Go around the world of Buddha statues 20:  The mystery hidden in Buddha statue

Left: the Great Buddha of Nara. Right: Buddha statue of Mathura 

< 1. Left: the Great Buddha of Nara. Right: Buddha statue of Mathura >


The mystery is a certain image expression that Buddha statue had already possessed at the occasion of this birth.

It is continuously inherited to the Japanese Buddha statue also.

This time, I pursue the origin moreover.


Halo and Abhaya Mudrā

Thing being common in both the Buddha statues of Fig. 1 is expression the form of seated posture, Abhaya Mudrā, and a halo.

From the start of Buddha statue birth in Gandhara, these three expression forms had emerged in the relief engraving that all kinds of life of Buddha was depicted with.

The seated posture derives from yoga (seated concentration).

This seated posture had already appeared in the Indus civilization before Aryan migrated, so its culture was peculiar to India.

The halo or the aureola is something like a disk or a ring attaching to the back of Buddha statues, and symbolizes emission of the light.

The Abhaya Mudrā is usually made with the right hand raised to shoulder height, the arm bent and the palm facing outward with the fingers upright.

In Buddhism, this kind of expression means that Buddha gets rid of fear and uneasiness from people.

However, the India culture before it did not have these two expression forms.
















left: a cylinder seal in Mesopotamia in about the 23rd century B.C.  right: Code of Hammurabi in the 18th century B.C.

< 2. left: a cylinder seal in Mesopotamia in about the 23rd century B.C. right: Code of Hammurabi in the 18th century B.C. >


How was the halo born?

“Sun god Shamash radiates rays from the shoulder and appears with the figure that holds a thing like a saw in the hand”.

This is a passage in the myth of Assyria Babylonia.

Shamash in Mesopotamia’s God controls justice or four seasons and influences the outcome of war.

Figure 2 show Shamash God both.

In right fig., the God is conferring Code of Hammurab to the king.

We can see each shoulder emits some rays.









.  Mithra God

< 3. Mithra God >

Left fig.: Mithra on the right is meeting Syria king Antiochus 1, at the first century B.C. in Mt. Nemrut of Turkey.

Right fig.: Mithra on the left sanctifies the investiture of Sassanid emperor Ardashir, at the 3rd century in Taq Bostan(neighboring ruins of Bisotun) of Iran.

From heads of both Mithra, emission rays spread in a circle.

Mithra was a sun god that was shared by the earliest Aryan (Indo-Iranian), and described in Hindu scripture of India, and Zoroastrian Scripture of Iran.

This Mithra spread to Rome at the end of the first century A.D., and the iconography expression took root in the empire.


左図: 右のミトラ神がシリア王アンティオコス1世と会見。前1世紀、

右図: 左端のミトラ神がササン朝ペルシャの初代王を叙任する。3世紀、ベヒストゥンの近郊、Taq Bostan in Iran.





How was the Abhaya Mudrā born?



a form of the ancient oath 

< 4. a form of the ancient oath >

Left fig.: The Behistun Inscription of Darius 1 who administers an oath to the chief deity of Zoroastrianism in the air, at about the 5th century B.C. in Bisotun of Iran.

Right fig.: A noble female statue of fortified city Hatra. Hatra in Iraq were an important trading city of Parthia kingdom that nomad of Iran created after the first century B.C.


Forms of such an oath are seen in relief engravings of Assyria and Persia well.

Hammurabi of Fig. 2 also raises his right hand and takes an oath to God.


左図: ダレイオス1世のベヒストゥン碑文、王が天空のゾロアスターの最高神に宣誓している。前5世紀頃、Bisotun in Iran.

右図: 要塞都市ハトラの高貴な女性像、ハトラはイランの遊牧民が興したパルティア王国の重要な交易都市だった。前1世紀以降、イラク。






Halo and Abhaya Mudrā were the Mesopotamia origin both.

The halo seemed to symbolize the sun having overwhelming power.

This started in Mesopotamia God, was inherited by Mithra being the oldest god of Indo-Iranian, and was adopted to Indian Buddha statue

Originally, Abhaya Mudrā was a form that a king administered an oath to God.

This was inherited by Parthia kingdom from Mesopotamia, and was assimilated as the form that Buddha promised for the people in India.












this map shows some ruins and main kingdoms 

< 5. this map shows some ruins and main kingdoms >


Pink frame: a domain of Achaemenid Empire Persia (the 6th – 4th century B.C.).

Brown frame: a domain of Parthia kingdom (the 3rd century B.C. – the 3rd century A.D.).

Dark blue frame: a domain of Greco Bactria kingdom (the 3rd – the first century B.C.).


Indian Indus basin and Afghanistan was a place that India culture, nomad’s culture of Central Asia, and west culture of Iran or Greece mixed between the second millennium B.C. and the first millennium A.D.

This significantly influenced Buddha statue birth of India.


ピンク枠: アケメネス朝ペルシャ(前6~前4世紀)の領域。

茶色枠: パルティア王国(前3世紀~後3世紀)の領域。

紺色枠: グレコ・バクトリア王国(前3世紀~前1世紀)の領域。





Subsequent deployment

The halo was not the form that was adopted in Buddha statue of India only.

Probably, in the prairie or the desert area, it was a symbol common to human beings.






.  symbols of sun

< 6. symbols of sun >


Fig. 1: Re of Egypt being sun god puts the sun on the head.

Fig. 2: A gold coin of Ptolemy 3rd in the 3rd century B.C. in Egypt. Emission rays come out from the king’s head.

Fig. 3: Halo of Apollo God, the 2nd century, Tunisia.

Fig. 4: a picture of Islam. It is halo such as flame at the back of the saints.


This iconography that was expressed by solar beam, flame, and disk was used also for God and the Saint of Hinduism or Christianity.

The form of an oath that became the Abhaya Mudrā is remaining as a judiciary oath to raise the right hand now.


図1: エジプトの太陽神ラーは頭上に太陽を乗せている。

図2: プトレマイオス王3世の金貨、前3世紀、エジプト。王の頭から光りが出ている。

図3: アポロ神の光輪、2世紀、チュニジア。

図4: イスラム教の絵。聖人の背に炎のような光背。





Categories: history+evolution, <english language, <japanese language, Series: Go around the world of Buddha statues | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Go around the world of Buddha statues 20:  The mystery hidden in Buddha statue

  1. Your series is awesome. I appreciate it.

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