Mudras (Poses) of Buddha Statues:

Buddhism, being a major religion in the world, has varieties of regional, national and even local traditions and art styles. The people, who are unaware of this fact, may question themselves or the others who are the followers of Buddhism, about the true meaning of the Buddha, the religion and the art that comes within the religion itself. The Buddha Statues, for most of the people are the main subjects of curiosity as they come in various poses and mudras of the Buddha. Since the poses of the statue hold particular significances to an event in the life of the Buddha, the curiosity level of people who are yet unaware of these meanings, are much higher. The ritual forms of these Buddha statues each carry an important message or lesson, and most are universal to the religion.

Originated in ancient India by Gautam Buddha, Buddhism spread across Asia, becoming major or even dominant religion in places as diverse as Tibet, China, Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka to name a few. In modern times, Buddhism has gained popularity in the west as well, making it one of the major religions across the globe. Another interesting fact about this particular religion is that it gets absorbed into the local tradition instead of it exporting the culture it had in home. For example, Buddhism in China became Chinese rather than China became Buddhist or Indian. Consequently, the tradition of arts in a given particular country has had a strong influence in Buddhist art, particularly the Buddha Statues which is most visible in different cases like that of the Buddha Statues depicted in Nepali Buddhist art and the serene Buddha of Laos or Thailand. Similarly, despite of these variations in and traditions influencing the depictions of Buddha Statues, some basic standards for these statues remain constant throughout the region and among these are the poses which vary from one another and the meaning that they hold. These poses are traditionally called the Mudras.

Significances of the Mudras

Mudras, are the ritualistic gestures that are used in Buddhist and Hindu art forms for the deities, reflecting their common Indian heritage. All the Buddha Statues represent the Buddha performing one of the mudras. While most of the images and statues have hand gestures used to define a particular mudra, there are other full bodied representations of the Buddha representing other mudras.

Generally, the Buddha is depicted as sitting with the legs crossed in the statues making a "triangle" shape to the image; the knees making the two bottom points of the triangle shape, while the tip of the head makes the top point of the triangle. The significance is that a triangle shape is more "grounded" or has a more solid foundation.

Types of Mudras

Among various types of Mudras of the Buddha Statues, there are 5 most commons mudras of the Buddha. Following are these common mudras:

  1. Abhaya Mudra - The right hand of the Buddha Statue is raised and palm facing out, with the left hand down toward the hips and also facing out, symbolizing peaceful intentions and peacemaking.
  2. Bhumisparsha Mudra - All the five fingers of the right hand of the Buddha is seen reaching to touch the ground, symbolizing the enlightenment of the Buddha under the Bodhi tree.
  3. Dhyana Mudra - The statue depicts one or both hands in the lap, symbolizing wisdom, possibly accompanied by ritual objects such as an alms bowl.
  4. Dharmachakra Mudra - The thumb and index finger of both hands touch at their tips to form a circle, symbolizing the Wheel of Dharma.
  5. Varada Mudra - The both of the hands at waist level, palms out, right hand up and left hand down.

There are other various mudras beyond these 5 famous mudras of the Buddhist Statues. They are unique to the regional and traditional aspects of the Buddhist arts. In Thailand, one of the most beloved forms is of the Walking Buddha statue, which is exclusive to the Sukhothai period of Thai art.

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