Enlarge Image

Pratapaditya Pal: Roshan Sabavala’s Tryst with Himalayan Art

  • click on the image to enlarge | click on the Expand icon upper left to enlarge further
    click Esc to close and return to this page

Lot 105: A Tibetan Silver Butter Lamp
Height 12 ¼ in. (31.1 cm.)

The floriform base set with lotus petals, rising to an Amrita vase grip with inset turquoise, the flaring cup cast with beaded bands and a beaded rim with inset coral, total gross weight 945 gms.

Mar me kong bu, butter lamp vessels in Tibetan, were traditionally used in monasteries, temples and domestic shrines where they were filled every morning with clarified yak butter and burned for twenty-four hours of the day. The gesture of offering light to enlightened beings, as a representation of the illumination of wisdom, is an important part of Buddhist prayer and ritual, and these lamps would have been set before images on an altar and constantly refilled with butter throughout the day. These lamps also help in meditation.

In this particular example, the stem is in the form of a longevity vase, tshe bum, with four silver straps and a central pillar that together represent the Five Buddhas, Panca Buddha.

For examples of similar lamps, which can be identified as the Lhasa style by certain academics, refer to Marilyn Rhie and Robert Thurman, A Shrine for Tibet, New York, 2009, no. VI-11, p. 244-5.

For other examples of butter lamps, see lots 113, 114 and 115.