Buddha image

Symbols and art

The first depictions of the Buddha in human shape date back to the first and second centuries and were discovered in the regions of Gandhara and Mathura, respectively. Prior to that, the Buddha was represented only symbolically, for instance, by images of his footprint or his empty throne, as borne out by the art of Sanchi, Bharhut, Amaravati, and Kanaganahalli from the first centuries BCE. The reasons for this change in representation are unclear and debated by scholars to this day. The Buddha is shown either seated, standing, or lying on his right side – signifying his entry into the ultimate nirvana – and performing different gestures.