Bronze figure of Buddha Vairocana

From eastern Java, Indonesia
10th century AD

A Tantric Buddhist image

Buddhism reached Indonesia by about the fifth century AD, when the Mahayana and Vajrayana or Tantric schools of Buddhism were predominant. In the eighth and ninth centuries the main centres of activity were in central Java. The great Buddhist monument at Borobudur was built around 800, both a huge stupa and a mandala. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the five Cosmic Buddhas are identified by a particular gesture (mudra) and preside over one of the directions of space. The Buddha Vairocana is the guardian of the centre and is identified by the gesture of teaching or the 'Turning of the Wheel of Law' (dharmacakramudra). In many Vajrayana Buddhist temples in Java the five Buddhas are arranged in a mandala with Vairocana at the centre.

Vairocana sits on a high throne and a double lotus. His hands are in the gesture of teaching. Behind him is an elaborate throne-back with a halo of flames and a royal parasol. This image is similar to many of the Buddhist bronzes of eastern India. Buddhists travelled between the monasteries of eastern India and the countries of South-east Asia. Many bronzes of eastern Indian manufacture were taken to Indonesia but this image was locally made.

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More information


J. Fontein (ed.), The sculpture of Indonesia (National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1990)

W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

R.E. Fisher, Buddhist art and architecture (London, Thames & Hudson, 1993)


Height: 29.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1859.12-28.77


Gift of Revd. Flint


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