Pala India, seated Manjushri across the centuries

10th century, Norteast India, bodhisattva Manjushri, bronze, private collection

10th century, Northeast India, bodhisattva Manjushri, bronze with turquoise inlay, private collection

Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, holds a sword (to cut through ignorance) and a manuscript. His belt has an incised pattern. He wears a thin billowing scarf. The early Pala style is easily recognisable through the tall lotus base with flat petals, the very simple jewellery, the tall chignon, the use of a dark copper alloy and the absence of gilding.

11th-12th century, Easter India, bodhisattva Manjushri, brass, at the Ashmolean Museum (UK)

11th-12th century, Easter India, bodhisattva Manjushri, brass, at the Ashmolean Museum (UK)

This is the peaceful form of Manjushri, without the sword but with a manuscript on top of a long-stemmed lotus. He has a foot resting on a lotus flower. The jewellery is more elaborate , the chignon is shorter. On this statue, the drapery of his garment is very realistic.

12th century, Northeast India, bodhisattva Manjushri, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, at the British Museum (London)
12th century, Northeast India, bodhisattva Manjushri, gilt copper alloy with turquoise and silver inlay, at the British Museum (London)

His  eyes, his necklaces and the ribbon holding his crown are inlaid with silver. His belt is very ornate and the end of his sash is inlaid with turquoise. He wears a billowing scarf and an extra set of ribbons in his head dress which fly upwards, and some armbands with a large leaf design. These features reappear, separately or together, in later Tibetan and Nepalese works.

On Pala Indian sculptures, the stone inlay is normally discreet and made with turquoise or lapis lazuli.

12th-13th century, Northeast India, Manjushri,

12th-13th century, Northeast India, Manjushri, copper alloy, private collection

The facial features, triangular chignon with a small crown whose ribbons are shooting upwards,  the patterned  belt and the shape of the double lotus base are all typical of the Pala style. The armbands seem to be missing, the rest of the jewellery is very discreet. He holds a manuscript in his left hand and a sword in the other. There is a lotus flower to his left and a slim billowing scarf on his shoulders.

 

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