From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Reclining Buddha , Various Mudras
Mains level : Buddhist arts in India
On this Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, or Vesak — India’s largest statue of the Reclining Buddha was to have been installed at Bodh Gaya. The ceremony has been put off due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The Reclining Buddha
- A reclining Buddha statue or image represents The Buddha during his last illness, about to enter Parinirvana, the stage of great salvation after death that can only be attained by enlightened souls.
- The Buddha’s death came when he was 80 years old, in a state of meditation, in Kushinagar in eastern Uttar Pradesh, close to the state’s border with Bihar.
Answer this PYQ from CSP 2014 in the comment box:
Q.Lord Buddha’s image is sometimes shown with a hand gesture called ‘Bhumisparsha Mudra’. It symbolizes-
a) Buddha’s calling of the Earth to watch over Mara and to prevent Mara from disturbing his meditation
b) Buddha’s calling of the Earth to witness his purity and chastity despite the temptations of Mara
c) Buddha’s reminder to his followers that they all arise from the Earth and finally dissolve into the Earth and thus this life is transitory
d) Both the statements ‘a’ and ‘b’ are correct in this context
Significance of the position
- Buddha is lying on his right side, his head resting on a cushion or relying on his right elbow, supporting his head with his hand.
- After the Buddha’s death, his followers decide to build a statue of him lying down.
- It is a popular iconographic depiction in Buddhism and is meant to show that all beings have the potential to be awakened and be released from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Connection with Gandhara Art
- The Reclining Buddha was first depicted in Gandhara art, which began in the period between 50 BC and 75 AD, and peaked during the Kushana period from the first to the fifth centuries AD.
- Since the Buddha was against idol worship, in the centuries immediately following his Parinirvana (483 BC), his representation was through symbols.
- As the devotional aspect subsequently entered Buddhist practice, however, iconographic representations of The Buddha began.
Try this question from CS Mains 2016:
Q.Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives, successfully expounds Buddhist ideals. Elucidate.
Reclining Buddha outside India
- In Sri Lanka and India, the Buddha is mostly shown in sitting postures, while the reclining postures are more prevalent in Thailand and other parts of southeast Asia.
- There are several statues of the Reclining Buddha in China, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
- The largest in the world is the 600-foot Winsein Tawya Buddha built-in 1992 in Mawlamyine, Myanmar.
- In the late 15th century, a 70-meter statue of the Reclining Buddha was built at the Hindu temple site of Baphuon in Cambodia’s Angkor.
- The Bhamala Buddha Parinirvana in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which dates back to the 2nd century AD, is considered the oldest statue of its kind in the world.
Reclining Buddha in India
- Cave No. 26 of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta contains a 24-foot-long and nine-foot-tall sculpture of the Reclining Buddha, believed to have been carved in the 5th century AD.
- It shows the Buddha reclining on his right side, and behind him are two sala trees.
- At the base of the sculpture are his begging bowl, a water pitcher and walking stick.
- While his disciples are shown sitting in mourning, celestial beings are shown on top, rejoicing in anticipation of the Buddha’s arrival in heaven.
Back2Basics: Mudras of Buddha
- It is also called as the gesture of ‘Teaching of the Wheel of Dharma’ that describes one of the most important moments in the Buddha’s life as he performed the Dharmachakra mudra in his first sermon in Sarnath after he attained enlightenment.
- It is performed with the help of both the hands which are held against the chest, the left facing inward, covering the right facing outward.
- It is also known as Samadhi or Yoga Mudra.
- It is performed with the help of two hands, which are placed on the lap and place the right hand on the left hand with stretched fingers (thumbs facing upwards and other fingers of both the hand resting on each other.)
- This is the characteristic gesture of Buddha Shakyamuni, Dhyani Buddha Amitabh and the Medicine Buddha.
- This gesture is also known as ‘touching the Earth’, which represents the moment of the Buddha’s awakening as he claims the earth as the witness of his enlightenment.
- It is performed with the help of the right hand, which is held above the right knee, reaching toward the ground with the palm inward while touching the lotus throne.
- This mudra represents the offering, welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity.
- It is performed with the help of both the hands in which palm of right hand is facing forward and fingers extended and left hand palm placed near centre with extended fingers.
- It signifies the warding off of evil which is performed by raising the index and the little finger, and folding the other fingers.
- It helps in reducing sickness or negative thoughts.
- This gesture denotes the fiery thunderbolt that symbolises the five elements—air, water, fire, earth, and metal.
- It is performed with the help of right fist and left forefinger, which is placed by enclosing the erect forefinger of the left hand in the right fist with the tip of the right forefinger touching (or curled around) the tip of the left forefinger.
- It signifies the discussion and transmission of the teachings of the Buddha.
- It is performed by joining the tips of the thumb and the index fingers together while keeping the other fingers straight, which is just like the Abhaya Mudra and Varada Mudra but in this mudra the thumbs touch the index fingers.
- It is a gesture of fearlessness or blessing that represents the protection, peace, benevolence, and dispelling of fear.
- It is performed with the help of right hand by raising to shoulder height with bent arm, and the face of palm will be facing outward with fingers upright whereas the left hand hanging down while standing.
- This denotes the supreme enlightenment through connecting oneself with divine universal energy.
- It is performed with the help of both the hands, which are placed at the heart with the index fingers touching and pointing upwards and the remaining fingers intertwined.
- It is also called Namaskara Mudra or Hridayanjali Mudra that represents the gesture of greeting, prayer and adoration.
- It is performed by pressing the palms of the hands together in which the hands are held at the heart chakra with thumbs resting lightly against the sternum.