Pyu period Buddha statues
Art from this period belongs to mixed-blood Mons, named by archeologists as the Pyu. They later mixed with the Myan people from which the Pagan Kingdom arose in 1044. Early Buddhist art from The Pyu and The Pyu-Myan prior to the foundation of the Pagan Kingdom, involved the making of religious objects as an act of faith towards the Mahayana Buddhism. The style of this early Pyu (Myanmar) art, reflecting the origins of the Pyu people, was basically the Mon style of the time mixed the Tibetan style brought by the Myan. The art of Myanmar, Myanmar art or Burmese Art, during this period, therefore, can be divided into three differing styles:
1. The Hanlin Style of Pyu Art (from the 3rd 9th centuries):
This style is a combination of local Pyu art with art from Northern and Eastern Indian. Most Buddha statues found in Hanlin were of crowned Buddha seated in the crossed-legged or folded-legged position and with symbols of the five Thayani Buddhas and the Sri Shakyamuni Buddha. Images of the Buddha in simple monk robes have also been found.
2. The Pyu Style of Art from Srikasetra (from 3rd 9th centuries)
This style is the Pyu-Indian art found in the ancient city of Srikasetta and dates back to before it became combined with the Mon style. The style of Buddha images in this period was named after the ethnic group that made them, rather than the city where they were found and is thus called the “Pyu Style”. Buddha Statues from this period are mostly seated in the crossed-legged position, some with an outer robe (Sanghati) over both shoulders and some with only a civara (Jivorn) across the left shoulder. The differences between the Hanlin and Pyu styles can be seen in the illustrations. Religious artifacts from these times reflect the philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism where the foreheads of most images were marked with Urna (Unalom). Sri Lankan art also had some influence due to the close relations that existed between Sri Lanka and the Mon Kingdom at that time. Finally, around the end of this period, the Pala style of art from Eastern India brought changes to the pattern of the face and head of the Buddha image, especially the Pra Ghetmala (top of the head) and the halo. Most images at this time were made from thin cast bronze with a high silver and tin content. This material was black with a hard shiny appearance but was easily broken.
3. Later Pyu Art The Early Pagan Style (9th 11th centuries)
Early Pagan art was a combination of Pyu and Myan styles which featured some crowned Buddha images with ornaments and Buddha images in simple monk’s robes, often including symbols of the five Thayani Buddhas. Buddha statues portrayed as the Nirmanakaya of the Sri Sakayamuni Buddha, however, were rare. Around that period the Pagan Kingdom and the mixed-blood group, later called the “Myanmar”, were coming together and would soon develop a distinctive Pagan art style.