Bodhisattva Head (fragment) - ROM2015_14494_2


Bodhisattva Head (fragment)

Medium:Carved grey schist
Geography: Gandhara, Pakistan/Afghanistan
Date: 3rd century AD
Period: Kushan Period
14.6 x 10.2 x 7.5 cm
Object number: 952.32
Credit Line: Gift of Major R. G. Gayer-Anderson
Not on view
DescriptionThis head, in grey schist, dates from the third century CE, from the Gandhara, in present day Pakistan & Afghanistan during the Kushan period. A tiny area, roughly 120 miles east to west, and 100 miles north to south, Gandhara’s major urban centres were Peshawar and Taxila. Peshawar was one of two Kushan capitals, Mathura in India was the other. The earliest literary references to the Gandhara are in the Rigveda c. 1200 BCE that mention the Gandhari people. At a crossroads of trade and empire, Gandaran art during the Kushan period (30-375CE) incorporated many stylistic forms and schools: Greco-Roman, Iranian art, indigenous Indian art, Mathura stylistic attributes, Vedic, Zoroastrian, Mithric and Jain sources. Ultimately, however, the main theme in Gandaran art is Buddhism which reflects a religious ecumenism. This head lacks detail – he is missing his ears, nose, the back of the head, and a body. Thus there is little ornamentation, save a simple diadem encircling his wavy hair, which has been tied in a sort of bow like chignon on top of his head. Despite the lack of detail, the hairstyle and the urna mark in between his eyes demonstrate this represents a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being of pure compassion, on the path to perfection. He has renounced becoming a Buddha, instead consecrating himself to the call of others to aid in the path to enlightenment. Bodhisattvas are intermediaries between the world and Buddhist dharma. It is likely that this bodhisattva is the bodhisattva Maitreya, the future Buddha. In the Gandharan period Maitreya is the most represented bodhisattva. He is recognized by hair that is tied in a chignon with part of his hair flowing to his shoulders. The other more commonly portrayed bodhisattvas at this time were the Bodhisattva Siddhartha (who wears a tuban) and the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (who wears a crown). This piece was originally donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as part of a private collection. The V&A Museu later donated it ot the ROM as a duplicate.
South Asia
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