Robert L. Brown, The Feminization of the Sarnath Gupta-Period Buddha Images

Groups of figures with Vesantasena (kneeling), stone, 2nd c., National Museum, New Delhi.

During the second half of the fifth century a style of Buddha image developed at Sarnath (India) that showed radical changes from previous images.  The article focuses on three of these changes--the downcast eyes, the absent genitals, and the slight body--to ask what these changes meant and what were their possible sources.  It suggests that the stylistic characteristics can be interpreted as a “feminization” of the image, not in terms of making the image physically female, but in producing a less-masculine gender that is specific to the image and that may relate to the female gender of contemporary wives and mothers.


home page