While iconographic images of Queen Māyā are spread across the Buddhist landscape, those of the Buddha's father, King Śuddhodana, are far and few between. When he does appear, it is usually with Queen Māyā, seated on a throne, listening to her dream being interpreted. 2 As we have seen, Queen Māyā's iconography is associated with two major events in the Buddha's life that are commemorated at two of his eight pilgrimage sites: his birth at Lumbini and his descent at Sāmkāśya after having preached to her in Trāyastriśa heaven. Throughout South Asia these eight sites were frequently grouped together in single carvings, with Māyā grasping a tree to illustrate the birth, and three ladders representing the Buddha's descent from Trāyastri śa heaven. Śuddhodana receives no such iconographic attention nor is he featured at any of the Buddha's pilgrimage sites, yet he is a larger presence in the texts than the Buddha's mother. This is not simply a matter of his having lived longer than Queen Māyā.
Even though South Asian beliefs about conception emphasize the dominant influence of the father in male children and attribute to men a greater overall influence on all their descendants, several biographies of the Buddha deny that Śuddhodana was his physical father, though he clearly remained the Buddha's social father or adoptive father. Queen Māyā's conception dream was and remains a popular motif in both texts and iconography, and a close reading of this dream in the NK, LV, and MV suggests that the dream elephant is the progenitor of the Buddha, not King Śuddhodana. 3 The NK says that Queen Māyā had this dream while sleeping apart from her husband and