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Marcel Nies

10. Vasudhara
Nepal; Early Malla
13th century
Copper alloy with traces of gilding, cast in the lost wax method, inlaid with precious stones
height 14.5 cm.


In the Mahayana Buddhist Pantheon,Vasudhara is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. This popular female Bodhisattva (the actual creators of the universe), achieved the state of enlightenment and dedicated herself to guiding all mankind to the path of Buddha, which in turn leads to Nirvana (the Buddhist heaven). The goddess of fortune is in addition one of the eight Vasus, belonging to the Rig-Veda. Vasudhara is the female partner of Vaisharavana (also known as Kubera or Jambhala).

Seated in lalitasana on a double lotus throne, with her right foot resting on a small lotus flower, Vasudhara wears a dhoti engraved with a pattern of catfoot prints and double moving engraved lines. She is elaborately adorned with two necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets, armlets and ornaments. Her hair is arranged into two buns on either side of an exquisitely rendered three leaved tiara, with a large central diadem. Her lower right hand is in the posture of varada mudra, the gesture of charity. Her upper right hand makes the gesture of adorning the Buddha while her other is holding a sheaf of grain. Her left hands hold the auspicious waterpot (the kalasa, the holy vase containing the amrita, the elixir of immortality), a sheaf of grain and a pustaka, the book which emphasises her identity with transcendental wisdom. The mudras and attributes signify her role as dispenser of wealth and agent of fecundity.

The term 'Malla' is applied to the monarchs who ruled over the Katmandu valley for more than five centuries. The history of the Mallas can be divided into two periods- that of the early Malla from 1200 to 1480 A.D., and that of the three Malla kingdoms (Katmandu, Patan, and Badgaon) until 1768 A.D. By comparison with dated bronzes, this image of Vasudhara can be placed in the early Malla period and be dated to the 13th century. Typical characteristics are the style of the dhoti with double engraved moving lines and catfoot prints, the double necklace, the style of the bracelets placed high upon the arms, the three leaved tiara, the two buns of hair, the large circular open earrings, and the double lotus throne with large leaves continuing at the back and with an edge of thick pearls.

The young and beautiful goddess is portrayed with a full bust and a gorgeous body of natural shape, a fine example of Nepalese craftsmanship in copper casting, reflecting the highest artistic and technical qualities of the Newari masters at the time. The outline of the arms is clearly defined, achieving a sense of greater volume. All features are finely articulated, with soft sensuous modelling, great positions and fine tribhanga movement, all enhancing the expressive power of this Buddhist goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Published: 'L'Art Newar de la vallee de Kathmandu', (1990), Gilles Beguin et Gerard Toffin, page 33.

Formerly in the collection of Gerard Labre, Paris.


all text, images © Marcel Nies

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