Early Kashmiri sculpturecontains several distinctive iconographic types not found in contemporaneous art from India or the Himalayas, as well as types popular in India as early as the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This 8th-century representation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara illustrates the preservation of north Indian types in the art of Kashmir. Bodhisattvas were represented in such relaxed and pensive poses--with the right hand touching the right cheek--in early Buddhist art from north India, Central Asia, and China; the type continued in East Asian Buddhist art until the 7th century. The precise meaning of the iconography of these figures remains uncertain; however, it seems likely that they represent a bodhisattva seated in paradise, possibly the Tushita Pure Land, waiting forrebirth on earth.
This bodhisattva is identified as Avalokiteshvara by the lotus he holds in his hand, the seated Buddha Amitabha in his headdress, and the antelope skin that is wrapped across his back and left arm. The skin is a reference to ascetic practices and may be linked to the interest in bodhisattvas as ascetics that is found in Indian art from the 4th through 6th centuries and subsequently in Southeast Asian Buddhist art.