṭas is known from the inscriptions engraved on them which mention that they were set up for the worship of arhats (tīrthaṅkaras). From these epigraphs, we get to know that the Jains started donating these carved slabs in first century BCE and continued this practice till the third century CE at Mathura. This paper aims to understand the āyāgapaṭa inscriptions in the context of the religious imagery carved on them.
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