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A Guide to Understanding Buddhist and Hindu Sculptures

A guide to understand Buddhist and Hindu sculptures

hindu sculpture
Buddhist and Hindu sculpture

Buddhist and Hindu sculptures can be very creative and elaborate. Did you know that every aspect of the sculpture has a meaning? If you find yourself on a tour of Kathmandu you will likely ask yourself what the sculptures mean. In this article, I discuss some of the meanings behind ancient Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. Have you ever seen a Budda sitting in a chair? Keep reading to find out what it means

Hand symbols

Hand symbols, known as mudra, are used to symbolize emotions, conditions, situations, and can help identify the deity being represented. The following are some common mudras.

hindu hand symbol

Namaskara-mudra hand symbol represents devotion or prayer. It is also the national greeting of Nepal.

Hindu hand symbol

Tarjani-mudra is a gesture of menace. Have you ever known a pointing finger to be good?

Hindu hand symbol

Abhaya-mudra is kind of like a super hero pose that means have no fear, or reassurance. It is one of the most common poses in Buddhist and Hindu sculptures.

hindu had symbol

Vyakhyana-mudra represents both explanation and an argument. Just throw this hand symbol up next time your boss is getting on you about the TPS reports.

hindu sculputre posture

Bhumisparsa-mudra is like filing a document or record. It roughly translates to “earth as my witness.”

hindu sculpture posture

Ksepana-mudra hand gesture reminds me of the ninja hand symbols in Naruto. But instead conjuring a giant toad, this hand symbol means sprinkling ambrosia.

Hindu sculpture

Dhyani-mudra is a symbol of meditation. If there is something in the hands while they are in this position, it means the deity or person is meditating on that subject. like a begging bowl, or the vessel of immortality.


hindu sculptures

Varada-mudra is a gesture of charity or giving of a gift.

hindu sculpture

Dharmacakra-mudra symbolizes preaching or teaching and originates from the first Buddhas first lesson, which started Buddhism. It must have been a powerful speech!

hindu sculpture

Uttarabodhi-mudra symbolizes perfection. This gesture is commonly performed by Gautama Buddha, and Namasangiti, which is a Buddhist deity.


You can use the postures of Buddhist and Hindu deities to help identify the mood of the sculpted deity. Postures are also an attribute used to identify which deity is being represented.

hindu sculpture

The “heroic diagonal” stance represents ferocity or destruction. A common deity to use this stance is Vajrapani, the thunderbolt wielder.

hindu sculpture
Sitting European style

Sitting in a “European fashion” identifies royalty. It is extremely rare to see it in a sculpture.

cross legged hindu sculpture
Cross legged

Sitting cross-legged identifies a deity as meditating or symbolizes meditation

sattavasana heroic posture
heroic posture

Heroic posture symbolizes nobility or truth.

hindu sculptures
Nrtya stance

Nrtya stance represents dancing, which symbolizes wrath.

hindu sculpture

Rajalilasana represents royalty

hindu sculpture posture

Lalitasana sitting pose symbolizes relaxation


hindu sculptures

pose is the symbol of peacefulness or benevolence

hindu sculpture


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