The Sultanganj Buddha

Contributed by Birmingham Museums

Copper Statue of the standing Buddha, from Sutlanganj, North India. Copyright Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery

Made from copper, it is the largest known complete metal sculpture from India.The Sultanganj Buddha is the largest known complete Indian metal sculpture. It is a reminder of the extraordinary talents of the sculptors and metal craftsmen in ancient India. Buried for safe-keeping some 700 years after it was made, the statue was discovered and excavated by E B Harris, a railway engineer, during railway construction in 1862. It was visited by 30,000 local people in the first week, but its excavation was reported around the world and Samuel Thornton, a Birmingham MP lobbied for it to come to the city. Thornton funded its removal and transport. The Buddha arrived safely in Birmingham only - allegedly - after a narrow escape from ambush near London docks by curators of the British Museum.

The first object to enter the city's collections, it has inspired generations of Birmingham people. The statue now plays a new role in the museum's work with Buddhist communities in the city.

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  • 3 comments
  • 1. At 15:13 on 18 May 2010, kevinos wrote:

    This appears to be a most interesting and important object. I would dearly love to be able to see it. I am glad it is not kept in a 'sterile' sate in the museum, but has a role with the Buddhist community. However, it raises the point: should a great piece of Indian, Buddhist art really be in Birmingham? It seems to have been removed by the British colonial power. Shouldn?t it now be returned to its rightful home?

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  • 2. At 13:15 on 9 June 2010, Miles Hodgkiss wrote:

    Clearly another example where an object has in all ignorance been effectively stolen and ought to be graciously returned as soon as possible.

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  • 3. At 13:17 on 25 August 2010, ancientcoinsofindia wrote:

    The spelling in caption below the image is mistakenly written as 'Sutlanganj' instead of 'Sultanganj'

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