Not any particular event or occasion as the statues illustrating ‘Dharma-chakra pravartana’ – putting the wheel of Law in motion, represent, the universal teacher statues represent the sum of his forty years long travels that he performed till his Mahaparinirvana for enlightening the world. A tall slender figure usually with a forward thrust but sometimes also in still posture with knotted or gesticulated fingers as if elaborating a point, known in iconographic terminology as ‘vitark-mudra’ – interpretive posture, often in a long ritual robe – ‘sanghati’, a term used for Buddha’s long gown type wear or for the long sheet that draped his figure, and divine quiescence, sublimity, great spiritual strength and divine aura reflecting on his face, is usually the image that represented the Buddha, the universal teacher.
One of the four most significant stages in his life, other being different aspects as Sakya Muni including emaciated Buddha and Buddha in meditation, Bhumi-sparsha – the earth touching event leading to the attainment of Enlightenment, and Dharma-chakra-pravartana – putting the wheel of Law in motion, leading to the birth of three great jewels : Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, the Buddha, the universal teacher, represents the aggregate of all prior stages and is hence the essence of his entire being. First stage is preparatory; second, defines attainment; third, lays the foundation; and, the last, the loftiest of the buildings is raised. For forty years Buddha moved from one place to other, held congregations or group discussions, faced questions and resolved them and led billions to where there was old age but not its fear, illness prevailed but did not frightened any, and death was a phenomenon but not an unwelcome guest.
In the style of clothing : the sanghati with delicately designed borders and decorative ‘pata’, vertical band between the parting of legs, wrapped loosely over the left shoulder and arm and a girdle with a stylistic brooch or buckle tied around the belly, iconographic modeling of the figure with a broadened face, and the style of eyebrows and eyes, besides its rare lustre and votive character, this brass-statue of the universal teacher has reflections of Tibetan Buddhist art. However, the statue inherits its qualities as an art-piece from other great traditions. The statue has the same level of precision, accuracy, finish and technical maturity as have eighth-ninth century Chola bronzes of South. The most outstanding aspect of the image consists in its rare emotionalism, its unique poise, level of sublimation, divine aura, sublime calm, or rather the entire bearing, and these are obviously the attributes this brass-image has inherited from the great fifth-sixth century Gupta sculptures. Though brass is its medium and ages old lost wax technique its method of casting it seeks its strength, protection against rusting, finish and lustre by mixing a certain percentage of copper with brass. The image proper has been installed on a lotus ‘pitha’ – pedestal consisting of a pair of lotus mouldings, one upward and other inverted.
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.