The Mandalay Period represents the last great cultural flourishing of Burmese art. The period was named after the city of Mandalay, which served as capital of Myanmar for a brief period (1860-1885 A.D.) during the reign of King Mindon. After the Anglo-Burmese Wars, northern Myanmar was shut off from the coastal areas that were controlled by the British. King Mindon founded the new capital at a sacred site at the foot of a large hill. The center of the city was designed in the perfect geometrical form of a Buddhist Mandala, giving the city its name. Although this short-lived kingdom finally fell to the British forces in 1886 A.D. during the Third Anglo-Burmese War, the Royal Guilds that created such remarkable works of art for the King remained in the city where they continued to produce sculptures in the Mandalay style.
The historical figure, Buddha Gautama Sakyamuni is the Buddha of compassion who, having achieved the highest evolutionary perfection, turns suffering into happiness for all living beings. Born around 560 B.C. somewhere between the hills of south Nepal and the Rapti river, his father was a Raja who ruled over the northeastern province of India, the district including the holy Ganges River. The young prince was married to Yashoda when he was about 17 years old and together they had a son named Rahula. At the age of 29, he left his life of luxury, as he felt compelled to purify his body and make it an instrument of the mind by ridding himself of earthly impulses and temptations.
This gorgeous gilt wood Buddha is seated in the dhyanasana position on a low oval. With his hands, the Buddha forms the bhumisparsa mudra, which can be literally translated as the “gesture of touching the earth” in which the Buddha touches the ground in order to call on the earth to witness his enlightenment. His flowing monastic robes wrap around his body and fall in elegant waves over his legs and onto the base. An ushnisha crowns his head. This bump is symbolic of the Buddha’s enlightened wisdom and cosmic openness.