Artist/maker unknown, Indian
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Votive stupas have survived in vast numbers in the Mahabodhi temple compound at Bodhgaya. The form of the stupa, with its distinctive domelike drum, originates in eight cylindrical structures in which the Buddha's relics were placed after his death. The stupa shape has become associated with the Buddhist goal of release from the cycles of suffering and rebirth. In addition to the drum, this stupa has a tiered base and is crowned with a series of stylized umbrellas that symbolize royalty and divine status. Although little is known about the uses of votive shrines and stupas, the larger ones at Bodhgaya were probably given by visiting kings, while smaller stupas such as this one were offered by monks and lay pilgrims.