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And He Took A Road Less Travelled By: Reading Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha

Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha appears with a unique sensibility where it transcends the limits of a mere biographical account and becomes an engagement into the rich historical, social, psychological, and political events of Buddha’s time. Through the employment of graphic art techniques, the reader, too, embarks on a journey with Buddha.
 The novelist has artistically captured the important moments of Buddha’s life and history. Using a personal-comical narrative technique, the story saves itself from becoming a dry philosophy.
 The use of contemporary vocabulary makes it a reader-friendly story. What appears as the most striking feature of the series is its graphic form. The picturisation has made Buddha’s representation even more poignant. And it is not just Buddha or his story. We see a spiritual transformation of a numerous people who come before and after him.
The rigorous journey of Buddha, in which the author draws himself taking a small part, shows the difficult path the author, too, had to go through in order to realize and achieve his dreams. Such bildungsroman-like development is visible in the cover of the books. When we put all the volumes together, we get a complete picture of Buddha’s transition from Siddhartha to the Enlightened Being. Just as each cover presents only a part of Buddha’s face, the stories signify that in order to understand Buddha we need to go through his entire life history. Similarly, Buddha also remains incomplete without Tatta, Naradutta, and the animals in his life.

Thus, by reading this series, we too, reach to a pivotal moment where we realize that we are all connected to the great universe. At the wake of the new era where we are torn with religious, social, ecological and economic inequalities, a revisit to the life of Buddha seems all the more relevant. And it is due to Tezuka’s wonderful efforts that we are able to do that now.

Anandita Pan
Research Scholar, IIT,

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