Category Archives: Gautama

Parinirvana of the Buddha : depictions in art

      The word parinirvana refers to death which happens to the body of a person after attaining nirvana; a release from samsara , the cycles of birth and death and rebirth. This is different from an ordinary person dying, as per Buddhism.An ordinary person is reborn due to unresolved karma which passes on to a new birth.

   The pariniravana of the Buddha is mentioned and described in Buddhist literature. The parinirbanna-sutta  is an important source in this regard. According to this source of the Pali canon the Buddha around the age of eighty  declared he would soon reach parinirvana , the final deathless state. He had his last meal which was an offering from Cunda, a blacksmith. He fell violently ill after this and left his earthly body. The place is believed to be Kushinara or Kushinagar, (east of Gorakhpur in present day Uttar Pradesh) India, in abandoned jungles of the Malla kingdom.  His disciple Ananda was against him achieving this state in the jungles. He also explained to Ananda that the meal had nothing to with his death, in fact it was a great meal as it was the last meal of a buddha  or enlightened one. Before entering pariniravana he asked all the bhikkhus or monks to clear any doubts or questions they had. His final words were ” ..all composite things are perishable… strive for your own liberation with diligence..”After this he passed away into parinirvana. The Buddha had told his disciples to follow no leader. Mahakasyapa was made the chairman of the First Buddhist Council. His body was cremated and his relics were divided between eight royal families and his disciples. Much later Emperor Ashoka enshrined them in stupas. He built a stupa and made a pilgrimage site in Kushinara, the Gupta kings (4th to 7th century) further developing the site. Kushinara had remained under the Mauryas, Shungas, Kushanas, Guptas and Harsha dynasties.The site had been abandoned around 1200 A.D due to invasions. It continues as an important pilgrimage site for Buddhism, following its rediscovery by  British archaeologists in late 19th century.

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Pariniravana,schist, 2nd-3rd century,Gandhara.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Paranirvana, 2nd-3rd century,Gandhara. 

Volné dílo,

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Pariniravana, painting, Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra, 700-1100,Nalanda, Bihar.

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Parinirvana,painting, Wat Tha Thanon,Thailand.

By ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Buddha, Gal Vihara,12th century,Sri Lanka.

 By Jerzy Strzelecki (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Buddha image,Mahapariniravana temple, Kushinagar.

By myself – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

The painting below depicts the Buddha transitioning to parinirvana. Buddha is  in a forest with Sala trees and surrounded by mourning animals, gods, demons, and human beings.

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Offentleg eigedom,

References :

  2. Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.

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Soma Ghosh

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Sujata in Buddhism: depictions in art

         Sujata lived in a village called Senani in Uruvela ( near present Bodh Gaya) She was beautiful but unmarried daughter of  a rich landowner.  She started  offering prayers on the advice of villagers who believed in a tree dwelling god at a nearby Nuga (banyan) tree near the Neranjara river; who would grant her desire for a good husband, who would shower her with love and gifts. In time it was granted. She then went on to pray for a baby boy. This wish too was granted. Along with her friend Punna she would take an offering of a milk-rice dish for the tree god on Veshaka day (full moon). Sujata was the owner of many cows. She would feed her cows with sweet creepers to get the most nourishing milk. She would use this milk for making the rice-milk porridge.

       One day  Punna went to the tree at dawn and saw a man sitting there and informed Sujata. She thought her tree god to whom she had been offering prayers had somehow turned human!  Both were very excited. Sujata brought the rice-milk porridge in a golden bowl to offer to him. As she approached she saw that he was handsome but very thin, weak and emaciated, but sitting in meditation. She bowed and  offered the porridge to him. At first he was reluctant but accepted it finally. The man was none other than the ‘Buddha in waiting’. This was a great moment because it ended his severe ascetism of six years. He then took a bath in the river and threw the golden bowl  saying that if he were to get enlightened the bowl would go upstream and if not , it would go downstream.The bowl went upstream !

      Later after attaining enlightenment the Buddha revisited the village and Sujata became his first female lay disciple.

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Sujata offering rice-milk, painting,Wat Pangla,Thailand.

By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (018 Sujata offers Rice Balls) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia CommonsFile:Sujata offers Kheer to Siddhartha Roundel 23 buddha ivory tusk.jpg

Sujata offering rice-milk, depiction on ivory.

By Nomu420 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Sujata offering rice-milk,painting in Sri Dalada Maligawa,Sri Lanka. by Indi Samarjiva



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Soma Ghosh

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Buddha in art : images of enlightenment

      Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha or the enlightened one, was born in the sixth/fifth  century B.C. and was the founder of Buddhism, a religion based on his teachings. He was Siddhartha Gautama and also Shakyamuni Buddha. He lived and taught mostly in Magadha and Kosala in eastern India of ancient times. He attained Enlightenment or full Buddhahood as  understood in Buddhism.

     He preached a middle path between over-indulgence connected with the senses and severe asceticism.He shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. His discourses, monastics and various accounts and incidents of his life were summarised by his disciples and followers. The knowledge was passed on through oral tradition and written accounts were made 400 years later.   The sources for the life of Siddhārtha Gautama are a variety of different, and sometimes conflicting, traditional biographies. These include the Buddhacharita, Lalitavistara Sutra, Mahavastu, and the Nidanakatha . The Jataka tales tell tales about his previous births.

      Gautama was born as a Kshatriya, the son of Suddhodana,  chief of the Shakya clan whose capital was Kapilavastu, Gautama was the family name. His mother was Maya-devi.

      At the age of 29 Siddhartha left his palace,his wife and son, despite his father’s efforts to hide from him the sick, aged and suffering. Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man,a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. All this depressed him, and he tried to overcome ageing, sickness, and death by living the life of an ascetic sage. However Gautama realised that meditative dhyana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism did not neccesarily  work.

          Gautama meditated  under a pipal ( variety of fig) tree or Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya where he vowed to meditate until he had found the truth. Evil demons like Mara tried to disturb him along with his army. He raised violent storm and rain. He even sent his daughters to seduce him. After  49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment, and became the Buddha or Enlightened one. He realised the Middle Way, a path of moderation or the Noble Eight-fold Path is the right way. Thus he attained liberation from samsara or the cycles of birth or death.At the age of 84, the Buddha announced that he would  reach Parinirvana, or the final deathless state.He abandoned his earthly body soon after having his last meal.

File:Four Scenes from the Life of the Buddha - Enlightenment - Kushan dynasty, late 2nd to early 3rd century AD, Gandhara, schist - Freer Gallery of Art - DSC05124.JPG

Enlightenment of Buddha,schist, 2nd-3rd century,Kushana,Freer Gallery, USA.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad are 30 rock-cut cave monuments which date from the 2nd century B.C to 600 A.D. The caves include paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of Hindu, Jaina and  Buddhist religious art including the Jataka tales.The caves were built in two phases starting around 2nd century BC, with the second group of caves built around 600 A.D.  A sculpture from Ajanta of Buddha in padmasana is depicted below, his hands in dharmachakra mudra.

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Buddha, Ajanta caves, near Aurangabad,Maharashtra.

By Manu Jha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons



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Buddha meditating while demon Mara tries to disturb him, painting, Lao monastery.

By myself (Painting in Laotian monastery) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Sri Lanka, Buddha, Sri, Lanka, Statue, Religion

Buddha meditating, sculpture, Gal Vihara, Sri Lanka.

Source of image : O, Public domain)

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Manuscript of a meditating Buddha being disturbed by Mara, the demon,Pala period, Nalanda.

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. –, Public Domain,


Buddha,painting,Mogao caves, 4th-11th century, Dunhuang,China.

By AnonymousOriginal uploader was Евгений Ардаев at ru.wikipedia – Transferred from ru.wikipedia, Public Domain,



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Buddha Tanhankara, 13th century, Upali Thein temple, Bagan, Myanmar.

By Jacklee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Thangka,Shakyamuni Buddha,18th century, Tibet,Rodin Museum of Art.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Buddha resisting Mara,lithograph,19th century,Sri Lanka. (Wellcome images)

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Victory of Buddha, painting, Abanindranath Tagore, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists,1914.

Abanindranath Tagore [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Buddha,acrylic on canvas,20th/21st century.

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


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