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Naga Buddha statues

  • Naga Boeddhabeelden

Many Buddha statues are seen where the Buddha is depicted in meditation pose sheltered by a Naga snake. These kinds of Buddha statues are known as the Naga Buddha statues. What exactly are Naga Buddha statues? What is the meaning / story behind the Naga Buddha statues ?

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Naga, in Hinduism and Buddhism, is the Sanskrit word for a deity taking the form of a great snake, specifically the multi-headed king cobra. The traditions about nagas are common in all the Buddhist countries in Asia. In many countries, the concept of naga has merged with local traditions of many great and wise serpents. The Buddhist naga has the form of a great cobra, usually depicted with a single head but sometimes with many heads. The naga which is seen sheltering the Buddha while meditating is known as Mucilanda. Mucilanda is believed to have protected the Buddha from the elements like rain and storm after he attained enlightenment. It is said that the four weeks after the Buddha began meditating under the Bodhi tree, the heavens darkened for seven days, a heavy rainfall started. The mighty king of the serpents, Mucilanda then is believed to have emerged from beneath the earth and protected the Buddha with his hood as the Buddha is considered the source of all protection. When the storm stopped, the serpent king Mucilanda assumed his human form, bowed before the Buddha and returned to his palace in joy. The iconographic representation of this Buddhist folklore is known as the Naga Buddha statues. These artistic representations of the Buddha meditating under the protection of Mucalinda are common in many Buddhist countries which are famous for their unique Buddhist arts, namely Burma, Laos, and Thailand.

These Naga Buddha statues are seen with the Naga's body coiled up to serve as a cushion for the Buddha with 7 pronged head providing a hood over the Buddha's head as a cover. The Naga Buddha statues are considered to have originated from India but later, with the spread of Buddhism, the carving of such unique statues started to appear from many Southeast Asian nations, specifically Burma, where the Buddhist arts flourished under the patronage of many Burmese kings throughout the history of Burma. Naga Buddha statues are considered one of the rarest Buddhist artifacts around the globe as these specific Buddha statues are not as common as the Shakyamuni Buddha statues. Therefore, many Buddhist and antique art collectors around the world consider the Naga Buddha statues as the gems of their personal collections. Similarly, the Naga Buddha statues are taken as a very important religious as well as spiritual object for many followers of Buddhism as it depicts the Buddha being protected by the Naga, representing the faithful protection of the awakened one by the king of serpents.