Ladakh, the Hemis monastery

The Huntington Archive (see link in left-hand column) includes a series of black and white photos made at the Hemis monastery, in the ancient Tibetan kingdom of Ladakh, details of which have been published in previous posts. Here are the others.

9th-11th century, buddha, copper alloy.

9th-11th century, buddha, copper alloy.

This singular buddha has the typical Kashmiri facial features and stands on a Kashmir-style lotus base (moon disc, lotus, square plinth with smaller then larger parts) but the body and head proportions are different and the folds of his robe are particularly thick.

Same dating and materials, Avalokiteshvara Padmapani.

Same dating and materials, Avalokiteshvara Padmapani.

9th-11th c., Ladakh,  Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, 106 cm, Hemis monastery

9th-11th c., Ladakh, Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, 106 cm, Hemis monastery

The statue has an elaborate two-piece flaming mandorla at the back which may or may not be from the same period. The cloths wrapping it prevents having a good view of the work but we can see the developed pectorals and pointed facial features typical of Kashmir, and the crown made of three triangular panels connected with a wire (to prevent breaking), one of which with an effigy of Amitabha, and the large bows on each side of the head, both features of Indian origin, typical of Western Tibet.

Same as above, unidentified buddha.

Same as above, unidentified buddha.

9th-11th century, Ladakh, unidentified bodhisattva, 38 cm, Hemis monastery

9th-11th century, Ladakh, unidentified bodhisattva, 38 cm, Hemis monastery

This figure on a lion throne could be the historical buddha but his hand gestures are not typical. The big head and hands, typical of parts of Tibet, were often hollow cast separately and added to the statue at the end. His face is broader and his body less muscly than on Kashmiri works, he doesn’t have the usual cruciform navel and there are no visible folds on his robe, giving it a doll-like appearance.

Same as above, bodhisattva Vajrapani.

Same as above, bodhisattva Vajrapani.

Standing statues made in Ladakh at an early stage have some outstanding, perfectly round kneecaps, and a very long and thick garland of flowers which we meet again in the Guge sculptures (Western Tibet). This statue has the Kashmiri-style muscly body and pointed facial features but an oversized head in comparison with the rest of the body. It stands on a square plinth decorated with an intricate floral design. Vajrapani holds a thunderbolt or vajra in his right hand and a bell or ghanta in the other. His low crown, made of two rows of crescents, is typical of Ladakh. It can be seen on figures at the Tabo monastery which will be the object of another post.

Same as above, Avalokiteshvara Padmapani

Same as above, Avalokiteshvara Padmapani.

This is similar to the previous statue but with a smaller head, a tall crown decorated with rosettes and softer facial features, in the Guge style. Padmapani has an effigy of Amitabha in the central panel of his crown and an antelope skin over his left shoulder and knotted across his muscly chest. The navel is lobed but it lacks a series of folds that are characteristic of Kashmiri works.

Same as previous

Same as previous

This is the Guge style in all its splendour. The body proportions are realistic, the face is broad and the eyes are large, giving it a serene aspect, the tall tripartite crown is decorated with large bows and ribbons. He has the Kashmiri-style broad chest and developed pectorals, thin waist, marked abdomen with four lobes around the navel. His dhoti is longer on one side and richly decorated with an incised pattern.

 

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