Materials used in the crafting of Burmese Buddha statues and other Buddhist iconography in Burma are mainly of wood, marble, alabaster, bronze, sandstone and lacquer.
Most old monasteries are made from teak wood and ancient historical sites mostly made with bricks.
Buddhism was introduced into Burma around the 3rd century A.D., by their Northern Indian neighbors who practiced a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. Prior to the introduction of Buddhism, animism or spirit worship was the predominant form of worship.
Buddhism in Burma today is still very much intertwined and coexists alongside Nat and spirit worship which is reflected in much of their art and culture.
Between 1044 – 1077 A.D., the first Burman King, King Anawrahta of Pagan, attempted to discourage Nat and spirit worship, wishing to make Buddhism the prominent form of religion. Although he succeeded and Buddhism gained in popularity, Nat and spirit worship still remained strong among his people.
Further endeavors to persuade his people to convert to Buddhism resulted in the legitimization of thirty seven of the most popular nats. Although this is written in many texts related to King Anawrahta’s efforts to convert his people, it is more factual that many of these chosen thirty seven Nats came into existence much later.
During the early Pagan period, Buddhism was a mix of both Theravada, Mahayana and Tantric practices. Theravada Buddhism, the main form of Buddhism practiced in Myanmar and is second to the Mahayana form of Buddhism which originated in India, and is the most popular form of Buddhism practiced today in many parts of Asia such as China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea and Tibet.
Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion in Burma and Thailand with its own distinct practices, it is considered to be the purest form of Buddhism practiced today.
Burmese Buddha, Buddhist Iconography & Historical Sites
The earliest practicing Buddhists in Myanmar were the Mon and later the Pyu people. The Burmese Buddha and Buddhist Iconography was influenced through interactions with India and later during the Pagan Kingdom by Sri Lanka. Much of the art from the early Pyu and mon period show a mix of Mahayana Buddhism, Tantricism, animism and Theravada influence, which can be seen on wall paintings and sculptures from this period.
The early Pagan period is undeniably the most significant period in the history of the Buddha art in Burma.