[Part 2] Iconography in India: Buddhism
The Dhyani Buddhas are peculiar kind of Buddhas, Who are not required to pass surpass the stages of a Bodhisattva. They are always engaged in peaceful meditation and abstain themselves from the act of creation. Among the Dhyani Buddhas, Amitabha always faces west when he is represented on ‘Stupa’. His two hands with palm open lie on his lap one upon the other forming the meditative posture. ‘Maitreya may be represented as a standing figure, adorned by rich ornaments and holding stalk of lotus on his right hand. He is shown with Dharma chakra mudra through his right hand while holding vase on his left hand.
Following are the important Mudras commonly represented in Buddha images :
Abhaya means ‘no fear’ and this mudra shows the Buddha giving blessings, reassurance and protection to his followers.
Bhumisparsa is the gesture or Mudra in which Buddha touches earth to make it witness of attaining his enlightenment.
Buddha in the gesture of Bhumiparsa is just before his enlightenment to call the earth Goddess witness to his worthiness to become a Buddha. In response to him, the earth shook and the evil demons of Mara who had been tormenting him fled in terror.
Dhyana is the important pose of meditation among other ‘Asanas’.A Buddha’s pose is known as an asana. Buddhas are usually represented either standing, sitting or reclining. When seated he is meditating in the lotus position dhyana.
Dharmachakra is the pose of Buddha in Which he preaches his followers abot Dhamma. This mudra is called Dharmachakra or ‘the turning of the Wheel of Law’. It refers to one of the most important moments in the life of the Buddha when he gave his first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath.
Varda mudra is symbolized blessings to people who comes to him for wiping out their misery. Varada symbolizes giving and generosity, both important Buddhist virtues.
Apart from the various Mudras, there are some important symbols found regularly in Buddha image, which are given below :
The Wheel of Law
The Wheel of Law symbolizes the cycle of birth,death and rebirth.It can sometimes be found marked on the soles of the Buddha’s feet and the palms of his hand. It has eight spokes to remind followers about the Noble Eightfold Path taught by Buddha, which outlined eight ways of living.
Elongated ear is not considered as a Lakshana. This feature is regularly used as showing the Buddha with elongated earlobes: these remind us that the Buddha was once a prince who wore a great deal of jewellery including heavy earrings which stretched out his earlobes. Although he gave up wearing any jewellery when he gave up his life of luxury but his earlobes remained elongated.
Lotus flowers often appear in images of the Buddha. Lotus is a symbol of purity and goodness. A lotus is a flower that begins its life in the mud at the bottom of a pond and then rises to the surface to blossom. It therefore reminds people that in the same way, people can rise above their problems and achieve enlightenment in their life and be free from cycle of birth.
In addition, the hand gestures or mudras of the Buddha all have particular meanings. Most symbolise a major event in the Buddha’s life, such as his attainment of enlightenment or his first sermon. Different School of sculpture have their own characteristics. In images of Gandhara school of art, Buddha has shown with muscular body wearing drapery which reflects Greeko-Roman style.
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