Pala India, crowned buddha – standing (3)

Undated (late Pala period), India, Bihar, Shakyamuni, bronze, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

One of a series of very elegant standing crowned buddhas on display at the Patna Museum, thought to have been made in Bihar around the 11th century, with a tear-shaped jewel design used at the front of the pedestal, the top of the flaming arch, and in this case for the large ornaments on each side of the buddha’s face. His eyes, urna and short necklace are probably inlaid with silver. The design of his crown and jewellery are very similar to those we saw on a 10th-11th century Indian buddha kept at the British Museum in London.

Undated (late Pala period), India, Bihar, Shakyamuni, bronze, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

The design of the arch is more elaborate here, with sharp and well separated flames, openwork on the inside, a beaded inner edge. The triangular panels of his crown and his main necklace are also more intricate. Note the way his transparent garment is longer at the sides.

Undated (late Pala period), India, Bihar, Shakyamuni, bronze, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

On this sculpture, the tear-shaped design has been used for the earrings of the buddha, the tip of the panels of his crown, the motif at the top of the mandorla, as well as for the tortoise pedestal. Again, his sanghati is longer on each side.

Undated (late Pala period), India, Bihar, Shakyamuni, brass, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

This figure has different body proportions, with a larger head and shorter limbs.

Undated (late Pala period), India, Bihar, Shakyamuni, brass, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.In every case, Shakyamuni holds a piece of his robe in his left hand and does the fear-allaying gesture with the other. The above wears a necklace with tear-shaped pendants with a pearl below.

 

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Pala India, Shakyamuni – stone

10th-11th century, India, Shakyamuni, phyllite, private collection, published on http://www.icollector.com

Seated on a double lotus atop a lion throne, Shakyamuni wears a  tightly draped and finely pleated sanghati that covers the left shoulder only, his right hand calling Earth to witness, the other doing the meditation gesture.

The central bodhi tree leaf at the top of the stele is placed strategically to look like a naga hood above the buddha’s head, which is surrounded by a flaming halo with a floral motif at the apex and an inner wreath fastened with three floral elements. Next to him, two celestial figures and two attendants, one of them (possibly Avalokiteshvara) holding a lotus.

10th century, India, Bihar, Gaya, Shakyamuni, at the Patna Museum (India), photo published on wikimedia.

The pleating on this sculpture is even finer and the buddha is seated on a brocaded cushion with a geometrical pattern.

10th century, Northeast India, Shakyamuni, stone, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Another example with bodhi tree leaves at the top of the arch, but a beaded rather than flaming halo, and four stupas on the sides. In Himalayan art, the crowned buddha appearance, which originated in India, may include earrings and a necklace but no other accessories. Although opinions differ, it is generally regarded as the sambhogakaya aspect of the buddha.

11th-12th century, Eastern India, Shakyamuni, phyllite, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

In Pala art, buddhas and bodhisattvas often wear a low tiara whereas crowned buddhas usually wear a crown made of tall triangular foliate panels.

Here, the floral earrings match the rosettes of his crown.

11th-12th century, Northeast India, Shakyamuni, black stone, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This buddha is seated on a throne decorated with two recumbent winged creatures, two columns, a devotee kneeling by a fire altar.

Pala India, Avalokiteshvara – various forms (4)

 

8th-12th century, India, (Avalokiteshvara?), black stone, at the Patna Museum (India), photo from the Huntington Archive.

The iconography of this seated figure corresponds to various forms of Avalokiteshvara, his right hand extended in a gesture of generosity, the other holding the stem of a lotus flower. We have seen similar serpentine armbands on various 7th or 8th century Nepalese bodhisattvas. The strands of hair ending like a hook are most unusual, the fan-shaped hair bunch is reminiscent of Pakistan/Swat Valley works.

10th century, India, Avalokiteshvara, schist, San Francisco Museum of Art (USA).

Pala India sculptures, especially when made out of stone, often include attendants on each side of the main deity. The effigy of Amitabha in his headdress tells us that the central character here is Avalokiteshvara.

11th century, India, Simhanada Lokeshvara, stone, at the Birmingham Museum (UK).

When seated on a snow lion, Avalokiteshvara has a third eye, clearly visible on this well-preserved sculpture. The above sits sideways on a cushion, leaning on his left arm, the left hand holding the stem of a lotus, the other hand resting over his knee. Placed at the base of his tall pile of matted hair, with curls cascading on each side, is a small effigy of Amitabha. To his right is a large trident with a snake coiled around it, a symbol of Hindu origin.

12th century, Northeast India, Avalokiteshvara, black schist, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The bodhisattva of compassion is seated with a leg pendant, the foot placed on a large lotus flower attached to the base, his hands probably in the same position as on the first picture.

There is a small effigy of Amitabha almost hidden behind the central panel of his low tiara.

Pala India, Avalokiteshvara – various forms (3)

10th-11th century, Northeastern India or (Indian artist in) Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, gilt bronze with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Standing in a slightly rigid pose, his right hand displaying generosity, the other holding the stem of a (broken) lotus, Avalokiteshvara wears a long garment held in place with a small belt, a sacred thread made of silver and princely jewellery made of silver and gilt metal.

The silver-inlaid eyes with the pupils half covered by heavy lids are typical of Indian Pala art but not so the squarish contour of the face or the body proportions (thick limbs and broad shoulders). The deity wears a low tiara with a silver rim and small side panels set away from the central leaf. His tall chignon includes a cascade of curls falling on each side, the lower part and the finial seem to be missing. A few loose strands rest on his shoulders as is customary with bodhisattva imagery.

11th century, India, Bihar, Lokanatha, brass, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

Lokanatha Lokeshvara may be seated or standing, his right hand stretched palm out to display generosity, the left hand holding the stem of a lotus, an effigy of Amitabha in his matted hair. This figure stands on a single lotus atop a stepped plinth with a kneeling figure in one corner, probably the donor. The mandorla with individually sculpted swirling flames is typical of the Bihar area.

11th century, India, Bihar, Avalokiteshvara, brass, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

An early tantric form of the same deity is described has having four arms, holding a rosary in the upper right hand, the stem of a lotus and a tridanda (trident made of lotus stalks) in his left hands, the lower right hand doing the boon-granting gesture.

11th century, India, Bihar, Avalokiteshvara, brass, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

On this more life-like example we can clearly see the rosary, and an effigy of Amitabha in his headdress. His short dhoti is held in place with a double belt and he wears a sash knotted across his chest, some princely jewellery and a beaded sacred thread. The lotus on which he stands is on a throne supported by two lions lying sideways and separated by a cloth.

 

 

 

 

 

Pala India, various buddhas (2)

12th century, India, Bihar, Kurkihar, labelled Vairocana, bronze, at the Patna Museum (India), photo from the Huntington Archive.

Like Bhaisajyaguru, this buddha holds a medicine bowl in his left hand and the fruit of the arura tree in the other, but his crown, earrings and necklace point to the historical buddha (Vairochana would wear armbands and bracelets but no sanghati, and his hands would be in a different position and hold different attributes). The crown with tall triangular panels, the plain rosettes above the ear and the large tear-shape earrings worn sideways are typical of the Bihar region.

12th century, India, Bihar, Kurkihar, Shakyamuni, bronze, at the Patna Museum (India).

The Kurkihar style is immediately recognisable through the graceful body shape and proportions, slightly rigid pose, tall crown with triangular panels and rosettes, sometimes complemented by long curvilinear ribbons flowing over the shoulders.

11th-12th century, India, Kurkihar, Shakyamuni, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Shakyamuni is portrayed here in a much simpler style, with a plain crown and necklace. He is seated on a cushion atop a stepped lotus base with very flat petals, his right hand calling Earth to witness, the other held in the gesture of meditation.

12th century, India, Bihar, Nalanda, Mahavairochana, gilt bronze, at the National Museum in New Delhi, photo published on popcultureactivist.blogspot.com

Seated with his legs locked, on a typical Nalanda lotus base atop a lion throne supported by a stepped plinth, Vairochana, with four heads and two hands, does a gesture specific to him (four fingers of the right hand cover the forefinger of the other hand) to signify supreme enlightenment. In his various four-head forms, he normally has both hands cupped in the meditation gesture to hold either a dharma wheel or an upright vajra sceptre.

His hair is pulled in a conical chignon topped with a vajra finial.

 

Pala India, various bodhisattvas (2)

8th-11th century, India, Bihar, Nalanda, Vajrapani, bronze, at the Nalanda site, photo from the Huntington Archive.

Vajrapani in his peaceful form, seated at royal ease, holds a very large vajra sceptre in his left hand and what looks like a fly whisk in the other. He is adorned with floral earrings matched by his necklace and his buckle. We have seen several gilt works from the Nepalese Licchavi and transitional periods with the same lotus base, crown, earrings and halo.

Undated (11th century?), India, Bihar, bodhisattva, bronze, at the Patna Museum (India), photo by Anandajoti Bhikkhu.

This realistic figure, with his hair pulled in a top knot like a Mahasiddha, holds a blue lotus that supports a book topped with a pearl normally associated with Manjushri, who may be seated on a snow lion with a leg pendant. But according to textual sources the simhanada form of Manjushri has an effigy of Akshobhya in his crown, both hands ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘, and he may have a blue lotus by his side but not his usual book on top. Avalokiteshvara may also be seated this way on a snow lion, but neither the position of the hands nor the book correspond to him. This bodhisattva’s right hand does a gesture to bestow refuge. His necklace includes a pendant with a wheel of dharma.

12th century, India, Bengla, Maitreya, silver with copper, brass, gold, turquoise, on a gilt bronze pedestal, at the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

The use of silver is rare in Himalayan sculpture and often accompanied by a gilt lotus base. Maitreya, in his bodhisattva appearance, holds the stem of a lotus topped with a ritual water pot and what looks like a branch of the ashoka tree in his left hand, the other is held towards the viewer with the palm out in a timid gesture to dispel fear. His short lower garment is held in place with a very elaborate belt that matches his large necklace and armbands.

His tall chignon is dyed with blue pigment and topped with an elegant lotus finial inset with a large turquoise cabochon. More lotus blooms decorate his earrings.

12th century, India, Maitreya, bronze (copper alloy), at the Rubin Museum of Art.

This bodhisattva doesn’t normally hold a rosary but the water pot on the lotus to his left and the stupa at the top of the flaming arch identify him as Maitreya.

India, Trailokyavijaya (2)

Trailokyavijaya is a generic term corresponding to three phases in esoteric Buddhism, which may refer to Krodha Vighnantaka, then  Trailokyavijaya and Vajrahumkara, and finally Samvara.

8th-9th century, India, Bjhar, Nalanda, Trailokyavijaya, bronze, at the National Museum in New Delhi (India).

Until the end of the Pala period, Vajrahumkara is not distinguished from Trailokyavijaya although he never has four heads but one or three. In his simplest form, this deity with a semi-wrathful human aspect has two hands, crossed over his chest with the little fingers entwined, and two legs trampling on a victim (or two in this case).

Circa 10th century, India, Bihar, Nalanda, Trailokyavijaya, bronze, at the Patna Museum (India).

Previously dated 7th century, this work depicts the four-headed Trailokyavijaya in his 8-hand version, his hair pulled up and topped with a half vajra finial, standing on two victims, his main hands crossed over his chest in the same specific gesture, probably holding a vajra sceptre and a bell, the remaining arms (some broken here) radiating from the trunk, each hand holding a different attribute (normally a bow, a noose, another vajra sceptre, a ritual staff, an elephant goad, an arrow). He wears princely jewellery and a large garland of severed heads.

12th century, India, Samvara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Eventually, the four-headed Trailokyavijaya with 6 or 8 arms evolved into Samvara. In his one-head and four-hand form the deity holds a vajra sceptre and a bell in his main hands crossed over is heart without the little fingers being entwined, a drum and a (missing) ritual staff in the others. The lively flaming arch behind this one is topped with a foliate panel containing an upright vajra sceptre.

12th century, India, Chakrasamvara, bronze (brass) with silver and copper inlay, at the British Museum in London (UK).

We are more familiar with the twelve-hand Chakrasamvara with four heads, his two legs standing on Kalaratri and Bhairava. The upper hands hold the hide of an elephant, the main hands are crossed over is heart and hold a vajra sceptre and a bell; the remaining left hands hold a ritual staff, a noose, a skull cup, Brahma’s head with four faces; the remaining right hands hold a drum, an axe, a flaying knife and a vajra-tipped stick. The rim of his crown, his necklaces and his teeth are inlaid with sivler. His eyes, urna, and his longer necklace are inlaid with copper.