The Buddha Image

reclining buddha statue

The Buddhist art has many forms. The spread of Buddhism across the continent of Asia helped spread these forms of art. These artifacts did embrace the local culture and traditions instead of forcing the people originally from that place change their tradition. Among various forms of Buddhist art, Buddha Images or the Images of the Buddha have been one of the most famous art forms in the world. These images have their own meanings and their own way of identification. Images of the Buddha can be identified by distinctive physical characteristics, postures and hand gestures. The unique physical features of a Buddha are known by the Sanskrit term lakshana. The most conspicuous are the ushnisha, a cranial bump indicating special wisdom; the urna, a round tuft of hair between the eyebrows, indicating supernatural vision; short curled hair, indicating nobility (ancient Indian royalty wore huge heavy earrings that stretched the lobes). The ushnisha sometimes takes the form of a flame, indicating illumination. A Buddha’s expression is always serene, other eyes half-closed meditation and a gentle smile on the lips.

The Buddha may also be shown in various postures (asanas), which can be divided into sitting, standing and reclining poses in various Buddha Images. The seated postures indicate stillness, as in meditation; the standing postures are more dynamic and are associated with action; the reclining posture refers exclusively to the Buddha’s physical death (parinirvana).

Hand gestures or the Mudras indicate a specific activity such as teaching meditating or offering reassurance. Each of these postures and gestures has its own significance, some referring to specific incidents in the life of the historical Buddha. In this standing Buddha figure from Sri Lanka, the Buddha’s right hand is raised, palm outwards, with the thumb and fore-finger together in the gesture of discussing the Dharma (Vitarka mudra).

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