What is Buddhist Art?

Buddhist art includes media which depict Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other entities; notable practitioners and historical figures; narrative scenes from the lives of all of these; mandalas and other graphic aids to practice; as well as physical objects associated with Buddhist practice (dorjes, bells, clothing, etc.).

Music, chanting, dramatic forms, and poetry can also be considered Buddhist art.

The earliest known instances of material objects of worship for Buddhists are relics of the Buddha and other holy figures, as well objects symbolic of relics (e.g., stupas).

An early text describes three categories of relics:


photo: wordpress.com
Photo: wordpress.com

1. Saririka: physical relics of the Buddha;
2. Uddesika: religious symbols including the Buddha image, stupas, dharmacakra (wheel of the law), ‘implying the places of actions and objects of use as relics of a Buddha;
3. Paribhogika: personal articles used by the Buddha. Relics are always closely associated with the life story of the historical Buddha and their preservation/worship is intended to encourage religious practice. more…