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From the 8th through the 12th centuries, Indian Buddhism reached an apogee under the Pala kings and their successors in the regions of Bihar, western Bengal, and Bangladesh. Monks and pilgrims from lands as distant as China and Burma came there to study. Buddhist art of this period first flourished in Magadha, the homeland of Sakyamuni in southern Bihar, and gradually art production centers arose further eastward.
A huge corpus of sculpture survives from the period. Most common are stelae like this example, which may have been made for placement in a decorative niche on a building or as the main object of worship in a shrine. The mudra (gesture) is called dharma-chakra (Wheel of the Law) and signifies the Buddha's teaching of the path to enlightenment.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Miller; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1983.