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Attributed the widest role of assisting all wade across the cycle of birth and death and every turmoil, a role next to Buddha himself, the Mahayana Buddhism attached special significance to Avalokiteshvara. As Mahayana was the sole vehicle in Tibetan Buddhism the Avalokiteshvara-cult gained greater ground enshrining a larger number of temples in the Tibetan land than even Buddha. Obviously, the Tibetan Buddhism burst with innumerable Avalokiteshvara contexts and iconographic manifestations, each surpassing the other giving to the Buddhist visual tradition the finest and the most accomplished models of his image. Tibet developed its own iconography of Avalokiteshvara images, its perception of their physical and spiritual quality : refinement of form, luminosity and a blend of majesty with divinity. This gave to the Buddhist tradition the model of a highly spiritualized and strongly aesthetic image of Avalokiteshvara. This brass-statue is one of the finest example of Avalokiteshvara images rendered pursuing the best of Tibetan models.
Equated sometimes with Buddha : Virochana Buddha or Amitabha, or Metrey – the Buddha to be, and sometimes with a holy Buddhist monk in his new birth – but essentially the embodiment of the compassion of all Buddhas, Avalokiteshvara has been conceived with multifarious role of redeeming all living ones across eons, and hence, with multifarious arms from normal two to a thousand, and alike with many faces, from the normal one to as many as eleven, so that the compassionate Avalokiteshvara : the ‘Lord who looks down’ the world in full – all ten directions with his ten faces and all unknown spaces with the eleventh. One of his forms being Padmapani, Avalokiteshvara images usually carry in one of their hands a lotus which in this statue has transformed into a stylized flower. Like Manjushree, one of his roles being removing the darkness of ignorance, Avalokiteshvara sometimes carries a sword to tear with it darkness, and sometimes, an 'Akshamala' or rosary, the tool of meditation and exploring the light within across darkness. When rotating, rosary is the instrument that dragged people out of cyclic existence to the path of righteousness. This statue of Avalokiteshvara does not carry a sword but holds in one of its hands a rosary.
The other two hands, the normal ones, held semi-folded in the centre of the breast are in a posture of holding ‘Ratna-mani’ or ‘chintamani’, the diamond, which as 'truth' is neither rusted or defaced nor eroded or lost. Apart, in simultaneity the two hands are in a posture of elaboration or interpretation, an aspect of teaching Buddha by which Avalokiteshvara helps people know their miseries and come out of them. In Buddhist tradition Avalokiteshvara, like other Bodhisattvas : Manjushree, Maitreya among others, is perceived as one of the stages in the attainment of Buddhattva, though unlike them he keeps it postponing to remain available to help sentient devotees to seek redemption, and hence, he enjoys among the followers of Buddhism a far superior divine status. With his upwards turned feet resembling lotus-petals, a posture of seating identified in iconographic tradition as ‘Padmasana’, the figure of Avalokiteshvara , highly accomplished, perfectly modeled and unparalleled in plasticity and anatomical balance, has been installed on a large lotus pedestal.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.