During the first and second centuries AD, the earliest images of the Buddha in human form began to emerge almost simultaneously in two parts of South Asia. In the region of Mathura, we see austere sculptures carved from red sandstone like the one at the entrance to this gallery. The image here, of the Buddha before his enlightenment, is from the second area, Gandhara, in present-day northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 330 BC, Alexander the Great invaded Gandhara and centuries of dynamic interaction resulted in a fusion of Greek and Indian styles.
The musculature and the folds of the robes reflect Hellenistic influence, but Siddhartha is dressed in the style of an Indian prince, with flowing hair, an elaborate lion turban, and heavy earrings. His neck is draped with multiple strands of pearls that terminate in makaras, auspicious water beasts. The mustache reflects the taste of the Kushana Dynasty, which originated in Persia and ruled Gandhara, as well as most of India, during this period. Images such as this one were placed near stupas to help worshippers meditate on the life of the Buddha.