Religious traditions do not communicate merely through words; they also use the language of image, space, and form. In the centuries after the death of the Buddha, Buddhists developed distinctive artistic and architectural styles to express their understanding of the Buddha’s teaching and to serve as the focus of worship and veneration.
The earliest images were made in a so-called “aniconic” style, representing the Buddha by his symbols or by his absence. In later centuries, under the influence of Hellenistic and indigenous Indian traditions, Buddhists used the classic Gupta style to represent the image of the Buddha. This style served as the source and inspiration for Buddhist art throughout the rest of Asia.