This cosmic form of Avalokiteshvara with eleven towering heads and a fan of arms is strongly emblematic of Tibet. Although the iconography has its origin in India it was the Tibetans that made this aspect of the bodhisattva their own.  The fantastic imagery seems to have chimed with Tibetan sensibilities. Statues and paintings of the bodhisattva abound in places of worship and it is he that is evoked in the constant turning of prayer wheels and rosary beads with the ubiquitous Tibetan mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”. The topmost head of the statue represents Buddha Amitabha, the spiritual progenitor of the bodhisattva. The ten heads below symbolise the steps on the path to enlightenment of the Buddha, and the principal hands held before the heart symbolically protect the ratna jewel of this enlightened state. 

It is not only the Indian iconography of the bodhisattva that is incorporated in the statue, but also vestiges of mediaeval Indian sculptural tradition as well. The Tibetan use of silver and copper to enhance details of non-gilded bronzes is a continuum from Indian Pala period styles imported in the early days of contact. Inlaid silver draws dramatic focus on the whites of the statue’s piercing eyes, and red copper lends realism to lips and fingernails.  Comparisons may be made with a group of similarly monumental Pala inspired bronzes of Tathagatas in Nethang, an ancient monastery close to Lhasa in southern Tibet.  Nethang was a principal residence of the revered Indian guru Atisha (982-1054) during his stay in Tibet in the last ten years of his life. It is said that Atisha brought Buddhist images with him from his homeland, the like of which were undoubtedly known to the artists who sculpted this figure: hundreds of early Indian bronzes still remain in Tibetan monastery collections that have always inspired copies and interpretations. Details of the faces of the Nethang images are obscured by modern paint but their hands reveal copper inlay and it is more or less safe to assume their eyes and lips are silver and copper like the Ekadasamukha Avalokiteshvara. The jewellery of the Nethang Tathagatas is similarly inlaid with colored stones, and the casting sprues that connect the tops of the crown leaves are also left in place for strength, perhaps meaning to double as garlands. The Nethang group provides an indication of the important context for this massive temple statue of Avalokiteshvara.

It is one of the largest recorded early Tibetan bronzes of this iconic form of the deity, and certainly one of the most aesthetically successful. The elegant proportions of the towering heads and fan of arms create a mesmerising effect with the piercing gaze of the silver eyes. There is gleaming intensity in the expressions of the angry faces with their bared silver teeth, but the overall effect is of calm and grace in this evocative image of Tibetan Buddhist culture.

External image

c. 1400 AD
bronze with gilding and semi precious stones
120.7 x 39.8 x 25 cm (47 ½ x 15 ¾ x 9 ½in)

The Deccan and Tamil Nadu were strongholds of the Digmabara sect—the “sky clad,” or those who go naked. Jainism prospered in the south, attracting patronage from Pandyan and other rulers throughout the first millennium. Most images from that region depict jinas as committed renunciants, unencumbered by material possessions. Images of a tirthankara in the austerity meditation “body-abandonment” posture are among the most understated and beautiful of the period, and thus successfully embody the essence of the doctrine of renunciation of the material world. (via Standing Jain tirthankara [Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, India] (1995.423) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The lingam signifies the presence of the invisible, transcendental Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. But in reality it combines the three functions of creation, defence and destruction. The term indicates an emblem, a symbol of Shiva, sign of the male sex: the phallus. The end of the eighteenth century witnessed the widespread custom of superimposing a metal - brass, bronze - cover on these symbols, bearing a representation of the god’s features: the mukhalinga. The pieces in the collection illustrated on these pages testify to a ritual art movement among the richest and most significant in Indian culture, which only in the past few decades has the western world begun to appreciate in all its aesthetic and ethnographic importance. (via Mukhalinga Exibition 20 October - 20 November 2011 on Ethnoarte)

Terracotta ritual vessel.

Bengal, Eastern India; Chandraketugarh area.

Sunga Empire II-I century BC H 51 cm.

(inquiries welcome at ethnoarte)

The Sunga Empire (Sanskrit: शुंग राजवंश) or Shunga Empire was an Aryan dynasty from Magadha that controlled vast areas of the Indian Subcontinent from around 185 to 73 BCE. The dynasty was established by Pusyamitra Sunga, after the fall of the Maurya Empire. Its capital was Pataliputra, but later emperors such as Bhagabhadra also held court at Besnagar, modern Vidisha in Eastern Malwa.[1]

Pushyamitra Sunga ruled for 36 years and was succeeded by his son Agnimitra. There were ten Sunga rulers. The empire is noted for its numerous wars with both foreign and indigenous powers. They fought battles with the Kalingas, Satavahanas, the Indo-Greeks, and possibly the Panchalas and Mathuras.

Art, education, philosophy, and other forms of learning flowered during this period including small terracotta images, larger stone sculptures, and architectural monuments such as the chaitya at Bhaja Caves, the Stupa at Bharhut, and the renowned Great Stupa at Sanchi. The Sunga rulers helped to establish the tradition of royal sponsorship of learning and art. The script used by the empire was a variant of Brahmi and was used to write the Sanskrit language.

The Sunga Empire played an imperative role in patronizing Indian culture at a time when some of the most important developments in Hindu thought were taking place. Patanjali`s Yoga Sutras and Mahabhasya were composed in this period. Artistry also progressed with the rise of the Mathura school of art. Thereafter, there was a downfall of the dynasty and Kanvas succeeded around 73 BCE.


The Goddess Durga Killing the Buffalo Demon (Mahishasura Mardini

This sculpture portrays the sixteen-armed form of the goddess Durga as the slayer of the buffalo demon Mahisha. The array of arms, each displaying a weapon, creates a kinetic energy in the image, no doubt all the more powerful when contemplated in a shrine dimly illuminated by oil lamps. This work is among the finest Indian miniature culptures of the Pala-Sena period.

source: The Hindu


Bronze Nataraja, Vijayanagara Period, 14th C.

This is the Lord of Dance. His gestures and attributes represent three phases - creation, sustenance and destruction. His movements are rhythmic, his poise perfect..,” the guide tries to attract the attention of the visitors to Nataraja, a finely modelled bronze item prominently shown at the Salarjung Museum’s South Indian bronzes section.

Source: DMA connect

Since the seventeenth century, the Toraja have buried their elite dead in vaults chiseled in the face of steep limestone cliffs. Hardwood doors, carved with the image of a water buffalo’s head or, less frequently, a human figure, seal the tombs and protect their contents.   On this door, a figure emerges from a field of interlocking scrolls. Elaborate tattoos cover the torso and stylized arms. These tattoos and the knot of hair at the top of the head suggest the warrior status of the figure on the door and the occupant of the tomb.  

18th or 19th century, Indonesia

source:The Metropolitan museum of art

The Goddess Durga Slaying the Buffalo Demon (Durga Mahishasuramardini), 12th century
India (Himachal Pradesh, probably Chamba)

H. 22 ½ in. (57.2 cm)
Funds from various donors, 2008 (2008.271)

ON VIEW: GALLERY 237   Last Updated June 18, 2013

A tour de force of medieval metalworking in the northern Indian tradition, this shrine may be linked stylistically to art production of the Chamba kingdom in the western Indian hills. The Chamba Valley has a long and accomplished tradition of casting metal images of deities that is best witnessed in the seventh-century inscribed icons at Brahmur, the ancient capital of Chamba State. In this representation, the Hindu goddess Durga has an abundantly formed figure, and her head is adorned with a high-form chignon with a tripartite diadem set against a large-petaled flower mandala, a signature motif of images from Chamba Valley.

Durga is shown slaying the demon Mahisha, who has concealed his identity in the form of a buffalo. Comprehending his disguise, the goddess slays the buffalo with her trident, whereupon the demon reveals himself in anthropomorphic form and pleads for mercy. This is an ancient and much-favored subject that has been depicted in sculpture since the Kushan period in the second to third century. The combatants are framed by a highly elaborate shrine evoking the temple architecture of Himachal Pradesh: leogryphs surmount elephants, makaras issue from moldings, and demigods preside in the heavenly heights amid tapering towers and pavilions. The icon is a portable “heavenly palace” in which the epic drama of the precarious victory of order over chaos is enacted for the daily wonderment of devotees.

  source: Ethnoarte
Bold earrings sprouts lions, symbol of the unknowable power in the iconography of Kerala.
We refer here to a pair of bronze door keeper “dvarapalas” exposed at “State Museum” Trichur, dated XVI century, wearing a similar ornaments.
Ref.: Cataloge ‘India art and culture 1300-1900’, page 30.
Published by 'The metropolitan museum of art NY’ 1985.
22 carats gold.

A rare silver mask of Shiva 
India, Karnataka, circa 18th century 
The mustachioed face with parted mouth baring fangs, large eyes and with a sun and crescent moon above, adorned with a wide torque with dangling paan-leaf motifs, earrings and tiara, crowned by nine nagas, the center snake with a scaled hood and the rest with incised curliques, all with beaded edges and ribbed spines with further dangling leaf motifs
15¾ in. (40 cm.) high