An early development in Indian Buddhist iconography was the 'Crowned
Buddha.' In these images the Buddha is not shown wearing the monk's robe and
the close-cropped hair of a mendicant, but the diadem-crown and jewelled
ornaments of a king. This iconographic type were extremely popular in the
Bodhgaya region during the Pala period, and from there this unique aesthetic
ideal later migrated to Tibet and Nepal.
The Crowned Buddha symbolizes the Beatific Body (Sambhogakaya) form of
Buddha. Among the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the Emanation Body
(Nirmanakaya), the Beatific Body (Sambhogakaya), and the Truth Body
(Dharmakaya), this represents the manifestation of the Buddha visible to
those of greatly purified mind, such as tenth-stage Bodhisattvas. This form
was made especially important in Tibet from the first Great Prayer Festival
in 1409. During that celebration, Tsong Khapa transformed the Jokhang
temple's Shakyamuni statue - an image venerated since its presentation to
Tibet by the Chinese bride of the great Tibetan king Songtsen Gambo in ca.
640 - by crowning and bejewelling it to represent the Beatific Body form
(see accompanying image). Thus began the identification of the Crowned
Buddha with his Beatific form.
In this present sculpture, Buddha wears a five-tiara crown, which symbolize the five transcendent
Buddhas. The skill of the sculpting hands can be felt in the complex draping
and fall of the robes. The upper garment covers both his shoulders and he
wears regal and luxuriant jewelry which includes bracelets; armlets,
necklaces and a pair of elaborate earrings. A choker (collar) further adorns
his neck and carved on it is the kirtimukha, which is a symbol of
auspiciousness. The radiant face of the Buddha is slightly smiling, and the
soft, thin, almost feminine lips lightly pursed together.
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