Buddha footprint

The world of the Buddha footprint
by Dr. Waldemar C. Sailer

The researcher
Research methodology
Selected texts of the researcher
Publications available
Exhibitions held
The Buddha footprint in various coutries
The Buddha footprint in history
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A Reading of the 108 Auspicious Illustrations
on the Buddha Footprint in the Indian Museum, Calcutta
- extracted text
(To obtain details of the full publication, please contact the author.) 

Determining the historical context of the footprint was expected to unveil clues to the fulfilment and completion of my ‘reading’ of the auspicious illustrations on the alabaster Buddha footprint currently in the collection at the Indian Museum in Calcutta. 

From my research, I conclude that the footprint originated in Myanmar (Burma) and is of the Kon-baung or Alaung-paya Dynasty (A.D. 1752 to 1885). This dynasty created Theravada Buddhist Buddha footprints according to its own unique traditions. 

Such Buddha footprints seem to have been created in the Bagan Period (A.D. 1040 to 1287).  This particular Buddha footprint was inspired by the veneration of Gotama, the present Buddha. My research also indicates that such a tradition commenced shortly after A.D. 1157 in Bagan, Union of Myanmar, and spread throughout Cambodia, China (Sip-song Pan-na) and other parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Throughout history each of these cultural areas created their own visual statements for the Pali terms contained within guideline texts. For example, the second auspicious illustration on the footprint is known in Pali as sirivaccha. For approximately 1,000 years the monks, carvers, artists, donors and laypersons visualised this term in each of the historic periods in South East Asia. This term was defined as an auspicious residence.

The alabaster Buddha footprint at the Indian Museum appears to be the only artefact in India that originates from a tradition of Buddha footprints that contain 108 auspicious illustrations. Historically, southern India and Sri Lanka were centres of the early tradition of Buddha footprints in Asia that reached a peak of eight auspicious illustrations. My present understanding is that the early tradition started in Sri Lanka. Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 pairs of stone Buddha footprints are in existence throughout this island. Whether they belong to Gotama, the present Buddha, or Metteyya, the future Buddha or whether they are considered as syncretic creations, is not known.

By the end of 1998, I became aware of footprints of Gotama the present Buddha, footprints of Metteyya the future Buddha and a third group that I refer to as the 'syncretic group'. This latter group is based on a third text comprising lists recorded in the two earlier texts. The Buddha footprints with 108 auspicious illustrations are found throughout Southeast Asia.
To date, I have not located a Buddha footprint with 108 auspicious illustrations created in the period from A.D. 250 to A.D. 1000. However, textual support has existed since the fifth century A.D. for the Metteyya Buddha Footprint with 108 auspicious illustrations.

The Buddha footprint in the India Museum possesses the characteristics of a footprint of Gotama, the present Buddha, although two major variations have been noted.

© 2001 Dr. Waldemar C. Sailer. All rights reserved.