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By Gaurav Manandhar at

Buddharupa is the Sanskrit as well as Pali term which defines as the statues or models of the enlightened being. Therefore statues of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas etc. who have achieved enlightenment are called as Buddharupa.

Historical development of Buddharupa

If we go through the history of the Buddharupa then the initiation of these statues can only be seen after the 1st century CE. Earlier to this time period, there was the only depiction of the Buddha through various scenery without portraying the Buddha. It is recorded that the anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha was started from two different regions- Gandhara and Mathura. The Gandhara is in present-day North West frontier province in Pakistan and the Mathura in central northern India.

The art of Gandhara was the result of interaction with Greek culture. The artistic features like wavy hair, drapery covering both shoulders, shoes, and sandals, etc were contributed by this school of sculpture.

On the other hand, the art of Mathura was based on a strong Indian tradition. This school of sculpture included other anthropomorphic representations of divinities such as the Yakas along with the Buddha. Other artistic features that were included were clothes covering the left shoulder of thin muslin, the wheel on the palms, the lotus seat, etc.

Even though these two regions were far but it was recorded that both the region strongly influenced each other. Later in the 4th-6th century CE, the new version of Buddha images of Mathura, pink sandstone sculptures, was evolved during the Gupta period.

The newly evolved artistic creation reached a new height of fitness of execution and delicacy in the modeling. Therefore, the art of the Gupta school was extremely influential and was spread almost everywhere in the Asian countries. Later the statues in other countries were localized, according to their local art and culture.

Characteristics of Buddharupa

When we observe the Buddha statues which are for sale in the market and in the temple, we find they are not quite similar. This is mainly because of the localization of the statues. Therefore, the Buddharupa have unique characteristics but at the same time, there are few commonalities in the statues.

Unique characteristics due to regional variations


It has been found that the Buddharupas of India, Sri Lanka, Javanese Sailendra and Cambodian art are usually depicted in a well-proportioned figure. Another unique feature can be seen in Japanese Buddha statues which are often very square and stolid in figures. If we look at the Indian and Southeast Asian ones, they often have thinner figures.

Another historical figure which is completely different from the images of Buddha is Budai, a Chinese Buddhist monk. He is familiar with the people as Happy or Laughing Buddha. Budai is also known as Hotei which is depicted as fat and happy and always portrayed as smiling or laughing. In most times, he is associated with Maitreya, the future Buddha.

Postures, gestures, and artifacts

The Buddha statues are often depicted in various postures- seating, walking, standing, reclining which have their own deep meaning. Along with these variations, the statues also depicts unique hand mudras.

Other than these postures, the statues also differ as per clothing style. In China and Japan, the Buddharupa has a tunic and long sleeves since it is considered socially improper to expose the upper arm. This is also confirmed for the Buddhist monks and nuns. In India, the Buddharupa is often depicted in topless or covered only one shoulder.


The common aspects of the Buddharupa are mentioned below:

  • The Buddha statue's fingers and toes are elongated proportionately.

  • The nose is long and aquiline.

  • The statues have elongated earlobes.

The statue has protuberance head with broad shoulders.