Images of the Buddha were produced from the fifth century onwards. The sacred nature of the representation is reflected in the artistic goal of creating an aura of equanimity, perfection, and holiness. The large number of rules governing the execution of a portrayal or a statue require an erudite understanding of Buddhist symbolism. Any Buddha figure made by a skilled artist exhibits a multitude of characteristics that communicate subtle meanings and intentions to the viewer. The most important of these characteristics are perhaps the mudras, or hand gestures, of the Buddha. These well-defined gestures have a fixed meaning throughout all styles and periods of Buddha images.


BhumisparsaBhumisparsa Mudra
Touching the earth as Gautama did, to invoke the earth as witness to the truth of his words.


VaradaVarada Mudra
Fulfilment of all wishes; the gesture of charity.


DhyanaDhyana Mudra

The gesture of ab solute balance, of meditation. The hands are relaxed in the lap, and the tips of the thumbs and fingers touch each other. When depicted with a begging bowl this is a sign of the head of an order.




Abhaya Mudra
Gesture of reassurance, blessing, and protection. “Do not fear.”



Dharmachakra Dharmachakra Mudra
The gesture of teaching usually interpreted as turning the Wheel of Law. The hands are held level with the heart, the thumbs and index fingers form circles.



Vitarka Vitarka Mudra
Intellectual argument, discussion. The circle formed by the thumb and index finger is the sign of the Wheel of Law.



TarjaniTarjani Mudra
Threat, warning. The extended index finger is pointed at the opponent.



NamaskaraNamaskara Mudra
Gesture of greeting, prayer, and adoration. Buddhas no longer make this gesture because they do not have to show devotion to anything.



JnanaJnana Mudra
Teaching. The hand is held at chest level and the thumb and index finger again form the Wheel of Law.



KaranaKarana Mudra
Gesture with which demons are expelled.



KsepanaKsepana Mudra
Two hands together in the gesture of ‘sprinkling’ the nectar of immortality.



UttarabodhiUttarabodhi Mudra
Two hands placed together above the head with the index fingers together and the other fingers intertwined. The gesture of supreme enlightenment.