CULTURE: Images of the Buddha


The most commonly seen Buddha image depicts the Buddha in a seated posture with the fingers of his right hand touching the earth, symbolising calling the earth to witness victory over Mara, the manifestation of evil. The postures of other seated images include the Buddha with the hands folded on the lap in a meditative pose or both hands held up to symbolise the preaching position. There are also reclining images to symbolise either relaxation or imminent death. Standing images show the Buddha levitated in the sky or on a journey with his disciple monks. Rarer are the crowned images and the squat, seated images, which some people believe give protection from harm.

The faces, torsos and general style of Buddha images in Myanmar differ from place to place and from one period of history to the next.
Shan images have arched eyebrows, which are sometimes rounded almost like semi-circles, a slender nose and thin, delicate lips. The torso, limbs and fingers are slim and graceful.  The most famous Shan images are made of cloth moulded with lacquer over a woven bamboo base. The surface is then gilded and sometimes faux gems are embedded in exquisite glass mosaic embellishments.

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Ma Thanegi writes prolifically about Myanmar, especially the people who are the country’s true representatives. She lives in Yangon.


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