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The reclining Buddha is a major iconographic style of statuary, representing Siddhārtha Gautama’s final illness, as he was about to enter the parinirvana, death after attaining nirvana, which ended the karmic cycle of rebirths. The style was part of the Greek influence on Buddhist art that developed after the Asian conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE . The Greek satrap of Bactria, along the modern Afghan-Uzbekistan border, seceded from the Seleucid empire around 250 BCE, becoming King Diodotus I. Then, early in the 2nd century BCE, king Demetrius II Aniketos (the Invincible) conquered the so-called “Indo-Greek Kingdom,” actually a series of small, transient polities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. During the two centuries of their existence, the Indo-Greek kings blended Greek and Indo-Iranian languages and symbols and Greek, Hindu, and Buddhist religious practices. One outstading example is the Golden Reclining Buddha adjacent to Phat That Luang (Great Stupa) in Vientiane, Laos. The site was originally a Hindu temple built in the 3rd century, but at nearly the same time Aśoka, whose Mauryan Empire covered most of the Indian subcontinent from the Hindu Kush mountains to Bangladesh, sent missionaries to the area, bearing the Buddha’s breastbone, and they converted it to a Buddhist temple. The Khmers rebuilt it in the 13th century, but it fell into ruin. In 1566, after defeating the Burmese, king Setthathirat transferred his capital from Luang Prabang to Viang Chan (Vientiane) and rebuilt the temple as Pha That Luang. It was destroyed by Siam in 1828 and once again abandoned, but the French architect, Louis Delaporte, who explored the Mekong river in the late 1860s, made detailed drawings that served as the basis of its reconstruction in 1900 and again in 1930. It was destroyed again during World War II and quickly rebuilt. It is covered with 500 kg of gold leaf.
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