Reclining Buddha
27/05/2021

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Context:

  • On Buddha Jayanti, or Vesak — India’s largest statue of the Reclining Buddha was to have been installed at the Buddha International Welfare Mission temple in Bodh Gaya.
  • The ceremony has been put off due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the giant 100-foot fibreglass statueremains a fascinating work of art, as much for its size as for the way

The Reclining Buddha

  • It 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.
  • The Reclining Buddha comes from this very well-recorded final moment of the Buddha’s life, which is why it could be recreated visually with such distinct details in statues and paintings.
  • This also signifies the Buddha’s last deeksha — even while on his deathbed, he took a follower into the fold.
  • Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha is supposed to be a very important event that happened in Kushinagar; it is not simply a demise, it is the great demise, after which there is no rebirth for him. So, it is his final going away.

Iconographic representation

  • Statues and images of the Reclining Buddha show him lying on his right side, his head resting on a cushion or on his right elbow.
  • It is a popular iconographic depiction in Buddhismand is meant to show that all beings have the potential to be awakened and be released from the cycle of death and rebirth.
  • The Reclining Buddha was first depicted in Gandhara artand peaked during the Kushana period.
  • 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.

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 South East Asia.
  • The largest Reclining Buddha in the world is the 600-foot WinseinTawya Buddha built in 1992 in Mawlamyine, Myanmar.
  • In the late 15th century, a 70-metre 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 CE, is considered the oldest statue of its kind in the world.
  • There are several statues of the Reclining Buddha in China, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

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 CE.
  • Kushinagarhas a 6-metre-long red sandstone monolith statue of the Reclining Buddha inside the Parinirvana Stupa.

Other depictions of the Buddha

  • At the Mahabodhi temple, the Buddha is sitting in the bhoomi-sparsha mudra, where his hand is pointing towards the ground. It symbolises earth as being witness to his enlightenment.
  • At Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon, the stone statue has a hand gesture called the dharma-chakra mudra, which signifies preaching. This is also the most popular depiction in India, along with the Bodhi tree depiction.
  • Buddha is depicted in over a hundred poses around the world. While the Sitting Buddha — most common depiction — is believed to be teaching or meditating, the Standing Buddha signifies rising to teach after reaching nirvana.
  • The Walking Buddha is either beginning his journey toward enlightenment or returning after giving a sermon. This is the least common of the Buddha postures, and is seen mostly in Thailand.
  • The Buddha statues found in South East Asia are an amalgamation of all his various postures and life events, including mahaparinirvana, but not limited to it.
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