ABHAYA MUDRA (Syllabus: GS Paper 1 – History)

News-CRUX-10     3rd July 2024        
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Context: In his inaugural address as Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha invoked the abhaya mudra, symbolizing reassurance and fearlessness, marking a significant gesture in parliamentary proceedings.


Abhaya Mudra

  • About: It is associated with the Buddha immediately after he obtained Enlightenment, “portraying a sense of the security, serenity, and compassion that derive from enlightenment” (Buswell and Lopez).
  • Symbol across South Asian Religions: It is common in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, symbolizing fearlessness and protection.
  • Meaning of 'Abhaya': 'Abhaya' in Sanskrit means fearlessness; the gesture signifies peace and protection, promoting courage and reducing fear and anxiety in yoga practices.
  • Prominence in Buddhism: Most prominently featured in Buddhism, particularly in Thailand and Laos, associated with images of the walking Buddha.
  • Historical and Natural Gesture: Described as a "natural gesture" used since pre-historic times to signify peace or friendship, reflecting goodwill and non-aggression.

    Mudras in Buddhism

    • Meaning: In Buddhism, mudras refer to hand and arm gestures used in rituals and depicted in Buddhist art, symbolizing various aspects of enlightenment.
    • Association with Buddharupa: Mudras are commonly seen in depictions of Buddharupa, with each gesture conveying specific meanings and moods reflective of the Buddha's spiritual realizations.
    • Historical Development: Initially, the Buddha was symbolically represented rather than in physical form, with early depictions emerging around the first millennium CE in Gandhara and Gupta art styles.
    • Evolution and Expansion: As Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism spread, mudras diversified in iconography and ritual practice, adapting to reflect new teachings and cultural influences beyond India.
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