Sep 6, 2007

The Paranirvana of Buddha, Gal Vihara, Polonnaruva, Ceylon

The Paranirvana of Buddha, Gal Vihara, Polonnaruva, Ceylon


Joseph Lawton

(British, d. 1874)

Albumen print

Image: 21.4 x 28.2 cm (8 7/16 x 11 1/8 in.); Matted: 35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.)

Gift of Louise S. Richards 1976.156



The Buddha's death is called the parinirvana, which signals the moment when he moves into an eternal blissful state, free of any suffering or future rebirths. This state, known as nirvana, is the ultimate goal for followers of Buddhism.

During the 8th century, a colossal depiction of the Buddha's parinirvana was the focus of worship at a monastic establishment on the island of Sri Lanka off the southeastern coast of India. By the 19th century, the site had fallen into ruins, and commercial photographer Joseph Lawton was selected by the British Archaeological Committee in Kandy, Sri Lanka, to document the site. Lawton's intentional inclusion of a Sri Lankan figure in a posture of adoration and a colonial Englishman clambering over the ruins provides a sense of the sculpture's impressive scale.

See also
Type of artwork: 
Albumen print

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