Vasudhara, 12th century
Gilt bronze 6 1/2 in. x 4 1/2 in. x 4 in. (16.51 cm x 11.43 cm x 10.16 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase, anonymous gift2008.57
Nepal’s shared border with India and its location on the trade routes between India and Tibet allowed for the transmission not only of goods, but also of religious doctrines and artis- tic styles. Indian Buddhist monks and teachers brought the dharma, and though today the majority of Nepalese are Hindu, it is a Hinduism that has absorbed aspects of Buddhist belief and figures from the Buddhist pantheon.
Vasudhara, whose name literally means “stream of gems,” represents wealth, prosperity, and fecundity to Buddhists and is a particularly revered deity in the Nepalese pantheon. Devotees propitiate her on the home altar with offerings of flowers, candles, and vermillion powder to ensure prosper- ity. The unknown artist of this work has overcome the obvi- ous difficulties of creating an image with multiple arms in a fluid, elegant manner. Its delicate realization epitomizes the refinement of the Nepalese Newar artisan, whose skills were renowned throughout the Himalayan world.
Vasudhara’s left hands bear her usual attributes of a book, a stalk of rice, and the auspicious pot, while her right hands feature the adoration-of-the-Buddha gesture, a flaming jewel, and the gesture of giving. While her hand gestures and pot associate her with fecundity and prosperity, the book relates her to Prajnaparamita, the goddess of wisdom. Semi-precious stones—lapis lazuli, turquoise, and garnet—inlay her crown and necklace, while the reddish tint of the metal visible be neath the gilding is characteristic of the high copper con- tent of Nepalese alloys. Her downward glance and gentle smile are also typical of Nepalese sculpture from the period.1