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Gau (Portable Shrine) - ROM2005_1583_1


Gau (Portable Shrine)

Medium:Silver and brass
Geography: Tibet
Date: 20th century
17.5 x 14.8 cm
Object number: 977.107.2
Credit Line: Anonymous Gift
Not on view

This is a portable shrine (gau) that holds a small clay image of a Buddhist god. It features a protective fierce monster face with fangs (kirtimukha) spewing scrolling patternwork below the opening and the eight lucky Buddhist symbols around the sides.

Sacred objects such as this one are used in service of Buddhist rituals that help devotees to advance along the path to enlightenment. The goal of enlightenment is to gain release from the cycle of suffering and rebirth. Rendered in precious materials and with profuse decoration, such objetst have symbolic meaning and are understood to be imbued with power. Many are small because they needed to be portable for the semi-nomadic lifestyle in the mountainous regions of the Himalayas. Hooks on the back allowed it to be carried while strapped to a belt.

The religion of Buddhism originated in the northern part of present-day India in the 5th century BCE. It spread to the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan, as well as other parts of the world. Ritual objects play an important role in Himalayan Buddhism.

South Asia
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