4. Padmapani
(cat. pl. 5)
Eastern India
c. 9th century
Copper with traces of pigment
h. 18.7 cm


This fine image of the bodhisattva Padmapani exemplifies one of the many stylistic currents within eastern Indian medieval sculpture. Like a c. ninth-century image of Avalokitesvara, now in the Nalanda Museum, it has a youthful, gently modelled torso; the necklace, upper armlet design and wide, unmodulated upper row of lotus petals of the two figures are also similar.71 The haloes of both images are surmounted by similar ornamental motifs, and are surrounded by similar beading and flaming borders. The lotus flowers that they hold are similarly rendered, with wide petals and emphatically marked stamens. The hair is gathered into thick loops and arranged as a tall headdress, also characteristic of imagery from this region.72 Padmapani's spiritual sire, Amitabha, is shown seated in front of this headdress and behind a three-panelled crown. The sculpture is cast in one piece in unalloyed copper, a metal more often associated with Nepalese sculpture. A significant number of eastern Indian medieval sculptures are, however, like this Padmapani, made of copper as a preferred medium (see above, p. 26).73

The aesthetic impact of this image is well served by the fact that it has lost none of its elements: the lotus base, the halo and the deity's attributes are all still intact, That the image survives intact is at least partly attributable to its having been cast in one piece. Accidental loss of any detachable part was thus avoided. Three well-placed supports attach the figure to the halo (fig. 8); these are perfectly camouflaged and are therefore invisible from the front of the figure These supports may be compared with those in an earlier, c. late eighth-century Buddha in the Nalanda Museum, which has similarly placed but less successfully camouflaged supports (figs. 6 and 7). This Padmapani exhibits none of the type of corrosion characteristic of buried metal as do images that were excavated in India, and is thus likely to have been brought to Tibet during the medieval period (see p. 23). An inscription in early nagari script on the lotus petals may be translated: 'This is the religious donation of the monk Bahusena.'74 (cat. pl. 5)

71. Published in Ray, Khandalavala and Gorakshkar (1986), no. 86.
72. See for example Schroeder (1981), fig. 59A.
73. See Schroeder (1981), figs. 50A-G, 51A-F, passim.
74. We are grateful to Isabelle Onians of Wolfson College, Oxford, for her reading of the Sanskrit: dharmodeyo'yam bhiksu bahusenasya. .

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