Swat Valley, seated Avalokiteshvara (3)

7th-8th century, Swat Valley, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy and cold gold, private collection, photo by Koller.

7th-8th century, Swat Valley, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy and cold gold, private collection, photo by Koller.

This is a rare image of the bodhisattva, with what seems to be a goitre. It is worth pointing that this is a common affliction in the Himalayan region, due to a shortage of iodine, and that Avalokiteshvara is the bodhisattva of compassion.

His facial features are not typical of the area (or Kashmir) but they are reminiscent of a singular 8th century Maitreya from Gilgit published in a previous post and the armbands are identical to those on another 8th century Maitreya from Gilgit now at the Nelson Atkins museum, seated on a similar throne.

7th-8th-c-swat-valley-avalokiteshvara-c-a-cold-g-2156-cm-amitabha-in-crown-koller

He wears a crown with the side panels folded towards the centre and an effigy of Amitabha in the middle. The side bows of the crown are placed behind the ears, rather than above.

7th-8th-c-swat-valley-avalokiteshvara-c-a-cold-g-2156-cm-back-koller

His hair is a long mass of unusually thick curls, except for two thin braids that fall over his shoulders. A long pleated celestial scarf rests over his arms and across his back, the ends tucked under him.

7th-8th-c-swat-valley-avalokiteshvara-c-a-cold-g-2156-cm-dhotibelt-koller

His dhoti has deeply incised pleats, the upper part is adorned with a flower and festooned cloth. He displays the varada mudra with his right hand and holds the neck of a flask with the other.

7th-8th-c-swat-valley-avalokiteshvara-c-a-cold-g-2156-cm-lion-throne-koller

Another singular detail is the way the lions are turning their back to each other, instead of supporting the throne on it as they normally do. A single letter is inscribed on the tasseled cloth at the front of the throne.

 

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