History of the Buddha Statue

A Buddha statue is the mostly sculptured and idealized portrait of the Buddha ( Siddhartha Gautama ), the religious founder of Buddhism. Iconic representations of Buddha probably existed very early (4th or 3rd century BC); However, portraits of the person himself are not documented until the 1st or 2nd century AD. Since then, a great variety of art and forms has developed.

When the Buddha knew that death would soon befall him, he told his disciples that they should now take the initiative and continue his work without him. His disciple Ananda quickly realized that the doctrine would inevitably fall into oblivion if there were not any way to preserve the memory of the Master. If the disciples could not perform a regular act of homage, he asked the master sadly. Could not they have some kind of substitute, a kind of “think-time” for both his person and his teaching? In order to satisfy needs of this kind, the Buddha replied that the believer could, for example, undertake a pilgrimage to the places of his work. In these places he could then turn to the events, to remember the victory over evil and ignorance, so as to be inspired to imitate. If this were not enough, they could, after his cremation, restore his physical relics (Sanskrit:sariradhatu , Pali: dhatucetiya ) and above them build stupas (Pali: paribhogacetiya , Thai: Chedis ). These would remind people of the teaching and make their hearts happy.

Iconic phase (up to the 1st century AD)

Footprint of the Buddha ( Wat Phra Phutthabat , Saraburi, Thailand)
In the first Buddhist art, For example, on the reliefs of the Stupa of Sanchi , the Buddha himself can not be seen. He is represented solely by symbols that stand for certain scenes from the life of the master:

Lotus: symbol of his birth or his purity and wisdom
Bodhi tree : symbol of his enlightenment
Empty seat under the Bodhi tree, shielded by the Naga king Muchalinda , reminds of enlightenment.
Wheel ( dharmachakra ) in memory of the first sermon in which “the wheel of teaching was set in motion”.
Footprints ( phuttabat ).
Aureole: “Fiery Energy”
The stupa (Thai: chedi , china , pagoda ) reminds of its entrance into nirvana (in the Pali language: parinibbana ).
In ancient pre-Buddhist cultures of India, some of these symbols have already been introduced: the sun (sun wheel), the snake, and tree and stone spirits.

Iconic Phase
(The History of Buddhism ) The first portraits depicting the Master in his human form appeared simultaneously in Gandhara (today Afghanistan) and Mathura (North India) in the 1st or 2nd century AD (see Bimaran reliquary or Kanischka reliquary ). Ceylonian chronicles, on the other hand, suggest that the first iconic illustrations of the Buddha had already been made in the third century before Christ; [1]However, archaeological evidence for this assumption has so far been lacking. The already known symbols were still used in the representation. Where the making of such portraits has begun has not yet been clarified, but the majority of the early pictures found are from the Gandhara culture.

Immediately after their emergence, the first few pictures of the Buddha in rapid growth and regional diversity spread, also in a reciprocal influence. Art and teaching traditions and traditions have also developed in connection with this, which express certain forms of representation or individual sculptures as particularly true. A frequent topos is that an artist, on behalf of a king, looked directly at the Buddha and then created the image, which intertwined secular and religious legitimacy.

There are standing, sitting ( Lotossitz or ‘European seat’ ( pralambapadasana )) and lying, H. already deceased but freed from the cycle of the rebirths ( samsara ). Certain physical characteristics mentioned in the Pali canon have become typical of Buddha images over time; they differ in many respects from other religious images of the time (eg the Jainist Tirthankaras ):

Buddha figure on the Bimaranreliquiar (around 80 AD)

Buddha, Sarnath (around 450)
Robe: The Buddha is always clothed – initially with a toga , later with an almost transparent gown.
Eyes: The eyes of the Buddha are usually only half-opened as a sign of their worldly excitement.
Handhold: Several characteristic handholds ( mudras ) are known.
Fingers: The fingers of the enlightened are delicate and somewhat elongated.
Ushnisha : cranial bulges or haircuts on the back (signs of enlightenment)
Neck: Buddha’s neck usually consists of three rings.
Ear: The earlobes of the Buddha are regularly punctured and hang down – a sign of jewelery, H. of his royal lineage.
Physique: The balance of the body proportions is important (only in the early Gandhara art there are examples of ascetic Buddhas; in China and Japan also representations of obese Budais are known.)

A Buddha statue is not created as a decorative work of art or only to delight the eye. The intention is rather to remind the reader, to instruct or even to enlighten. The creation of a Buddha statue is regarded as a “good deed”, whereby one hopes to have a positive influence on the next rebirth. Similar to the stupas , they were first used to store relics, but in the course of time they themselves became a remembrance.

Buddha statues today
Today, representations of the Buddha are not only firmly integrated into the religious life of almost all Buddhist schools and forms of popular religiosity. They are also very popular, for example, as a fashion item for living rooms or even gardens of wealthy people worldwide, who want to be a bit more spiritual and want to show off their worldliness. Iconic symbols , on the other hand, have lost their importance when, For example, the Dharma wheel was included in the national flag of India. As is also the case in Christianity is in Buddhism today mostly forgotten that representations of the religious founder , in addition to worship purposes, were initially unusual.

Destruction of Buddha statues
Even in areas where Buddhism eventually had to give way to other religions , Buddhahoods often stayed and stayed for centuries; so in India, at the time of the dominant Hinduism , no destruction of Buddha images is known among the Gupta rulers (4th / 5th century AD). Such was the case only in the course of the conquest of North and Central India by the anti-Jewish Islam . The destruction of the huge Buddha statues of Bamiyan ( Afghanistan ) by the Islamic Taliban in the years 1998 and 2001 triggered worldwide indignation and had to resist the resistance of the localHazara population. In the years between 2007 and 2009, some small rock reliefs with Buddha images were also damaged by the Taliban, which was de facto in power at the time, in the northern Pakistani Swat Valley .

Buddha heads
In recent times, heads of Buddha statues are increasingly being offered in trendy furnishing houses or shipped. This may tempt the good faith believer to believe that Buddha heads are their own forms of representation. The heads, however, were not originally made as such, but are always part of a complete statue. They have either declined from the trunk over the course of the centuries by the influence of wind and weather, or they have been intentionally removed, as happened, for example , by the Burmese in the conquest of the Thai capital Ayutthaya in April 1767. Today, heads are manufactured industrially in order to meet the growing demand worldwide for easily transportable decorative objects.