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Thai Buddha statues

By Gaurav Manandhar at
thai buddha statues

Thai Buddha statues: a unique iconography

In Thailand, the Iconography refers to as pang phraputtarup and the posture that is depicted is known as Pang Thai. The Buddha statues are always represented with certain physical attributes- in specified dress and specified poses. The gesture and posture of the Buddha has a unique pose which sometimes is familiar with the characteristics of other Buddha statues. One of the finest examples of this is the Hand Mudra.

Historical account of the development of Buddha statue in Thailand

The origination of Buddha statue was not in Thailand, in fact, it was in India. The Buddha statues were later spread to other parts along with the spread in the teaching of Buddha. These Buddha statues were first made according to the Indian style of art (Gupta art) but later these were localized according to the culture, tradition, environmental and most importantly through the attribution as described in the Buddhist canon of Thailand.

These iconography has been described in the canon of Buddha representation in Thailand which was only conceptualized in 1814. The key people to come up with this iconography were the Siamese royal prince and Buddhist monk Paramanuchit Chinorot, a son of King Rama I. Paramanuchit was appointed as an administrator of the Wat Pho royal temple in Bangkok in 1814. It was learned that at the request of King Rama III, Paramanuchit described and represented 40 different postures of the Buddha and compiled in an illustrated treatise called Pathama Sambodhikatha.

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Gestures and Postures depicted in Thai Buddha statues

Body Posture

Mainly the Buddha is depicted in one of the four postures- sitting, walking, standing, and reclining. it is learned that even in sitting position, the Buddha may be shown in one of the three different positions- virasana (heroic posture), vajrasana (adamantine posture), and pralambanasana. In virasana posture, the Buddha is depicted with the legs folded over each other. In vajrasana posture, the Buddha is depicted with the legs crossed so that the soles of both feet are turned up. And pralambanasana, the Buddha is depicted in the position of a person sitting in a chair.

Hand gestures

The hand gestures are very important aspects of the Buddha statues. These gestures are also known as mudra which is symbolic representations and when combined with the postures provides a complete representation usually associated with a particular incident in the life of the Buddha.

The main mudra used in the Buddha statues are Bhumisparsa mudra, Dhyana mudra, Varada mudra, Abhaya mudra, Vitarka mudra, and Dharmachakra mudra. But in present time, we are able to see various other mudras which are created with the combinations of these six mudras. The best example is double Abhaya mudra which depicts the Buddha's both hands are held up in the Abhaya mudra. This hand gestures became popular in Thailand during the 16th century which is most common representation in Thailand. Other gestures are holding an alms bowl, receiving a mango, performing various miracles. These gestures were created with the motive to depict more specific incidents in the life of the Buddha.

Buddha head

The Buddha statues have a bump in the head of the Buddha. It is called as Ushnisha. The Ushnisha is elongated and pointed. The Ear of the Buddha is also depicted in an elongated form.

Buddha's Dress

Typically, the Buddha is always depicted wearing a monastic robe. There is also variation as to in which style the robe is worn. It may be in the covering mode or open mode. In the covering mode, the robe is draped over both shoulders while in the open mode, the robe is worn leaving the right shoulder and breast uncovered.

Often times, in Thailand, the Buddha statues are draped with real robes. In this case, the robe is changed periodically usually at the major festivals. Apart from the robe, the Buddha statues are also depicted in the royal attire.

The Thai Buddha statues are completely unique in style if compared that with other south Asian statues. Therefore there are the curators in the world who are fond of collecting these statues. They also collect the statues from other curators who sales Buddha statues.