Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath:  the Indian-styled Buddha Image in Bang Lamphu Community
Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath: the Indian-styled Buddha Image in Bang Lamphu Community
24/12/2561 / 39 / สร้างโดย Jutramas Ngonmanee

Somsak Ritpakdee (1)

          Dhamma (the Buddhas teachings) is a spiritual anchor of BuddhistsSimilar to the Buddha images, they are made to be a Buddha substitute or a spiritual anchor as well. According to archaeological evidence, the origin of the initial Buddha images in India was influenced by divine icons of Greek Roman art. It is assumed that the initial Buddha images in India were made around five hundred years after the Buddhas passing awayWhen the idea of making Buddha images spread to other countries, they were made with different characteristics depending on local art of each country. In some Buddhist communities, the Buddha images might be made by artists or received from a temple to be the spiritual anchors and then became "the sacred Buddha imagesof each communityIn Bang Lamphu community, there is an important Buddha image, "Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath (Figure 1). However, its characteristics are uncommon in Thailand.

 



Figure 1: Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath


(1) Curator, Professional Level at Bureau of Grand National Treasury, the Treasury Department


1. Background and the Importance of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath

          Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath is an important Buddha image in Bang Lamphu community. Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara (1913 2013), the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand (Figure 2), had the Buddha image with posture of mediation sculpted from bronze covering with gold leavesIts characteristics are similar to Gandharan Buddha images. The relics of the Buddha are contained at the left chest. Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath was formerly enshrined at Ubosot (a hall used for performing the monastic ritual)in Wat Bowonniwet Vihara. On April 19, 2000, the people of Bang Lamphu community received a great benevolence from Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara. He bestowed the Buddha image upon them and named "Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath” which means "the Buddha image which is a spiritual anchor of Bang Lamphu people (Figure 3).

 

 

Figure 2: Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand
performed the bathing ritual on
Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath 


Figure 3: The name "Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath” 
bestowed by Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand


During Songkran Festival, Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath is brought out from Wat Bowonniwet Vihara to Santichaiprakarn Park for people to perform the Buddha bathing ritual (Figure 4). In 2014, Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara granted his wish to bestow the Buddha image to be the spiritual anchor of Bang Lamphu communityOn August 8, 2014 Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prachanath has permanently been enshrined in the upstairs exhibition room of the wooden building at Bang Lamphu Museum (2) since then (Figure 5).

 

The bathing ritual of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath during Songkran Festival once a year represents the importance of this Buddha image to Bang Lamphu community. Apart from the spiritual anchor, the Buddha image is a symbol of harmony in the community. Nevertheless, the Buddha image bestowed from Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara is so meaningful to Bang Lamphu people. The characteristics of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath are different from Thai-styled Buddha image, but similar to Indian-styled Buddha Image.


Figure 4: Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath
is brought out from the temple to Santichaiprakarn Park 
for people to perform the Buddha bathing ritual.


Figure 5: Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath
is enshrined in the Bang Lamphu Museum.

(2) The Treasury Department established the Bang Lamphu Museum in order to develop Ratchaphatsadu Land by renovating Kurusapa Printing House to be a museum and library
for Bang Lamphu community


2. Gandharan Buddha Images: the Origin of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath

According to archaeological evidence, it was assumed that the first Buddha image of the world was made in Gandhara, the northern India, around Buddhist Era (B.E.) 6 9 or 2,000 years ago, under Greek Roman art influence. Therefore, the Buddha images made by Gandharan artists are called the Gandharan Buddha images. The Buddha images also replaced Buddhist symbols (Dhammachakkra or the wheel of the law, lotus, or horse). Gandhara was ruled by Alexander the Great during his conquest of India around B.E. 2 3As a result, the initial Buddha images in India were influenced by divine icons from Greek Roman art. Rock was carved into the Buddha image with thirty-two signs of the Great Man (Mahapurisalakkhana). The Gandharan Buddha images are pronounced the first Buddha images of the world which have uniqueness and aesthetic beauty (Figure 6). Later, the idea of making Buddha images prevailed in other parts of India and many neighboring countries where Buddhism was reverence. The unique characteristics of Gandharan Buddha images are as follows:

 


Figure 6: A Gandharan Buddha image, the origin of
Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath

 

Figure 7: A halo made by a round flat stone commonly
found at the back of a Gandharan Buddha image


             1. The halo (Prabhamandala), or also known as Buddhas light

It is a circular shape (Figure 7) recalling sculptures of Apollo, the Olympian solar deity or the sun god in Greek Roman mythology. It represents the Buddha as a solar deity. In addition, the halo stone is used for the attachment of the head, neck and shoulders of the Buddha image because they are fragile

             2. The protuberance on top of the Buddha images head (Ushnisha)                 

             The protuberance on top of the Buddha images head may originate in the bun hairstyle. Hair of the Gandharan Buddha images is curly and fastened by a rope to make a bun. Curly hair is influenced by Greek Roman art. (Figure 8)

             3. The tuft of hair between the Buddha images eyes (Urna) (Figure 9)

             The tuft of hair between the Buddha images eyes is one of thirty-two marks of a Great Man. It is light and soft like kapok. Later, it prevails among the Buddha images of other artists


Figure 8: The head of Gandharan Buddha images
featuring curly hair with a bun


Figure 9: The tuft of hair between the Buddha image
eyes and moustache, the unique characteristics of
Gandharan Buddha images 

             4. Moustache (Figure 9)

             Moustache is influenced by Greek Roman sculptures. Gandharan Buddha images may originate the moustache which is the unique characteristic of theirs

             5. Pleated drapery

             The Gandharan Buddha imagesrobe is wrapped like Toga similar to Greek Roman icons. The robe is naturally folded like Realism art and each fold robe is not equally-sized. The beginning and the end of the robe are not in the same place. The robe is voluminous to conceal the real anatomical dimensions of the Buddha image


Figure 10: Pleated drapery similar to Toga
influenced by Realism Greek Roman art

             6. Posture

             Regardless the posture of Gandhara Buddhan images, especially the seating position, the edge of the robe covers both laps: concealing the attitude of mediation in crossed-leg posture.

3. Making Gandharan Buddha images in Thailand

          According to archaeological evidence found in Thailand, ancient Buddha images in Thailand are influenced by the Gandharan art, and are modified their characteristics depending on each local belief. Buddha images with the Gandharan style in Thailand were assumed to be made during the early Rattanakosin period with the concept dating back to Realism art. However, some characteristics were changed representing the social value at that time. After King Rama V visited India in 1875, he had a Buddha image with the attitude of requesting the rain made (Figure 11) which is similar to Gandharan Buddha images. During that time, many western scholars were interested in Gandhara art and concluded that it is the origin of making Buddha images. They believed that the first Buddha images appeared during the flourishing of Gandhara art. Making Buddha images with Realism art prevailed in Thailand since the reign of King Rama IV. Therefore, this style of Buddha images conformed to the Realism concept continuing to the reign of King Rama V. After that, the characteristics of Buddha images do not attach to the old concept, but conforming to the recurrent social value or culture. Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath is an example to show that artists do not attach to the old concept


Figure 11: The Buddha image with the attitude of
requesting the rain made during the reign of
King Rama V influenced by Gandharan art 


Figure 12: The Buddhas relics are contained
at Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanaths left chest 

4. Characteristics of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath

               4.1 General Characteristics

               Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath is cast in bronze and covered with gold leaves. The statue is in the sitting attitude in crossed-leg posture on the open lotus flower with large stylized petals base. Its dimension is 100 centimeters tall and 65 centimeters across the lap from knee to knee. The statue has curly hair, round face, downcast eyes, prominent nose, long earlobes and smiley lip. The protuberance on the top is convex like the characteristic of the Great Man (the Buddha). The robe is loosely folded like a real robe. The right palm is on top of the left hand with both hands resting on the lap. The Buddhas relics are contained at the left chest of the statue (Figure 12). Some featured characteristics of Phra Buddha Lamphu Prajanath are considered to resemblance of Gandhara Buddha images.

               4.2 Specific Characteristics

               Some characteristics of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath and Gandhara Buddha images are noticeably similar. However, some characteristics of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath are unique and different from Gandhara Buddha images. These different characteristics of Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath are as follows:

                       1. Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath is cast in bronze and covered with gold leaves. It is the present casting technique, while Gandhara Buddha images used rock carving technique of Greek Roman influence. Gandhara artists are specialists in carving sculptors from rock. Therefore, different methods reflect on different physical details

                       2. Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath has a consistent curly hair line, and each line is divided evenly (Figure 13). This detail does not appear in Gandharan Buddha images. They have inconsistent curly hair


Figure 15: The head without the halo


Figure 16: Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath

                         3. Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath has smooth unblemished face without the tuft of hair between the Buddha images eyes and mustard like Gandhara Buddha images (Figure 14). It indicates Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath is made without attachment of thirty-two signs of the Great Man belief.

 

                         4. Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath has no halo (Figure 15) unlike Gandharan Buddha images. The halo of Gandhara Buddha image imitates gods one which is used for the attachment of the head, neck and shoulders of the Buddha image because these parts are fragile

 

                          In sum, Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath is the only one Buddha image under Gandharan art in Bang Lamphu community (Figure 16). It is important to Bang Lamphu Buddhists and other Buddhists outside the community as the center of faith and spiritual anchorIt represents the respect of Bang Lamphu people to Buddhism and the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Bang Lamphu Buddhists who bestowed this Buddha image upon Bang Lamphu. Finally, the Buddha image becomes a symbol of harmony in the community corresponding to the meaning of its name "the Buddha image which is a spiritual anchor of Bang Lamphu peopleand remains enshrined at the Bang Lamphu Museum indefinitely

 


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