In the Origin of the Buddha Image, Buddha was formerly represented as an adept or a teacher with its chief iconographic peculiarities that were rarely represented quasi-anatomically in a walking stance only until early Indian art (2). With the evolvement in iconographies, how has the Standing Buddha from the Gupta Period in Sarnath in the 5th century, to the Walking Buddha from Sukothai Thailand in 15th to 16th century differ and what were their motivations? Supported by scholarly findings and visual aids, the paper suggests with the evolution of time and technology, the classical representations of Buddha have evolved from conventional canons to consisting of elements from Scripture. This in turn concludes that sculptures have incorporated innovative ways of depicting the truest nature of an Enlightened being. We begin introducing the Sarnath Buddha, delving on its motivations and why it was accepted as a classical representation of Buddha. Secondly, the paper introduces the Walking Buddha as the most sophisticated sculpture of the Sukothai period. Thirdly, the paper addresses the philosophy behind the aesthetic point of view of the Walking Buddha. Lastly, I will conclude by investigating the Walking Buddha’s notable construction of its material, carefully expressed from its techniques to outcome.
Introduction of the Classical Sarnath Buddha (230)
Under the Gupta dynasty, India has entered a “Golden Age,” (x1) marking the rise of a quintessential Indian expression recorded in the 5th century Sarnath sculpture. (x2) With the erected buddha’s left knee gently bent, it follows the Sanskrit tribhanga pose while its right hand in the abhaya mudra and an ushnisha above the crown of his head, associating with the Enlightened Being (x5). Positioned behind, a half-preserved halo disc with frothy Gupta foliage reinforces his celestial self, inspired from Mazdaean ancient Iranian personification of light (x7). The medium appears to be buff sandstone with Buddha’s diaphanous drapery clinging on his whole body replicating a “wet” look with absence of pleats in the garment, – suggesting undefiled flawlessness. (x9) Buddha’s divinity is enhanced with the absence of evident male genitals, the conceptual artistic treatment of de-masculinizing Sarnath Buddha’s body. (figure) Such evident characteristics of Buddha’s large shoulders in width, and tiny waist indicates the emergence of a sophisticated formula used during the Gupta period to indicate an anatomy resembling a super-human.(x4) His creaseless cylindrical and spherical limbs and torso, suggests Tathagata’s immortal form. The use of proportional canons fixed by iconometry, where the basic unit of measurement – angulas, is repeated nine times, in sets of twelve, for the height of Buddha is deemed fit for worship. (x8) The absence of mathematical proportional system was aimed absolute for a supernatural being.
Introduction of the Sophisticated Walking Buddha (170)
In classical period of ancient Greece, artists replace strict symmetrical kouros figures from the Archaic period with those that come to life. The contrapposto where most of its weight is shifted on the left leg, and leg placed slightly more forward with bent arms. (x11) This revolutionary illusion of emanating movement relates to the Walking Buddha. Acknowledging Sukhothai’s period of Golden Age with high levels of material, intellectual and spiritual progress, (x13) it is the first time in history that the Lila posture appears. Focusing on its feet with its left raised heel, while the right foot planted firmly on the ground and it’s left arm swinging by its side versus the Sarnath’s buddha clasping its robe – suggests a graceful gesture of Buddha frozen in motion down to its tiny hem ends curling sideways – combining spiritualism with naturalism in spite of their stylized form (x14).