Khmer Sculpture of the Buddha Vajrasattva - FZ.415
Origin: Cambodia
Circa: 12 th Century AD to 13 th Century AD
Dimensions: 8.25" (21.0cm) high
Collection: Asian
Style: Angkor Wat Period
Medium: Bronze


The Khmer civilization, today embodied by the temples and ruins of Angkor, flourished from 802-1431 A.D. From the great citadel of Angkor, one of mankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements, the kings of the Khmer empire ruled over a vast domain that reached from what is now southern Vietnam to Yunnan, China and from Vietnam westward to the Bay of Bengal. The original city was built around the Phnom Bakeng, a temple on a hill symbolizing the mountain that stands in the center of the world according to Hindu cosmology. Successive kings enlarged the city, building other temples devoted to various Hindu deities and large reservoirs used for irrigation, which also symbolized the ocean surrounding the holy central mountain.

Architecture reached its peak during the Angkor Wat style, certainly best revealed in the grand Visnuite temple after which this style is named. However, during this period of architectural innovation, sculpture instead aesthetically returned back to an earlier era, specifically the first half of the 10th century. The sculptural archaism of this period may have been influenced by the politics. Thus, the renewed grandeur of Angkor Wat sculpture reflected the power of the king. It is also possible that sculptors looked longingly back at the motifs and styles of previous periods that had fallen into disuse.

The historical figure, Buddha Gautama Sakyamuni is the Buddha of compassion who, having achieved the highest evolutionary perfection, turns suffering into happiness for all living beings. Born around 560 B.C. somewhere between the hills of south Nepal and the Rapti river, his father was a Raja who ruled over the northeastern province of India, the district including the holy Ganges River. The young prince was married to Yashoda when he was about 17 years old and together they had a son named Rahula. At the age of 29, he left his life of luxury, as he felt compelled to purify his body and make it an instrument of the mind by ridding himself of earthly impulses and temptations.

This sculpture depicts the Buddha Vajrasattva, the Buddha of Purification. In this form, the Adi Buddha is the manifestation of the energy of all the Buddhas, thus reflecting the influence of monotheism on this ancient religion. He is depicted seated in the Vajraparyanka posture holding the two attributes characteristic of this form, the vajra, or thunderbolt, in his right hand and the ghanta, or bell, in his left. He wears his hair in a high conical bun, the form of which is highly suggestive of a lotus blossom. A diadem encircles his bun and frames his forehead. Jewerly adorns his ears, arms, and neck, reflecting his royal origins. The sophisticated artistry of the work suggests that it would have been placed in an important temple or palace, where reverant followers whould have once payed their respects to the Buddha. - (FZ.415)



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