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Mistaken identity’: Deity worshiped at Hindu temple that of Lord Buddha, restore original status, says Madras HC

GS paper 1

Syllabus: Salient aspects of art form, Buddhism etc


Directions: Very important topic for both prelims and mains, UPSC may ask about Buddhist temples, different positions of buddha, Buddhist art etc

Source: Indian Express



  • The Thalaivetti Muniyappan temple near Salem, where a local deity is worshiped as per Hindu rituals, will be treated as a Buddhist temple hereafter, thanks to a recent Madras High Court order.
  • The court order dated July 19 was based on a petition filed by S Sathia Chandran in 2011, which prayed the court to conduct an inspection of the Thalaivetti Muniyappan Temple at Kottai Road, Periyeri Village near Salem, to ascertain the “identity and antiquity” and take appropriate action to restore the status to a Buddha Trust.
  • After having received such a report, it will not be appropriate to permit the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Department to continue to treat this sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniyappan,” the court said.


Key Highlights:

  • Existing structure of Modern origin: An expert committee’s inspection report submitted before the court confirmed that the existing temple structure that follows Hindu rituals “is of modern origin”, “built of cement, bricks and concrete.
  • Structure depicts Maha-Lakshanas: Based on available archaeological and historical evidence, the expert committee concluded that “the sculpture depicts several mahalakshanas (great traits) of the Buddha.
  • Sculpture of Buddhist origin: The court said the “mistaken identity cannot be allowed to continue after coming to a conclusion that the sculpture is that of Buddha” and ordered that “the original status must be restored” as continuing to treat it as Thalaivetti Muniyappan “will not be appropriate and it will go against the very tenets of Buddhism”.


Key features of the sculpture:

  • The inspection report said the sculpture was made of hard stone.
  • The figure was in a seated position known as ardha-padmasana on a lotus pedestal.
  • The hands are posed in ‘dhyana mudra’.
  • The figure is Sagati.
  • The head shows lakshanas of the Buddha such as curly hair, ushnisha and elongated earlobe.
  • Urna is not visible on the forehead.
  • The head was severed from the torso which were glued together with cement and lime mixture a few years ago.
  • However, due to human error or some other reason, the head was not positioned properly to the torso and consequently, the head slightly twisted towards the left side of the body.
  • Height of the image is 108 cm in a cross legged (ardha-padmasana) posture.
  • The reverse side of the sculpture was flat without any artistic work,


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Practice Questions:

Q. Highlight the Central Asian and Greco-Bactrian elements in the Gandhara art.(UPSC 2019)

With reference to Indian history, who among the following is a future Buddha, yet to come to save the world?(UPSC 2018)

a. Avalokiteshvara

b. Lokesvara

c. Maitreya

d. Padmapani

Ans: (c)



  • Maitreya will be the successor of Gautama Buddha.
  • Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future and is regarded as a future Buddha of this world.
  • He is also known as Ajita Bodhisattva.