Himachal Pradesh, two bodhisattvas

11th century, Himachal Pradesh, Kinnaur, Avalokiteshvara, brass, published by Dr Amy Heller.

11th century, Himachal Pradesh, Kinnaur, Avalokiteshvara, brass, published by Dr Amy Heller.

This is a one-head and four-arm form of Avalokiteshvara rarely seen in sculptures. The bodhisattva of compassion does the varada mudra (supreme generosity) with his lower right hand, the upper one holds a rosary, the other two hands hold the stem of a lotus and a manuscript – an attribute not normally associated with him. He wears very ornate floral jewellery, a three-leaf crown, a sacred thread, a foliate garland, an antelope skin over his left shoulder, a plain dhoti  held in place with a beaded belt, and possibly a celestial scarf.  The abnormally tall neck, thin waist and tubular legs contrast with the over-developed chest.

11th-12th century, Himachal Pradesh, Avalokiteshvara, brass,

11th-12th century, Himachal Pradesh, labelled Avalokiteshvara, brass, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

On the contrary, this bodhisattva has a short torso and long legs. Rather than Avalokiteshvara, this is likely to be Manjushri, identified through the blue lotus to his left and the manuscript on top (his right hand does the vitarka mudra, rarely seen on Himalayan sculptures of Avalokiteshvara or Manjushri). He wears a short dhoti with incised stripes, a long floral garland, a sacred thread…

11th-12th-c-himachal-pradesh-avalokiteshvara-brass-263-cm-pierced-lion-throne-elaborated-headdress-short-torso-typical-of-hp-striated-dhoti-close-up

and is adorned with an elaborate headdress inlaid with gemstones, large floral earrings, a short necklace and armbands. He has a round face with elongated eyes, which are incised rather than inlaid with silver.

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Himachal Pradesh, a mysterious bodhisattva

10th century Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh, Amoghapasha, brass, at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (USA).

10th century, Himachal Pradesh (formerly labelled Kashmir), bodhisattva, brass, at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (USA).

This bodhisattva, with one head and six arms,  is seated with a leg pendant, adorned with a three-leaf crown with a gem at the centre of the front panel, side bows, rosettes and flowing ribbons decorated with a stippled motif. His eyes are inlaid with silver. He wears jewellery, a sacred thread, a foliate garland and a short dhoti incised with a geometrical pattern. His navel is a hole punched into the abdomen (following the Indian rather than the Kashmiri tradition). His lower right hand displays the gesture of supreme generosity, the others hold a missing object (probably a rosary) and an arrow. In his left hands he has a bow, the stem of a lotus and a pot of water. He was originally thought to be Amoghapasha but the position of the fingers seem to indicate that he once held a rosary, not a noose (pasha), and  the bow and arrow are not normally associated with him.

On the other hand, the lotus flower, the rosary  and the water pot are attributes of Avalokiteshvara, who has very many forms. This may be one of them.

Himachal Pradesh, buddha on tortoise pedestal

11th century circa, Himachal Pradesh or Kashmir, Shakyamuni, brass, photo by Bonhams.

11th century circa, Himachal Pradesh or Kashmir, Shakyamuni, brass, photo by Bonhams.

This buddha’s muscly chest and body proportions and the mandorla behind him recall the Kashmiri style, but he doesn’t have the corresponding cruciform navel and lobed abdomen, only a small hole punched into the metal. His tight-fitting garments incised with stripes and the lotus base with flat pointed petals on which he stands are typical of Himachal Pradesh, while the tortoise-shaped pedestal  is a feature proper to Northeast India. The way his meditation cloak is pleated and its hem decorated is highly original, and so is the way his head is connected with a piece of metal to the lotus-bud finial on the nimbus attached to his shoulders. He holds his right hand in the fear-allaying gesture or abhaya mudra and his left hand in the gesture of generosity or varada mudra while also grasping one end of his garment as is customary in such images of the historical buddha.

Himachal Pradesh, 2 standing figures

11th-12th century, Chamba, former kingdom of Western Tibet, Tara, brass, at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (UK).

11th-12th century, Chamba, former kingdom of Western Tibet, Tara, brass, at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (UK).

Tara stands on a single-lotus base with flat, elongated heart-shaped petals typical of the area, over a  throne supported by two lions and a yaksha, surrounded with a mandorla with serrated flames, topped with a stupa, a moon crescent, a sun disc and flowing ribbons. She wears a tight-fitted bodice and long dhoti incised with stripes. Her Indian-style voluptuous body and fleshy face are very similar to those of another Tara sculpture at the Ashmolean Museum labelled as ‘9th century, Chamba’ (published in a previous post). She is adorned with a long garland of flowers typical of ancient West Tibetan sculptures (including  Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh), a low crown, and simple jewellery. In her right hand, she holds a rosary and does the fear-allaying gesture. The long stem of a lotus flower rising from the base passes through the other hand. Her large almond-shaped eyes are inlaid with silver.

13th century, Himachal Pradesh, Shakyamuni, brass, photo by Koller.

13th century, Himachal Pradesh, Shakyamuni, copper alloy, photo by Koller.

On this later work, which has quite different body proportions, we can appreciate similar characteristics with the lotus base, the dhoti and the flaming mandorla (which is topped with a parasol and flowing ribbons).

Himachal Pradesh, standing buddha

11th century circa, Himachal Pradesh, historical buddha Shakyamuni, brass, bears an inscription on the base, private collection.

11th century circa, Himachal Pradesh, historical buddha Shakyamuni, brass,  partial inscription on the base, private collection.

The figure stands on a lotus base with flattened petals with pointed ends that can be seen on other Himachal Pradesh sculptures dating from the 10th-11th century. It is over a low plinth that recalls Kashmiri works, as does the robe covering both shoulders, with concentric folds and an incised edge. The head is rather oversized, with a roundish nose, full lips and semi-closed eyes. He holds one end of his garment in his left hand while showing the palm of his other hand, incised with a diamond.

Himachal Pradesh, Vajravidarana

10th-11th century, Himachal Pradesh, Vajravidarana, silver with bronze and copper inlay, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

10th-11th century, Himachal Pradesh, Amoghasiddhi, silver with bronze and copper inlay, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

Although this sculpture is labelled ‘Amoghasiddhi’, it may be a representation of a meditational deity called Vajravidarana, whose iconography is similar to that of supreme buddha Vajrasattva but with a double thunderbolt or visvajra in his right hand. The facial features, lobed abdomen and cruciform navel along with marked pectorals are typical of Kashmir. The small three-pointed crown with large bows sticking out is often seen on Ladakhi or West Tibetan statues. The long flat hair ribbons  and upward flowing scarf  ending in  a three-point shape can be seen on other Himachal Pradesh works produced at the same time. The double lotus base is reminiscent of earlier Swat Valley works but the plinth is typical of Kashmir (although not the  garuda bird at the front, known as khyung in Tibet). Of course, the base may have belonged to a different statue originally, but the garuda and the visvajra are symbols of Amoghasiddhi. By way of comparison, the following is a strikingly similar sculpture thought to have been made in Western Tibet at more or less the same time. The pectorals cannot be seen as the statue is wearing a sort of waistcoat but it is obvious that the chest is not as developed and that the facial features are different. Amoghasiddhi always holds his left hand in the meditation gesture whereas Vajravidarana holds a bell against his hip, as above.

10th-11th century, Western Tibet, bodhisattva, silver, at the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

10th-11th century, Western Tibet, bodhisattva, silver, at the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

This may be Vajraraksha, who holds a coat of armour (missing here).

Manjuvajra, Himachal Pradesh

11th century, Himachal Pradesh or Kashmir, Guhyasamaja Manjuvajra, brass with silver-inlaid eyes, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA)

11th century, Himachal Pradesh or Kashmir, Guhyasamaja Manjuvajra, brass with silver-inlaid eyes and urna, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA)

Manjuvajra is an aspect of the tantric deity Guhyasamaja. He has three faces and six hands. He holds a sword, a bow, an arrow and an utpala flower in 4 of his hands while the other two are forming a symbolical gesture of embrace. This peaceful deity is normally represented in paintings, very rarely in the form of a statue.

The added particularity of this sculpture is that the facial features and crown resemble other Himachal Pradesh works while the lotus base on a square pedestal is typical of Kashmir.