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Vasudhara

This lovely small bronze of marked historical importance represents Vasudhara (Sanskrit, bearer of gems), the Buddhist goddess of prosperity. One of only twelve Nepalese sculptures with inscriptions dating before 1090, it reads:

Om, On Thursday on the 3rd lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Phalguna of Nepal era 202 [February–March 1082], the couple Abonana and Maina donated [this] venerable Vasudhara.

The sculpture demonstrates how ideas and forms circulated not only between India and Nepal, but also across the boundaries of Hinduism and Buddhism and the spaces of home and monastery. Both the content of its inscription and its iconography beg further study. The sculpture dates from the eleventh century, when the Vasudhara cult first came to Nepal from India and many small bronzes suitable for home shrines were produced. However, the inscription suggests it was a donation to a monastery, and its donors’ names are neither Nepalese nor Indian. Both Indian and Nepalese Vasudhara bronzes are adorned with the crowns of female deities. But this goddess unusually and perhaps uniquely wears the crown of a tantric Buddhist priest, an iconographic variant apparently related to its production for a monastery.

These details could contribute to a broader understanding of early Vasudhara worship in Nepal. With its potential to illuminate the transmission of Buddhism from India, the inscribed bronze fits well into the museums’ goals to foster new scholarship. It complements the Sackler’s small but fine collection of Nepalese sculptures, manuscripts, and folios, especially Queen as the Goddess Prajnaparamita, F1986.23; Bodhisattva Gandhahastin, S1995.96; and Seated Bodhisattva, S2000.10.


Vasudhara
Nepal, 1082
Gilded copper inlaid with semiprecious stones, traces of vermilion
21 x 16 x 16.6 cm
Gift of Susanne K. Bennet in memory of Felicja "Lusia" Arendt (1928-1942?)
S2012.2