The central figure, the Buddha Shakyamuni, is seated in vajraparyankasana on a moon disk on a lotus base. His right hand is in bhumisparsha-mudra (earth-touching gesture), while the left hand, making the meditation gesture, holds an alms-bowl. His eyes are half-closed, there is an urna (circle) between the eyebrows, the earlobes are distended and the neck has three folds (trivali) signifying the sweetness of his speech.
The Buddha's hair is painted blue with a prominent ushnisha (protuberance). There is a jewel on the top. He is wearing monastic cloaks, covering both the shoulders with the breast bare. The garments are decorated with floral motifs, leaves and stylized decorations. The borders are painted in gold. There is a sacred halo behind his head. The centre of halo is painted black, while the border has a beautiful stylized design. There is a mandorla behind his body with the border of protective wisdom flames. In the wisdom flames protector wrathful deities are shown. The sacred Bodhi-tree is visible behind the mandorla. In such a manifestation, the Buddha is generally flanked by either Sariputra and Maudgalyayana or Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya. Since the present figures are adorned with the usual costumes of Bodhisattva so they have been identified as Maitreya (on right) and Avalokiteshvara (proper left).
The upper right corner is packed with the army of the evil-god Mara, attacking the Buddha. Two ferocious dragons, in red and green complexions respectively, around the Buddha's head are also trying to frighten the Tathagata with their ferocious looks. The upper left corner of the painting is filled with flowers, leaves and clouds; in between these three miniatures Buddha figures have been depicted. In the lower foreground, Vajrapani (proper right), Kalachakra with consort (centre), and Mahakala (proper left) have been represented. There are four miniature seated deities, two either side of Kalachakra with different hand gestures.
The above posture of the Buddha relates to the event of his enlightenment. It is stated that when Shakyamuni had seated himself under the sacred Bodhi-tree with a strong resolution that he would not vacate it until the attainment of complete enlightenment (Bodhi); Mara, the demon tempter or evil-god raised the question of his worthiness and attacked him along with his army with weapons and temptations. The purpose of Mara was to prevent Siddhartha from total enlightenment, but he could not hurt or sway him from his chosen path. Finally, Siddhartha brushed the surface of his body with his right hand and then touched the earth with his fingertips, calling on the earth goddess to be witness to the countless compassionate deeds he had performed and the merit he had accumulated over his previous life times, thereby attesting to his right to reach final and complete enlightenment. The earth goddess thereafter appeared as eyewitness for his countless compassionate deeds and attested his right strongly to reach complete enlightenment. The evil forces were then conquered. It is said that by this gesture, the Buddha Shakyamuni destroyed all the demons of the earth.
A. Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Tokyo, 1962.
A. Waddell, The Buddhism and Lamaism of Tibet, Delhi, 1978 (reprint).
D. Snellgrove (ed.)., The Image of the Buddha, Delhi, 1978.
This description by Dr. Shailendra Kumar Verma, Ph.D. His doctorate thesis being on the "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (from its inception to 8th century A.D)."