Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Bronze lotus mandala, with silver and copper inlay
From eastern India
12th century AD
The Buddha emerging from a lotus-flower
Both stone and metal images were made during the Pala dynasty in eastern India (about the eighth to the twelfth century AD). While the stone reliefs are often up to two metres high, metal images such as this one are rarely more than twenty centimetres high. They were placed on altars within a monastery or temple. As they are more portable, many were carried further afield to Tibet, Burma and Indonesia.
This object is a
small shrine in the form of a lotus flower. The lotus is a common
symbol in all Indian religions and many images sit or stand on one.
The lotus is a metaphor for purity for it grows out of mud yet
remains untouched by it. The lotus flower also opens and closes its
petals each day, and thus symbolizes the endless cycle of life and
death. The petals of this metal lotus shrine open to reveal the
Cosmic Buddha Akshobhya at the centre. In front of him is his
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)