The episode in which Lord Buddha invoked the earth has great significance both in Buddha's life as well as in the Buddhist tradition. It was around the end of his six year long meditation that Mara, the Evil One, renewed its efforts to distract the Sakyamuni from his path and destroy his concentration. Mara sent to him many of its minions, the tempting nymphs and horrifying demons, hunger and affluence, parching heat and icy cold and the bonds of life and the fear of death, but Gautam conquered them all. Now delusion was the only weapon for the Mara to try. For deluding every one and every particle of the cosmos, Mara screamed loudly acclaiming a false triumph, "You are vanquished, Gautam". The Sakyamuni kept quiet but he extended his right hand till his fingers reached the earth and calling upon her prayed her to bear witness that he had defeated the Mara and its minions. Soon after he overcame the Mara, the light exploded within and he was the Enlightened, the Buddha.
This brilliant image of the great Lord, installed on an oval platform, which lay over a lotus, one symbolising the earth and the other the ocean and conjointly the two symbolising the earth afloat ocean, represents this turning point of Buddha's life. With his legs folded he is cast seated in the padmasana posture. His extended right hand is firmly planted on the earth, which defines the conventionalised form of bhumisparsha mudra. Serenity, composure, contemplative demeanour and a kind of confidence are the essentials of this excellent image. The drapery known as sanghati is marked by unique refinement and sophistication. Its border elegantly textured with floral designs and lying symmetrically on the earth in front and under his folded knees adds great aesthetic charm to this icon of Lord Buddha. The sanghati has been rendered in Kashmiri character. Half drooping eyes, narrow sharp nose, conical face, long ear-lobes and the mound-like ushnisha are usual characteristics of Buddha's iconography but. they have in this representation a Nepali touch. The foliating designs on sanghati's border symbolise the Bodhi tree in Buddhist tradition.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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