Why was Mahāmoggallāna blue?

At my Sri Lankan temple, his skin colour is blue, and I recently saw three more images where, again, he is of blue colour. What is the reason?


Moggallāna’s body was of the colour of the blue lotus or the rain cloud (Bu.i.58). There exists in Ceylon an oral tradition that this colour is due to his having suffered in hell in the recent past!

Source: http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/maha/maha_moggallana_th.htm

I remember reading once that he was probably dark skinned. To suggest he had Argyria one needs to assume he could find and consume himself alone lots of colloidal silver back 2,500 years ago! :grin:

1 Like

Milarepa (of the Tibetan tradition) was supposed to have had green-colored skin from drinking so much nettle tea.

i have personally experienced, and witnessed people who drink too much carrot juice have their skin gradually turn orange from all the beta carotene. cutting back on the carrots, skin goes back to normal.

i’d guess another reason VM (ven. moggallana) is represented as blue is to have a distinguishing feature that can be publicly recognized in popular art. perhaps that also contributed to the buddha having grotesquely exaggerated 32 marks in popular art.

the question that has burned in my mind is why there aren’t any images and depictions of the Buddha where he follows the vinaya (shaves the hair on his head regularly). in MN 128, a layperson wouldn’t let me enter the monastery because he didn’t recognize him as “The Buddha”, presumably because he wore the same kind of robe, had a shaved head, and looked like any other bhikkhu. If he had 32 marks, they would have been subtle and required an expert to recognize it, we can deduce from teh suttas that mention 32 great marks.

anyone on SC an artist? Can we create some art where the Buddha looks like a bhikkhu?

Many of the gods in traditional Indian culture are depicted with blue skin, suggesting the divine vastness of the skies and oceans. Perhaps Moggallana’s preeminence in supernormal powers, and his ability to converse with divine beings such as Sakka, was thought to bring him into closer connection with the divine realms?


Carotenosis. A harmless condition.

A study has actually shown that ratings of facial attractiveness are higher for those with higher carotene intake, though probably not that much carotene! :blush:

[quote="DKervick, post:6, topic:4046, full:true"]
Many of the gods in traditional Indian culture are depicted with blue skin, suggesting the divine vastness of the skies and oceans. Perhaps Moggallana's preeminence in supernormal powers, and his ability to converse with divine beings such as Sakka, was thought to bring him into closer connection with the divine realms?
That is a plausible explanation. He looks a lot like Krishna.

In the Indian color-conception, “blue” stands for “dark”. Those with very dark skin were felt to be blue-black. Hence Krishna, whose name means “black”. The blue hue become emphasized over time; I am not sure why. So Moggallāna was, or was believed to be, dark-skinned.


This reminds me of the issue with Greeks and the blue colour



This will hopefully clear your doubts.

With Metta

I have heard, though I am unable to provide any references, that Ven Moggallana became blue when he was beaten mercilessly by hired thugs almost to his death which was the fruit of his action of killing his own blind parents in a very distant past life. Even though he escaped from his attackers twice using his psychic powers he himself realized that he had no escape from that heinous crime hence he allowed to be beaten to death and accept the true nature of the Dhamma.

He, however, was able to visit the Buddha and pay his last respects to him before parinibbana.

All subsequent statues of Ven Moggallana were painted blue just to reflect this fact.

With Metta

Sorry, not an artist, but if you do find one I’d love to see one of the portraits based on AN48.41 (oops!) SN48.41


blue, dark blue or sometimes black is the colour of a mantra practioner in buddhism. In the discourse about the disciples who excelled in special capacities and qualities (A. I, 13), the Buddha said that Moggallana was foremost among the Bhikkhus who possessed magical faculties and powers.
Maybe there is also a connection to the buddhist school of Mahīśāsaka, because the Mahīśāsaka always wore blue robe.

Bhikkhuni Uppalavannā skin was the “colour of blue lotus” and she possed magical powers, too.

Do you know why he was blue? because his nervous system was damaged when he went to find the endless world by using his magical powers without getting any permission from Load Buddha, afterwards, Load Buddha has got a notification signal that Moggallana was not in this world, he was traveling to find the end and birth of the world, Load Buddha has seen from his mind, and do you know what Load Buddha did afterward?, Load Buddha has unlimited power, using that power he pulls Moggallana down to earth within few nanoseconds, and Moggallana try to understand what happened, and he realized Load Buddha has unlimited power, and his power was second to Load Buddha, and he has apologized to Load Buddha because he did not say anything before he was going. Due to that reason, his nervous system becomes blue and it shows outside of the body, and he knows that if he finds the end, he will gradually die due to traveling on an endless journey. However, after apologizing he becomes stable, but the color is not changed. There is another reason for blue, that one is a deep realization of Load Buddha’s theories and reasons why this was happening to Moggallana, and not to other disciples of Load Buddha. If you want to learn that, you may follow Load Buddha’s teachings. (Source: Tripitaka from Sri Lanka), You can take it from the Internet as well, I am not quite sure about English translation, but I referred to the “Sinhala” Translation of the Original Tripitaka. That is it. :blush:

@thanuka, can you please tell us the source of this legend? Or, if you don’t know the source, at least where you heard it from?
Thanks. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Hi Gilian,

It is the source of Tripitaka, Sri Lankan known as “Buddhist heart”, you can find English Translation in Theravada Buddhist - English Tripitaka if you go on “Mahamevnawa” is a temple in Sri Lanka, i believe you can buy lots of books of English Translation in Tripitaka. :blush:

No worries.

It looks like part of your answer got cut off … Theravada Buddhist something.. Do you have a web link to help readers outside of Sri Lanka?

1 Like

No, it is something like Bibile, you have to borrow those Theravada Buddhisum books to understand, I believe it is a bigger than Bible, However, if you are typing on Google “Thripitaka” then you will find Buddhisum books to read, but there are quite a lot. It takes time to understand lots of theories. :blush:

I believe your doubts are okay. I cannot refer to specific location on Thripitaka books, but if you read, you may understand.
Moggallana is only second to Load Buddha from his magical and physical powers, Sariputta is only second to Load Buddha’s Mind of teaching powers. Those two legends are quite remarkable in Buddhist history.

People are confused because Buddhism is divided into two sections now in this world, one is Mahayana, the other one is Theravada. … Some people argue that Mahayana is right, and others do believe Theravada is right. So people are confused which one is right?..so be careful you are going on the right path? Load Buddha says “don’t believe what I say, try to experience, understand those words that I say, experiment and you will see in your mind what is going on in your life, come and see, have a look, if it is wrong, then reject what I teach, if it is right, take it” that his words.