Gilded bronze figure of Vajrasattva

From Nepal
15th century AD

The path to Salvation through Wisdom and Compassion

Vajrasattva, one of the Supreme Buddhas of Vajrayana Buddhism, is here depicted in regal fashion. In both Tibet and India he is normally seated, but in Nepal there is a tradition of standing Buddhas and bodhisattvas in this relaxed posture. In Vajrasattva's crown is the seated figure of the Jina Buddha, Akshobya.

Vajrasattva can be identified by the vajra and the bell that he holds in his hands, the most important ritual implements of Vajrayana Buddhism. The vajra symbolizes 'male' compassion, while the bell represents 'female' wisdom. Together they constitute the necessary elements for salvation. In Nepali and Tibetan ritual practice, a monk or lama holds the vajra in the right hand and the bell in the left to make elaborate ritual movements while reciting from Buddhist texts. Other bodhisattvas may also hold these ritual objects. Few have been found from Buddhist India, but they are found in Nepal, Tibet, Japan and Indonesia. This sculpture was acquired in Lhasa in Tibet but originally made in Nepal. There has been a long history of Tibetan use of Nepali craftsmen which continued even into the twentieth century.

The gilded bronze figure has elaborate jewellery, and is inset with semi-precious stones.

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More information


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

R. Fisher, Art of Tibet (Thames and Hudson, 1997)


Height: 20.300 inches

Museum number

Asia OA 1932.2-11.4


Gift of Mrs Griffith


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