Buddhapada (Buddha's Footprints)

March 17, 2015 · updated December 13, 2023

A sculpture from ancient Gandhara, South Asia, depicting the footprints of the Buddha, known in Sanskrit as Buddhapada. 2nd century (Kushan period, c. late 1st – early 4th century CE). Yale University Art Gallery. Wikimedia Commons

The footprints of the Buddha (Buddhapada) are one of the early representations of the Buddha in the anticonic (no statues) stage of Buddhist art. The Buddhapada are highly revered in all Buddhist countries, especially in Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Symbolizing the grounding of the transcendent, feet have been objects of respect in India long before Buddhism. According to Buddhist legend, after the Buddha attained enlightenment, his feet made an imprint in the stone where he stepped.

In another tradition, the infant Buddha took seven steps after his birth to symbolize his spiritual domination of the universe.

The footprints of the Buddha symbolize the Buddha's presence, as they are believed to be the imprints where the Buddha actually touched the ground. At the same time, the Buddhapada signify the Buddha's absence now that he has entered nirvana, and thus are a reminder of the Buddhist ideal of nonattachment.

The Buddha's footprints are usually depicted with the toes of all one length and with a dharmachakra (wheel) in the center.

Other early Buddhist symbols also appear on the heels and toes, such as the lotus, the swastika and the triratna (Three Jewels).

Some Buddhapada can be very large and detailed, displaying the 32, 108 or 132 distinctive marks of a Buddha in a checkerboard pattern.

These symbols are also seen on the bottom of the feet of large statues of the reclining Buddha.

Sculptures of Buddha's footprints are usually protected in a special temple structure, where the faithful bring flowers and other offerings to them. The Buddhapada image can also be found on Tibetan thangkas.


    - "Footprints of the Buddha." BuddhaNet Buddhist Studies. Accessed March 2005.

    • "Limestone Panel Depicting the Buddhapada." British Museum.
    • "General Buddhist Symbols: Buddhapada." A View on Buddhism, accessed March 2005.
External Links on the Buddhapada - The World of the Buddha Footprint - Website devoted to the Buddha footprint by researcher Dr. Waldemar C. Sailer.
  • 1st century BCE Limestone Panel Depicting the Buddhapada - British Museum. Image (enlargeable) and description.
  • 1st century BCE or CE Buddhapada Relief in Red Sandstone - Asian Art Resource. Image and description.
  • 2nd century CE Footprints of Buddha - Katonah Museum of Art. Image and short description.
  • Buddha's Footprint in Saraburi Province, Thailand - Thailand Guidebook