January 30, 2023
There are many types of Buddha’s postures and gestures in the Angkor National Museum. The Buddha statues are often depicted with symbolic hand gestures, called mudra in Sanskrit. Each mudra has a specific meaning that denotes a special characteristic or some significant event in the Buddha’s life.
Here is one of the main mudras of Buddha in the gallery of 1,000 Buddha images. Called Abhaya mudra, it means protection, mercy, and fearfulness. There are two forms of Abhaya mudra, standing, and sitting. The standing form shows both hands raised upward at the same level as the chest and the palm held outward. The fingers extend upward and are commonly raised to the level of the heart.
In addition, some statues have the right or left hand extending upwards, with the fingertips at the same level as the shoulder, and the right or left hand held downwards along the body with the palm held outward. Besides, there’s also the sitting form exhibiting the right forearm being held upward with the fingertips at the middle of the chest and the palm held outward, and the left forearm being held outward on the lap.
According to Buddhist legend, this gesture was used by Gautama Buddha to subdue the intoxicated elephant Nalagiri, set off by Devadatta, who was a cousin of the Buddha.
1-Angkor National Museum, Bulletin, Volume 01, July 2011.
2-Masterpieces in Angkor National Museum Guidebook, 2011.
3-Life of the Buddha in Pictures, by Ven. Weragoda Sarada Maha Thero, 2001.
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