Reading of the 108 Auspicious Illustrations on the Buddha Footprint in
the Indian Museum, Calcutta - extracted text
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.