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1. Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha
12th century
Copper alloy, gilt
Object 614, (gallery E, alcove 2, E-9)

Shakyamuni This superb example of Nepalese metalcraft depicts the historical Buddha in his most typical pose, seated in meditation, one hand in his lap, the other pendant in the earth-witness gesture. In keeping with traditional representations, this Buddha has a cranial protuberance (ushnisha) signifying supernatural wisdom and a mark between the eyes (urna), signifying spiritual illumination. His distinctive coiffure represents the curls which grew back after he cut off his long, princely locks with his sword. The curl-covered ushnisha is also surmounted by a knob representing a symbolic jewel (cudamani). As an unusual feature, the sumptuous earrings the Buddha wore as the prince Siddhartha Gautama have been restored to him here, and although he wears a monk's robe its decorative borders are more in keeping with princely raiment.

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text © Mary Slusser and images © Patan Museum
photo by Rupert Steiner