Description This dynamic sculpture is one of the earliest representations of the Buddhist deity Chakrasamvara embracing his consort, the goddess Vajravarahi. In tantric Buddhist imagery, such depictions of deities in sexual union symbolize the ideal of Buddhahood, which is achieved through the joining of wisdom (embodied by the female deity) with method and compassion (embodied by the male deity). The objects in Chakrasamvara’s crossed arms also allude to this ideal: the bell represents wisdom while the "vajra" (a multi-pronged scepter symbolizing indestructibility) represents method and compassion. Vajravarahi holds a curved knife and (in back) a blood-filled skull-cup, alluding to the destruction of harmful illusion. Together, Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi trample the Hindu deities Bhairava and Kalaratri, who in this context are considered to be enemies of the Buddhist path and obstacles to enlightenment. While the sculpture was created for ritual purposes, its formal qualities were also noticed and appreciated. A short Tibetan inscription on the back of the stele reads "khardo," or “opening stone,” suggesting that the individual who wrote it found the open stonework to be a notable feature. By removing part of the backdrop, the artist sculpted much of the composition in the round, carving fine details into every side.
- Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara; Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong. 2001-2003.
Provenance Sonam Tashi, Kathmandu, Nepal; purchased by John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, July 1984; given to Walters Art Museum, 2015.
Inscriptions [Inscription] On back: khardo; [Translation] opening stone
Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2015
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