City Hangout – Buddhist Art Gallery, National Museum
A journey into Buddhism.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
So meditative and so very calm. That’s how one imagines how Lord Buddha was.
It is also the state of mind one encounters at the gallery devoted to Buddhist Art in New Delhi’s prestigious National Museum. Many of the exhibits are of Buddha himself; while the minimalist 8th century statue of Siddhaikavira from Nalanda in Bihar stands by the entrance, sparkling in its simplicity. The sculpture is shown wearing a necklace along with a dhoti that the unknown sculptor has depicted like a wave of river tide lingering on his legs.
Then there’s the 5th Century Buddha Head from Sarnath inside a glass cage that has a powerful meditative aspect. The smooth face is carved from a block of Chunar sandstone: the eyes are closed and the lips are shaped in a solemn expression. Almost a kind of indifference to the material world. The more you gaze upon this face, the more tranquil you might feel.
Also on display is a Buddha Head from Indonesia, very different in appearance, and yet evoking the same feelings. And the 3rd Century Bodhisattava Head from Gandhara, in present-day Afghanistan, looks too Greek, like Alexander himself. The Golden Buddha from Burma, meanwhile, is a gift from its prime minister of the day.
For scores of visitors, and particularly Buddhists, this is not a museum at all but rather a living temple throbbing with divinity. Many visitors remove their slippers and bow towards the exhibits. Thus turning these man-made sculptures into figures of utmost sacredness. In fact, a notice in this particular hall tells the visitors that “offerings and donations of any kind is strictly prohibited.”
Enter into this hallowed space to experience the art and spirituality of the ancient times that effortlessly illuminate our minds and souls wrecked by modern-day anxieties.
An audience with Buddha