Departing from the greco-buddhist standards, this work depicts Avalokiteshvara with his hair tied in a fan-shaped bunch adorned with an effigy of Amitabha, no moustache, wearing only a lower garment held in place with a small belt, a broad sash across the hips, adorned with serpentine armbands, two necklaces, floral earrings and a sacred thread, flanked by a female attendant. He holds the stem of what may have been a lotus in his left hand.
This bodhisattva, possibly Avalokiteshvara (he seems to be holding a lotus), has a tiny head in comparison with the broad shoulders, big arms and large rectangular torso. He is adorned with a foliate crown, uncommon for this period and area, and is seated on a cushion over a base decorated with a geometrical pattern. We can see remains of a back plate. As is traditional in Gandharan art, his upper garment covers the left shoulder and forearm while the other side is uncovered and reveals an armband and he wears bulky necklaces, one of them across the chest.
This may also be Avalokiteshvara in his padmapani form, with a moon-like face, no moustache, the same type of body proportions and accessories but a headdress typical of the Kushan period, seated on a cushion over a lotus with flat pointed petals and sepals going downwards. His tight-fitting garment has sharp pleating with deep grooves, the lower part is arranged in a rectangular shape over the base.
1st century, Afghanistan, Sahr i Bahlol, Avalokiteshvara, schist, photo by Jyoti Srivastava.
For comparison, a standard greco-buddhist sculpture of a bodhisattva, his hair gathered in a scallop-shaped bunch, adorned with a crown, a short and a medium length necklace over the chest, another two necklaces, going round the right shoulder and across the chest respectively, wearing a shawl over his left shoulder and right arm, his lower garment neatly arranged in the same specific manner as the first seated buddha above.
This post-Gandharan work has the quality of greco-buddhist sculpture but exaggerated body proportions. The bodhisattva’s hair is gathered in a rigid bunch that forms a straight line, contrasting with the long ribbons that flow on each side of his face; the folds of his shawl on the left shoulder are unusually sinuous. He holds a water pot between his hands, against his heart (instead of by the neck, over his lap).