One of the five common mudras in Buddhist art, the varada mudra is associated with the third Dhyani-Buddha Ratnasambhava and is seen extensively in statues of the Buddha across Southeast Asia. It is depicted or performed in both the sitting and standing positions and is commonly known as the “boon-granting” mudra, or dana mudra. In India, this mudra makes its earliest appearance in depictions of Avalokitesvara during the fourth and fifth centuries.
Although the varada mudra is popularly thought to denote generosity or the fulfilling of boons or vows, it is also linked to the aspect of salvation and deliverance due to its frequent depiction in divine personages whose purpose is the liberation of humankind from greed, anger and delusion. The mudra is almost always depicted using the left hand, with the palm and all five fingers angled downward and facing the viewer.
When displayed in the standing position, the left arm is extended downwards and slightly away from the body, and bent at the elbow, with the mudra performed at waist-height. In the seated position, the gesture is usually depicted at the level of the chest. In some interpretations, the extended fingers also have symbolic value, connoting the five perfections of paramitas of generosity, morality, patience, perseverance and meditative focus.
When rendered as a two-handed gesture, the accompanying mudra performed with the right hand is typically the abhaya mudra. As a composite, this gesture is thought to imply the conceptual union of the female and male aspects of wisdom and agency respectively.
Asian Art｜Mudras: Buddhist Hand Positions. n.d. “Varada mudra.” Accessed 6 August 2020. https://www.burmese-art.com/about-buddha-statues/hand-positions/varada-mudra
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