Buddha in Calling for Rain Posture
Item No. 3281
19th Century, Buddhist, Laos
Wood with Gilt
21.5" x 4.5" x 3.5"
( 54.61 x 11.43 x 8.89 cm)
(H x W x D)
This delicately carved image of the Buddha reflects many of the artistic traditions that flourished Golden Age of Lao art (1520-1777). These traditions strictly adhered to the tenets of Theravada Buddhism which is practiced in the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos and which ere recorded in the ancient texts that proscribed how the Buddhas should be represented. According to these texts, the Buddha should have an egg-shaped head and face, eyebrows like a drawn bow, a nose like the beak of an eagle and smooth round arms like elephant tusks.
This image closely follows these canons. The hairline is curved, as are the high arched eyebrows that meet at the bridge of the nose. The full lips are drawn in a slight pucker, portraying a peaceful and contented expression. The hair curls are well formed and distinct, and the unusually long ear lobes are shaped like snail shells. The Buddha has a distinctive finial or radiance in the form of a flame emerging from the ushnisha (the fleshy protuberance that indicates His status as an Enlightened Being) atop his head. The figure is delicately portrayed with rounded pendant arms mirroring and reinforcing the graceful curves of the body. The gentleness of the Buddha is enhanced by his narrow hips, elegant gestures and slim elongated hands with long slender fingers of equal length. The totality of the curvature and proportion indicate the perfection of the “Enlightened One”.
The Buddha is depicted in a gesture found only in Laos, referred to as "Calling for Rain" or “Calling the Rain Over a Kingdom Affected by Drought” where he stands with his hands held outwards symmetrically at his side, fingers pointing to the ground. An old Laotian custom has been to fire bamboo rockets into the sky at the end of the dry season in a plea for rain, which compliments this depiction of the Buddha, as this Buddha image also symbolizes upward flight. The Buddha wears the ticivara, the three-part robe of a monk consisting of an upper robe (uttarasanga), a lower robe (antaravasaka), and the diagonal outer robe (sanghati), which falls to just above his ankles.
The image stands on a very high multitiered and waisted round base which is as tall as the carved image which rests on it. One of the widely accepted canons in Buddhist art in Laos is that a high pedestal reflects a deep and unwavering respect for the Buddha.
Somkiart Lopetcharat, Lao Buddha: The Image and Its History, Bangkok, Siam International Book Company, Ltd, 2000.
K.I. Matics, Gestures of the Buddha, Chulalongkorn University Press, Bangkok, 2001.