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The Reclining Buddha


Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

The Reclining Buddha:


On Buddha Jayanti (May 26), India’s largest statue of the Reclining Buddha was to have been installed at the Buddha International Welfare Mission temple in Bodh Gaya. The ceremony has been put off due to Covid-19 restrictions.

But, what does the statue of Reclining Buddha represent?

A reclining Buddha statue or image represents the Buddha during his last illness, about to enter Parinirvana.

Parinirvana is the stage of great salvation after death that can only be attained by enlightened souls.

  • The Buddha’s death came when he was 80 years old, in a state of meditation, in Kushinagar in eastern Uttar Pradesh, close to the state’s border with Bihar.

Iconographic representation:

The Reclining Buddha was first depicted in Gandhara art, which began in the period between 50 BC and 75 AD, and peaked during the Kushana period from the first to the fifth centuries AD.

  • Statues and images of the Reclining Buddha show him lying on his right side, his head resting on a cushion or on his right elbow.
  • It is meant to show that all beings have the potential to be awakened and be released from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Please note that the Buddha was against idol worship.

Statues of Reclining Buddha outside India:

Reclining postures are more prevalent in Thailand and other parts of South East Asia.

  • The largest Reclining Buddha in the world is the 600-foot Winsein Tawya Buddha built in 1992 in Mawlamyine,
  • The Bhamala Buddha Parinirvana in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which dates back to the 2nd century AD, is considered the oldest statue of its kind in the world.


Reclining Buddha in India:

  1. Cave No. 26 of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta contains a 24-foot-long and nine-foot-tall sculpture of the Reclining Buddha, believed to have been carved in the 5th century AD.
  2. Kushinagar, where the Buddha actually attained parinirvana, has a 6-metre-long red sandstone monolith statue of the Reclining Buddha inside the Parinirvana Stupa.

Other depictions of the Buddha in India:

  1. At the Mahabodhi temple, the Buddha is sitting in the bhoomi-sparsha mudra, where his hand is pointing towards the ground. It symbolises earth as being witness to his enlightenment.
  2. At Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon, the stone statue has a hand gesture called the dharma-chakra mudra, which signifies preaching. This is also the most popular depiction in India, along with the Bodhi tree depiction.
  3. The Walking Buddha is either beginning his journey toward enlightenment or returning after giving a sermon. This is the least common of the Buddha postures, and is seen mostly in Thailand.



Insta Curious:

  • Most Buddha images throughout Asia are in one of three postures: standing, sitting or lying down. But did you know there is a famous Walking Buddha posture known as Sukhothai Walking Buddha? Read Here
  • Did you know about various mudras of Buddha(few questions have been asked on this in Prelims). Read Here



Prelims Link:

  1. Buddhism- Origin and Spread.
  2. Different sects under Buddhism.
  3. Various Mudras.
  4. Differences between Hinayana and Mahayana Sects.
  5. Who are Bodhisattvas?
  6. Different places associated with the life of Buddha.
  7. Various Buddhist Councils.

Mains Link:

Discuss the relevance of Buddha and his thoughts today.

Sources: Indian Express.