The Story behind DiGA’s Logo(s)

By Jessie Pons

“Logo: A design or a symbol displayed on a company’s products, vehicles, signs, etc. that expresses the company’s character and purpose and makes it easy for customers to recognize and remember the company” (Cambridge Dictionary)

DiGA is not a company, but the team devoted some time to design an image that would best represent the project. We opted for an outline depiction of a Buddhist story carved on at least four reliefs from the Buddhist site of Chatpat (DMC-557, DMC-655, DM-747, DMC-762) preserved in the Dir Museum Chakdara: the taming of the elephant.

Our first logo…

The story tells of one of the many attempts of the jealous Devadatta to kill his cousin the Buddha. One day, when the Buddha was in Rājagṛha, Devadatta released a mad elephant to harm the Blessed One. The animal rushes against the Buddha but its fury is contained by his loving-kindness. Caressing the forehead of the elephant with a calming hand, the Buddha pacifies the animal.

The story is told or alluded to in various Buddhist sources – the Pāli Vinaya, the Buddhacarita by Aśvaghoṣa or the Saṅghabhedavastu of the Mūlasarvāstivādin to mention some of them (see Monika Zin, Mitleid und Wunderkraft. Schwierige Bekehrung und ihre Ikonographie im indischen Buddhismus, Wiesbaden, Harrasowitz Verlag, 2006, p. 69-95). These sources give various names to the elephant (Dhanapāla or Nāḷāgiri), may attribute an accomplice to Devadatta (Ajātaśatru) or credit the Buddha with miraculous feats. Visual retellings of the narrative are also widespread in the Buddhist world and found in the arts of Andhra, Sanchi, Mathura, Ajanta or on Pala-Sena stele. In the art of Gandhara, it can be traced on about thirty reliefs discovered across the region and preserved in various collections in South Asia and Europe. The episode is typically carved on frieze reliefs with separated scenes and sometimes on false-niches. When the episodes it juxtaposes are preserved, they belong to the cycle of events occurring at Rājagṛha, such as the offering of dust. Like the reliefs in Chakdara, the figured field typically shows the Buddha standing at the right and resting his right hand on the head of the elephant emerging from a city gate on the left. The animal is either shown fully or in half-length. Oftentimes, the Buddha is accompanied by Vajrapāṇi who stands behind him and sometimes by a group of monks. The taming of the elephant is certainly a popular story but its repeated occurrence in the Dir collection, with no less than four reliefs all coming from Chatpat, felt like an oddity. Is it pure chance or the sign of a local preference? This is the sort of question that we hope can be more systematically investigated based on the corpus DiGA is making available. 

The taming of the elephant, Frieze relief, 17,3 x 42 x 6, Chatpat,
Dir Museum Chakdara (DMC-557)

We also thought that the purport of the Buddhist story resonated nicely with the purpose of the project: to domesticate a largely unpublished corpus through photographic capture, its consistent description with standardized metadata, its safe keeping in a repository… And the figure of the elephant reminded us of “Slonik”, the elephant of the PostgreSQL logo (an open-source relational database management system)! The animal was chosen because after all “elephants can remember”. Truly, the silhouette of the Buddha laying his calming hand on the wild elephant surrounded by the binary code meant to read “digitalie” (the first letters of digitalisation) and the combination of the green and blue colours of the RUB corporate design seemed just right. But sometimes, an image that appears self-evident for its creators (Frederik and me), is less easily recognizable for others. Barely hired, Serena shook her head.

When she first saw the DiGA logo, she thought it felt short of a logo’s definition, since one needs a rather specific knowledge to recognize and understand it. After all, who knows about the story of the taming of the elephant, its compassionate message and its popularity across the Buddhist world besides those experts in Buddhist studies? Would the DH community have been so quick in grasping the meaning encapsulated in the DiGA logo for instance? And so, she made a quick experiment. She asked friends and colleagues who are out of the field what they saw. She received many answers, all of them incorrect of course, but some rather amusing. The most peculiar one being: “Is it Jesus petting a gorilla?”. She refuses to disclose the identity of the author of the blasphemy. It was however a little concerning that the elephant was frequently mistaken for a gorilla (and perhaps I am just a bad drawer). Serena also pointed out that the logo, if too small, is not easy to decipher. Decidedly, we needed an alternative. Something simple, something easy to recognize and remember. That’s how the idea of a blue Buddha head with a green nimbus made of a circuit meant to evoke the digital connections that our project strives to establish was born. This second logo is mostly used when we need a smaller recognizable image, for example as profile picture on social media or in instant messaging apps. You will rarely find it on official documents.

Our second logo…

So, in case you have ever wondered why we use two different logos, that is because we like them both and that together, they fully express DiGA’s character and purpose. Sometimes, compromise and diversity take precedence over standardization and consistency.

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
jessiepons (August 31, 2022). The Story behind DiGA’s Logo(s). Digitization of Gandharan Artefacts. Retrieved July 12, 2024 from

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