12. Jambhala
(cat. pl. 18)
c. 13th-14th centuries
Copper alloy with traces of pigment
h. 21.6 cm


King of the Yaksas217 and God of Wealth, Jambhala rests his corpulent form on a lotus seat, his right foot supported by three vases surmounting a floral stem. The sculptor has portrayed Jambhala as a beneficent figure holding a citron fruit (jambhara) and a mongoose spitting gems.218 The latter attribute appears in early Indian descriptions of the god; Gilles Beguin and Sylvie Colinart have postulated, intriguingly, that this iconographic attribute may have evolved from actual money purses made of mongoose skin.219

This sculpture, like the previous example, reflects a relatively late stage in the Tibetan assimilation of eastern Indian stylistic traditions. The beading along the lotus base, the crown type, the large hoop earrings, the necklace pendant and the upper armbands all resemble prototypes seen in eastern Indian works. However, the beading of the lower border on the lotus base is less carefully defined than its antecedents (where the beads are typically very rounded); the crown elements, unlike their eastern Indian prototypes, are here connected by a metal bar to provide greater physical support; the necklace is an abbreviated form of eastern Indian examples; and the body modelling shows less concern for human anatomy than does that of its eastern Indian counterparts, Similarities may be found with a c. thirteenth- to fourteenth- century figure of Vajrapani in the Ford Collection.220 (cat. pl. 18)

217. Yaksas are ancient Indian nature spirits, associated with tree worship and abundance. They were the iconographic prototypes for the earliest anthropomorphic representations of Buddhist and Hindu deities in India. See Coomaraswamy (1928-31).
218. See Mallmann (1975), pp. 195-6.
219. B�guin and Colinart (1994), p. 141.
220. Rhie and Thurman (1991), p. 190.

images © Nyingjei Lam
text © D. Weldon, Jane C. Singer