There are also references in texts to vanished visual art forms. Art in less permanent media must also have been produced at the same time as the art in stone, and indeed probably before monumental art in stone. However, paintings, drawings and statues in perishable materials, such as wood and fabric have not survived the ravages of time. The Pali canon contains a number of references to the lost visual art forms of the Buddha's period. Two references are very interesting. First, in the Vinaya pi§aka there is a reference to a picture gallery erected by king Bimbas¹ra which is apparently a place of public amusement, a kind of art gallery. Unfortunately it becomes the origin of a rule that nuns should not go to art galleries. There is also a reference by the Buddha to paintings displayed by wandering story tellers.
From the third century BCE onwards sculptural art in stone was being produced at Buddhist sacred sites. Particularly of note are the railings from Barhut and Sanchi stØpa s in Madhya Pradesh and the Bodh Gaya temple in Bihar . These are all representative of some of the earliest Buddhist art forms. There are also important early remains from the stØpa at Amravati in Andhra Pradesh and the cave temples of Maharashtra .
It is particularly striking that there is a profusion of three major types of imagery on these monuments. First there are depictions of stories from the previous lives of the Buddha, the j¹taka tales; second there are depictions of the lives of the previous Buddhas and third, there are depictions of key events in the life of sakyamuni Buddha.
It was it appears conventional to represent the life of sakyamuni Buddha, and previous Buddhas in terms of certain symbolic key events. A standing woman holding on to a tree giving birth represents the Buddha's birth. A platform under a tree being worshipped represent the enlightenment. A wheel on a pillar represents the first teaching and a stØpa represents sakyamuni Buddha's parinirv¹ªa . However, these symbolic scenes often also represent earlier Buddha's lives. For instance there is an enlightenment scene from the Bodh Gaya railings in which it can be seen that the leaves are the wrong shape for a Bodhi tree of ˜akyamuni Buddha, the Peepal tree, but the right shape for the leaves of the Bodhi tree of Ka¶ yapa Buddha, the [Asvatha?] tree.