Somsak Ritpakdee (1)
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
2: Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the 19th Supreme
Patriarch of Thailand
performed the bathing ritual on
Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath
3: The name "Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu
bestowed by Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand
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.
4: Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath
is brought out from the temple to Santichaiprakarn Park
for people to perform the Buddha bathing ritual.
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
6: A Gandharan Buddha image, the origin of
Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath
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 Buddha’s 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 image’s head (Ushnisha)
The protuberance on top of the Buddha image’s 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 image’s eyes (Urna) (Figure 9)
The tuft of hair between the Buddha image’s 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.
8: The head of Gandharan Buddha images
featuring curly hair with a bun
9: The tuft of hair between the Buddha image’s
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 images’ robe 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.
10: Pleated drapery similar to Toga
influenced by Realism Greek – Roman art
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
12: The Buddha’s relics are contained
at Phra Buddha Bang Lamphu Prajanath’s 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 Buddha’s 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