There are four main types of images found in Buddhist temples, each conveying a different level of being in Buddhist cosmology:
1) images of The Buddha;2) images of Bodhisattvas;3) images of Deities, Spirits, heavenly beings, and guardian God; and sometimes4) images of kings of Wisdom and Light that serve as Protectors of Buddhism.
Most Buddhist Art consists of depictions of Buddha, usually in statue from and to lesser extent in murals, frescoes and other paintings. The way in which Buddha is depicted often says more about the culture that created it than About Buddhism itself.
There are lots of symbols and codes in Buddhist Art. Simple things like hand positions and the shape of the arms can conveysymbolic meaning. Western viewers often have a hard time making sense of it all because they have little exposure to thesymbols.
For about five centuries after Buddha's Death, it was forbidden to produce images of The Buddha. During that time various devices such as set of large footprints or a treelike post with three Dharma wheels were used to represent The Buddha without actually showing him. The Buddha and his early Disciples opposed the personalization of The Buddha’s message and discouraged speculation about their existence after they were dead.
The Buddha hoped that his followers would find salvation thoughMeditation, not through the worship of images. That didn’t stop millions of images of The Buddha and Bodhisattvas from being created though. If he were alive today The Buddha would no Doubt be appalled by the number of images of him that have been raised around the globe.
Early Buddhist Art
There is no Buddhist Art that dates back to period when Buddha was alive nor is there any from and the centuries that followed. The oldest Buddhist Art is in the Formof symbols—such as the Wheel of Dharma, Stupas and the tree of Enlightenment—not human. Objects and images that indicated signs or “traces” of Buddha presence—such as footprints, parasols or empty seats—were the most common.
The first images of Buddha appeared in the A.D. 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries in Gandara, a region in what is now northern Pakistan, and Mathura, near Agra and Delhi in northern India. Among the oldest know images of Buddha are sandstone seated Buddhas carved in India in the A.D. 1st or 2nd century with a friendly, inviting face.Gandara Art includes Persian Influences, Greek Influences, introduced by Alexander the Great, and West Asian Influences.
A typical Gandara piece consists of a multi-image sculpture with a central image of Buddha surrounded by images from his Life. The Hair, clothing and posture all show Greco-Roman Influences.
Youthful Buddhas often had their Hair arranged in wavy curls and wore toga-like garments like these found in Roman statues. Around the same time more Indian-like images were created in Mathura which featured bodies expanded by sacred Breath and clad in robes that left one shoulder bare.
In southern India andSri Lanka Buddhas with serious faces and heavy build were being created
Buddhas created in the Gupta period in northern India, from the 4th to 6th century, had an “ideal image” and featured a downward glance, Spiritual aura, Hair arranged in tiny curls, and a sensuous Body visible beneath a transparent robe. These became the models for future images created by artists in India, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia.
Many of the early works from India have Hindu Influences such as multiple arms and heads as well as hand, arm and leg positions that are reminiscent of those found on sculptures of Hindu Gods and Indian dancers.
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