Transitional period, late 10th-early 11th century
Gilt copper with inlays of semiprecious stones
H. 26 ¾ in.
After the death of the Buddha, his teachings were written down by his
followers who spread his message. An organized religion began to take
form. With the passage of time, a new branch of Buddhism emerged, called
Mahayana. An important element in Mahayana belief was the worship of bodhisattvas.
While the Buddha transcends mortal concerns after attaining enlightenment
and withdraws from the world, a bodhisattva, though spiritually advanced,
chooses to remain on earth to help all beings become enlightened.
spread from India into surrounding regions. Nepal was a critical link
between north and east India and other nations. We assume that Buddhist
teachings were introduced into the region during or just after the reign
of Ashoka (reigned about 269-32 B.C.E.). Although Buddhism gradually died
out in India, many schools and sects of Buddhism were (and still are)
active in Nepal.
to look at this work
Images of bodhisattvas are visual representations of their natures:
a bodhisattva lives in this world, he wears the appropriate worldly
· Here he wears a shirtlike garment (dhoti) with floral design that
wraps around his waist and between his legs. A sash is wrapped over
the dhoti, around the hips, and is tied at his left.
· He wears elaborate, bejeweled ornaments: a necklace with a large pendant,
armlets, bracelets and a belt. He wears long earrings and an elaborate
crown. His hair hangs down on his shoulders.
· A sacred thread hangs down from his left shoulder. It symbolized his
high social and religious status.
mark on his forehead (urna) refers to his supernatural wisdom.
hands are held in the gesture of teaching, in which the thumbs touch
the index or middle finger.
can identify this bodhisattva as Avalokiteshvara because of the small
seated sculpture of the Amitabha Buddha in his headdress. Other bodhisattvas
have different identifying marks.
figure stands in a relaxed posture with one knee flexed. He has a smooth,
bare torso with broad shoulders and a small waist.
We cannot be certain about the exact function of this particular image,
but we know that in Nepal today, as in earlier times, images like this
were the focal point of personal worship and religious ritual. Devotees
dress and adorn such images with flowers. Worship also involves attendance
by Buddhist priests, who might dress them, bathe them, and burn incense
before them. They might reside in a temple or on a home altar or they
may be carried in processions to celebrate important religious events.
this object was made
This image was produced using the lost-wax method. The sculpture was then
gilded (covered in gold) and inlaid with semiprecious stones.