The Burmese Buddha, Buddhist Iconography in Burma (Myanmar), over the millennia have developed their own unique style which identify them from the area in which they were crafted or originated.
The mediums and materials used in the crafting of Burmese Buddha statues and other Buddhist iconography in Burma are crafted from wood, marble, alabaster, bronze, sandstone and lacquer used to make the unique hollow lacquer style Buddha statues which are light and portable.
Buddhism was introduced into Burma around the 3rd century A.D., by their Northern Indian neighbors who practiced a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. Prior to the introduction of Buddhism in Burma, animism was the predominant form of worship.
Buddhism in Burma today is still very much intertwined with Nat and spirit worship which is reflected in much of their art and culture.
Between 1044 – 1077 A.D., the first Burman King, King Anawrahta of Pagan, attempted to discourage Nat and spirit worship wishing to make Buddhism the prominent form of religion and worship. Although he succeeded and Buddhism gained in popularity, Nat and spirit worship still remained strong. In his efforts to win his people over he legitimized 37 Nats in order to convert the people to Buddhism.
During the early Pagan period, Buddhism was a mix of both Theravada, Mahayana and Tantric practices. Theravada Buddhism is second to the Mahayana form of Buddhism which originated in India and is the most popular form of Buddhism practiced today in many parts of Asia such as China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea and Tibet.
Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion in Burma and Thailand with its own distinct practices, it is considered to be the purest form of Buddhism practiced today.
Burmese Buddha, Buddhist Iconography
The earliest practicing Buddhists in Myanmar were the Mon and later the Pyu people. The Burmese Buddha and their Buddhist Iconography was influenced through interactions with India and Sri Lanka. Much of the art from the early Pyu and mon period show a mix of Mahayana Buddhism, Tantricism, animism and Theravada influence, which can be seen on wall paintings and sculptures from this period.
The early Pagan period is undeniably the most significant period in the history of the Buddha art in Burma.