5. Padmapani
(cat. pl. 6)
Eastern India
c. 12th century
Copper alloy with gold, copper, silver and semiprecious gems
h. 10.8cm


This superbly rendered image exemplifies the technical mastery of eastern Indian medieval sculptors. Like the previous image, it represents the bodhisattva Padmapani, who here offers the gesture of generosity (varada mudra) and assumes the pose known as the posture of ease (lalitasana), flanked by two flowering vines. The beaded diadem once featured a large gem (now lost), echoed in the turquoise stone still set into the top of Padmapani's coiffure. Locks of hair appear beneath the low crown, framing the forehead and providing additional adornment to the face. Gold, silver and copper are used to highlight the urna, eyes and lips, enhancing the subtly expressive countenance. The hair is drawn into thick plaits, beautifully arranged in an elegant mass of locks (jatamukuta) at the crown of the head. The back of the image (fig. 10, not shown here) was finished as beautifully as the front, with equal care taken to delineate the plaits of hair, which begin at the nape of the neck and are drawn upwards, secured by two beaded strands that also secure the diadem.

The dark, rich metal retains meticulously rendered details in the crown, coiffure, jewellery and lotus base. The pearl-like beads on the belt, on the sacred thread (upavita) and along the top and bottom of the lotus base are beautifully rounded and uniformly executed. The turquoise gems are so skilfully set that most have survived nearly a thousand years and at least one serious assault-which bent the proper left lotus in towards the bodhisattva's left ear. It is sometimes thought that the presence of inset gems (real or imitation) distinguishes Tibetan aesthetic preference; but inset gems-even turquoise-do appear in other eastern Indian sculptures (see pp. 56-7).75 The teardrop-shaped gems seen on this Padmapani's upper armlets and supported by the lotus stalk on his right are typical of eastern Indian images.76

The jewellery follows the contours and movements of Padmapani's body in a manner that is characteristic of the eastern Indian medieval school; this is apparent particularly in the upavita which caresses Padmapani's torso, falls into his lap and over his thigh. The lotus petals are elegantly wrought; they join at the back in an idiosyncratic manner (fig. 10, not shown here) also seen in a c. eleventh-century Maitreya image from Fatehpur, Gaya District, which was once in the Bodh Gaya Museum (figs, 11 and 12, not shown here). During the medieval period, works such as this one were brought to Tibet where they inspired local artists for centuries.77 (cat. pl. 6)

75. See the c. twelfth-century eastern India stupa in the Cleveland Museum of Art, which has blue glass simulating turquoise set into the copper alloy. Published in Leidy and Thurman (1997), pp. 48 and 55. See also the c. twelfth-century image of Maitreya in the Cleveland Museum of Art (fig. 15).
76. lbid. , p. 48. See also Ray, Khandalavala and Gorakshkar (1997), figs. 282a and b.
77. See below, (pl. 15, figs. 19 and 25).

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