Buddha Shakyamuni, Sandstone, Bodhgaya, eastern India, 9th-10th century
This sculpture captures the inner calm and tranquillity of Buddhahood. Here the Buddha is seated in a meditation posture on a lotus pedestal, with hands in ‘dharmacakramudra’. He is expounding the Buddhist law ('dharma'), an event which took place in the deer park at Sarnath.
He wears the simple robes of a monk, drawn over both shoulders, which clearly define the finely proportioned figure. In addition to his spiritual qualities, a Buddha is recognised by physical characteristics which distinguish him from ordinary mortals. Known as ‘laksanas’, these are auspicious marks which identify his exceptional spiritual capacity.
This sculpture was designed to occupy a wall niche in a Buddhist monastery, perhaps around the base of stupa, as still seen at the Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya. It was acquired at Patna between 1880 and 1890 by A. H. Giles. He was a government officer serving in Gaya at the time Alexander Cunningham was undertaking excavations at Bodhgaya and the restoration of the Mahabodhi temple. This quintessential Buddha image was probably recovered from one of the monastic sites in the region, perhaps Bodhgaya or Sarnath, and was brought to Britain.
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