Eastern Indian / Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the Form of Khasarpana Lokeshvara / Pala period, late 11th-early 12th centuryEastern Indian
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the Form of Khasarpana Lokeshvara
Pala period, late 11th-early 12th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: Eastern Indian
Creator Active Place: Eastern Indian
Creator Name-CRT: Eastern Indian
Title: Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in the Form of Khasarpana Lokeshvara
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1067
Creation End Date: 1133
Creation Date: Pala period, late 11th-early 12th century
Creation Place: India, Bihar or Bengal
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Schist
Dimensions: H. 37 1/2 in. (95.3 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.040
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Rights: http://www.asiasociety.org
Context: One of the longest lasting and most important Buddhist cultures of India developed and flourished in eastern India from the 8th to the 12th centuries. During this period, Bihar and Bengal--present-day West Bengal state and the nation of Bangladesh--were primarily under the control of the Pala family. However, various other families, in particular the Senas, also controlled smaller sections of this region at different times. Monks from all over Asia traveled to eastern India to study Buddhism at the famous monasteries there. As a result, the influence of Pala-style art spread throughout Asia. Pala contributions to Buddhist art include the development of a new figural type, which was loosely based on prototypes developed during the Gupta period (c. 320-c. 500) in north and north-central India, and the evolution of a more complicated iconography that illustrates contemporary changes in Buddhist thought.

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is the most popular deity in the Buddhist pantheon and is worshipped in a wide array of forms. The Khasarpana, or "sky-gliding" form, is depicted in this Pala-period relief. The youthful deity assumes a relaxed, approachable posture (lalitasana) on a lotus throne, and can be identified by the position of his hands: the right in the gift-giving gesture (varadamudra), the left holding a lotus (padma). Particularly significant to this piece, the lotus flower is a common element in Hindu and Buddhist religious imagery and carries auspicious connotations of divinity, spiritual enlightenment, happiness, and beauty.

The bodhisattva is flanked by his female consorts: the two-armed figure to his right represents Tara; the four-armed figure with a stupa in her headdress is Bhirkuti. Tara, who represents the active form of compassion and is often linked to Avalokiteshvara, is one of the most popular deities in Esoteric Buddhism. Bhirkuti is also worshipped as a manifestation of compassion (although rarely as an independent deity) and is frequently associated with Avalokiteshvara. Buddhas of the five directions surround the bodhisattva's tall matted coiffure in which an image of the Buddha Amitabha appears, Avalokiteshvara's typical attribute. The figures on the base of the relief include a preta or "hungry ghost" named Suchimukha ("needle-nosed"), seated beneath Avalokiteshvara's outstretched right hand. This composition illustrates the belief that Avalokiteshvara feeds nectar to the hungry ghosts as a symbol of his infinite compassion for all human beings.

This relief can be dated to the late 11th or early 12th century by its rich carving, elaborate detail, and pointed top.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 22.
Related Document Description: Huntington, Susan L. 'Pre Pala and Pala Period Sculptures in the Rockefeller Collection.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 372, 374-76.
Related Document Description: Newman, Richard. The Stone Sculpture of India: A Study of the Materials Used by Indian Sculptors from ca. 2nd Century B.C. to the 16th Century. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Art Museums, Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1984, pp. 33-35, 68, 76, 84.
Related Document Description: Queens Museum. Aspects of Indian Art and Life. New York: Queens County Art and Cultural Center, 1983, pp. 7, 12, 22.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.040
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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