This bronze sculpture has a seal
at the bottom and traces of cold gilding on the faces, indicating the
piece was once used in a Tibetan monastery. The stylistic characteristics
of this image however are typical Nepalese, revealing a casting in a
copper alloy, created by a Newari craftsman. The interpretation of the
complex icon is in addition pure Nepalese and differs from Tibetan examples;
the piece has ten arms instead of eight, and the heads are differently
arranged and are reminiscent of some early Tibetan Kashmir style examples.
A stylistically similar piece is published in Ulrich von Schroeder's
'Indo Tibetan bronzes', page 382, nr. 103a and is dated 1658 A.D.
The popular god Avalokitesvara is an emanation of Amithaba, the oldest
of the five cosmic Buddhas who symbolises the stream of life and represents
the summer season. Avalokitesvara is 'the lord of compassion' in Mahayana
Buddhism; in this particular image with ten arms and eleven heads, he
is manifested in one of his most powerful and important forms. Avalokitesvara
is belonging to one of the Buddhist Bodhisattvas, the actual creators
of the universe; 'Bodhi' means knowledge and 'Sattva' means essence.
After his attainment of enlightenment, he wanted to guide beings to
the path of Buddha, leading to perfection. In the Buddhist literature
Avalokitesvara is worshipped in more than 108 forms- saints, lamas,
including the Dalai Lama were believed to he the mortal emanations of
Avalokitesvara is standing on a circular single lotus throne depicted
on a large circular double lotus throne His primary hands are depicted
in front of his chest, holding the magic wish granting gem, which stands
for the spirit of enlightenment that consists of love and wisdom. His
other right hands hold a rosary for reciting 'om mani padme hum', a
wheel of combined spiritual teaching and benevolent governance, an image
of the Buddha Amithaba, and one is in varada mudra, the gesture of charity.
His left hands hold a padma, the white lotus in full bloom, symbolising
purity and spiritual elevation, a bow and arrow, symbolising meditation
and wisdom, a kalasa, the vase containing the elixir of immortality,
and a cintamani, the flaming pearl. The faces of Avalokitesvara symbolise
the god mastery of all the Bodhisattva stages, each of them representing
an attitude dominant in a particular stage. He is depicted with eleven
heads, arranged in five levels, three with peaceful expressions and
seven are having a fierce expression; a head turning to the front, left
and right on two levels, an additional two levels of two faces turning
to the sides, and on top the head of Amithaba. The skin of an antelope
is draped around the god's chest, referring to his ascetic experience.
Avalokitesvara is adorned with a typical finely engraved garment of
a celestial Bodhisattva, showing five-leafed crowns, earrings, necklaces,
bracelets, anklets, strands of pearls, and ornaments.
The magnificent heads of Avalokitesvara express the multidimensionality
of the Bodhisattva's compassionate awareness. His ten arms symholise
his extensive power to help beings to free themselves from the suffering
of samsara, the egocentric existence. The imposing image is portrayed
with individuality, vigour and fine articulated details; the beautiful
movements of his arms and ornaments contrasting to the fine symmetrical
construction and his upright posture. The piece exhibits an overall
serene impression, revealing Avalokitesvara as a great lord of compassion.