A youthful, sweet-faced image of the Buddha wearing a robe elaborately
folded, edged and decorated, often with inset mirror glass, has attained
great popularity and has become known as the 'Mandalay Buddha'. For many
people, it came to epitomize the Burmese representation of the Buddha.
Late 18th century-- early 19th century Buddha images in Central Myanmar
had in many cases shed their onion-type lotus finial for one shaped like
a pointed lotus bud. This is the case for example, in the great
alabaster Buddha image of the Kyauktawgyi pagoda, Amarapura, created by
King Pagan Min in 1847. Yet in 1855, Linnaeus Tripe photographed in
Amarapura a huge Buddha image of unprecedented Ava-Amarapura style. It
had a broad ushnisha, no lotus finial and a more elaborate draping of
the uttarasanga (outer robe) than usual. This may be based on the design
of Rakhine Buddha images.
Mandalay images often have a broad band across the forehead. The hair
hugs the head in tight curls and covers a broad prominent ushinsha.
There is no lotus finial above. The images are frequently seated in
vajrasana with the right hand in the bhumisparsa mudra and the left
lying in the lap. The uttarasanga is worn in the open mode and the
sanghati is folded decoratively on the left shoulder. Wood, alabaster
and bronze have been the favoured materials. Many Buddha images are
lacquered and gilded, including the face and body, the latter in
accordance with the suttas (discourses of the Buddha) which relate that
his complexion was like bronze, the colour of gold.
Most standing Buddha images wear the uttarasanga in the closed mode,
covering the arms and chest and held at each side of the lower body by
downward stretched hands. Below, at its lower centre, appears the
antaravasaka. The sanghati flows in multitudinous folds from the left
shoulder. In this right hand the Buddha holds the medicinal myrobalan
fruit. This suggests that the image is Bhaisajyaguru, a form of the
Buddha of Healing, one of whose attributes is the myrobalan.