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Cervus Unicolor, sambar deer

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Chapter Summary

Sambars are related to red deer (Cervus elaphus) and are thus large, gregarious deer with deciduous antlers only in the males. The majority of sculptures of sambars and barasinghas forms part of early Buddhist narrative reliefs as evidenced by the stupa railings from Sanchi and Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh and the region of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. In one instance, a disagreement between textual source and depicted animal exists. This is the case with the Ruru Jataka, which describes a spotted deer but depicts a sambar at Bharhut. Large deer occasionally figure in Hindu narrative reliefs, a marvellous example of which is provided by a gigantic boulder at Mammalapuram, Tamil Nadu. In at least one case a scene of bestiality involving a deer and a human is the subject of the carving. The motif of the eye-scratching stag is further not restricted to a certain time, period or religion.

Keywords: Cervus Unicolor; early Buddhist narrative reliefs; Hindu narrative reliefs; religion; sambar deer; stone sculptures



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