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Collections: South Asian and Himalayan Art


Number of objects: more than 1,200
Historical range: First century B.C.E. to present
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detail, Humayun Seated in a Landscape

The arts of South Asia and the Himalayas are closely intertwined with the subcontinent's many religious traditions. This region, which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, is the birthplace of three major religions: Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The Islamic kingdoms that were established in South Asia in the twelfth century brought new visual traditions to the subcontinent. The galleries' South Asian and Himalayan collections illuminate these richly diverse sacred traditions as well as the secular arts of the Mughal and Rajput courts.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • A Gandharan frieze illustrating the life of Buddha (late 2nd–3d century)
  • A small but superb collection of Chola bronzes (Hindu temple figures from the 10th–14th century), including an image of Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi as the Goddess Parvati
  • Exquisite paintings made for the Mughal and Rajput courts of North India (16th–19th century)
  • The Freer Ramayana, an illustrated manuscript of the great Hindu epic painted for a Mughal nobleman
  • A significant collection of 12th–19th-century Buddhist art from Nepal and Tibet, including a larger-than-life Nepalese wooden bodhisattva and a Tibetan thangka
  • Company School works (drawings and paintings by Indian artists for British patrons, 18th–19th century)