The Buddhist Art of Ancient Arakan ( IV )


The “Fat Monk” Image

According to Gordon luce:, writing in his book “Old Pagan” the Fat Monk image is a widespread and ancient type of image frequently found in old relic chambers at such well known sites as Sriksetra, Rangoon, Pegu, Mandalay, Pagan and so on. The Fat Monk is invariably depicted with a bulging belly, always sitting crosslegged, usually in padmasana, either in dhyana mudra, or with both hands supporting his belly. He is often depicted sitting on a double lotus throne, sometimes on a bare pedestal, and on rare occasions, with a back-slab behind him His statuettes, always small (up to 9 inches height), are made from many kinds of material including stone, bronze, silver-gilt, bronze-gilt, plaster, terracotta, and even unburnt clay, sometimes lacquered and gilded.

Luce's book “Old Pagan” contains pictures of ten different images of the Fat Monk, together with an account concerning them. Luce raised the question of who the Fat Monk could have been, and tried to answer it with some conjectures of his own and of others. We read therefore that Charles Duroiselle first took the Fat Monk to be the pot-bellied Jambhala or Kubera, Lord of the Yakasa and as such, the god of wealth. He is later said to have accepted the idea that the monk might be Kaccayana monk, a scholar and the author of the first Pali Grammer. We are also given U Mya's view that these figures probably represented Gavampati, the patron saint of the Mons. Since Luce could not be sure about whom the Fat Monk represented, he merely stated that he leant towards U Mya's opinion, giving his reasons for his stand.

In 1922, one small stone image of such a Fat Monk was found in Arakan. It was found by a taung-ya cultivator from among the ruins of an old brick pagoda at panzeemyaung phyar about three miles east of the old brick pagoda at panzeemyaung phyar about three miles east of the old Vesali site. The image is 4.4 inches high, 2.4 inches wide and 0.9 inch thick. The Fat Monk is depicted in a sitting posture, with his right foot placed on his left thigh. He is shown sitting on a lotus throne, with a back-slab behind him. The back-slab is decorated with flower petals around the border. The monk is in dhyana mudra with his left hand placed on the right hand, and he has a piece of cloth wrapped around the chest, with one end of the piece hanging down over the left shoulder.

See picture. Go

It appears that the image is no longer in its original form. This tampering with the original was due to the thought-less acts of process of beautification set in motion through good intentions and pious impulses, the net result was that it ruined the original art. Fortunately, however, the backside of the back-slab has not been tampered with, and still possesses a line of inscription in the Brahmi script: See Plate 9. According to the palaeographical consideration of the script, the image can be dated around the beginning of the Christian era. The line can be translated as Saccakaparibajaka (ji) na.

Saccakaparibajaka was a Nirgrantha Jina ascetic. He lived in Vaisali during the lifetime of the Buddha. He was a philosopher and teacher. He was said to have challenged Mahavira and the Buddha to a discussion with him about whose philosophy was the best. We are Buddha and acknowledge the Buddha's superiority. In Dr.Malalasekera's Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, Saccaka was mentioned as one of those who became a follower of the Buddha.

This Fat Monk discovered in Arakan, whose identity was revealed in the inscription at the back of the back-slab, has now enlightened us regarding the Fat Monks found in other parts of Burma, as has already been mentioned by Gordon Luce.

...Posted By... Arakan Research Centre ...Date... Thursday, November 03, 2011. ...Post Title... , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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