British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 31.000 cm
Height: 31.000 cm (total)
Asia OA 1905.6-16.83, 89
Room 33: Asia
Gilt bronze and silver figure of the enshrined Buddha
From Sri Lanka
18th century AD
This image of Buddha stands in a thirty-one centimetre high silver arched shrine. The Buddha's right hand faces palm outwards with the thumb and forefinger touching, a gesture indicating argument or discussion (vitarkamudra). His left hand holds the edge of his long wavy robe that leaves one shoulder bare. The style of the clothing and the arch are typical of the eighteenth century. In this period the last kings of Sri Lanka ruled the central highlands of the island from their capital at Kandy. A revival of Buddhism and the arts resulted in the production of large numbers of Buddha images and other objects in bronze, silver and especially ivory.
The floral decoration of the arch spews from the mouths of two mythical aquatic monsters (makaras). At the top is a kirttimukha, a lion-like head that offered protection and good fortune. The arch over the Buddha is very like similar examples surrounding Hindu images in contemporary south India. Though south India was primarily Hindu and Sri Lanka Buddhist, the form of the arch demonstrates the similarity in artistic design and culture. The royal families of Kandy and Tamil Nadu in south India intermarried despite the difference in faiths.
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
R.E. Fisher, Buddhist art and architecture (London, Thames & Hudson, 1993)