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 symbol the vajra (thunderbolt). On the inside of each petal are eight bodhisattva. Deities support the lotus from beneath. The inscription around the base is a dedication by a Buddhist layman.

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More information

Bibliography

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

Dimensions

Height: 14.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1982.8-4.1

RRI10930

Location

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