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Document Details :

Title: On the Origins of the 32 Marks of a Great Man
Author(s): MCGOVERN, Nathan
Journal: Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
Volume: 39    Date: 2016   
Pages: 207-247
DOI: 10.2143/JIABS.39.0.3200526

Abstract :
This article examines the early development of the theme of the ‘32 Marks of a Great Man’ in the Buddhist tradition. The first part of the article examines the emergence of this theme in the early Buddhist oral tradition, preserved in the sūtras of various surviving versions of the Tripiṭaka. The second part of the article then demonstrates that there are numerous parallels between the Buddhist list of 32 marks and ideas recorded in the chapters on physiognomy and ‘Great Men’ in the 6th century Bṛhatsaṃhitā of Varāhamihira. These parallels strongly suggest that, as the Buddhist texts suggest, there is indeed a relationship between the Buddhist concept of ‘32 Marks’ and Brahmanical physiognomy, although the historical development of that relationship is still poorly understood.

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