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Nepal Pilgrimage From Kathmandu Valley to Gosainkund
Made in Nepal, Probably made in Bhaktapur
Late Malla Period or Early Shah Dynasty, Late 17th or early 18th century
Artist/maker unknown, Nepal, probably Bhaktapur
Colors on cloth
33 inches x 14 feet 3 1/2 inches (83.8 x 435.6 cm)
Purchased with the Stella Kramrisch Fund, 2000

Pilgrimages within Nepal and between Nepal and India predate written histories, and the Nepalese landscape is filled with shrines that mark sites sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. This long, richly detailed painting shows pilgrims progressing toward the holy lake of Gosainkund, in which appears an image of a reclining god worshiped by Hindus as Shiva and revered by Buddhists as the compassionate bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

The Nepalese cities depicted along the route-including Patan, Kathmandu, and Baleju-are identifiable by their distinctive buildings and landmarks. For example, the white building next to the blue pillar in the city at lower left is the famous stone Krishna temple in the city of Patan. This structure was built by the Malla king of Patan (Siddhinarsingh Malla) in 1637, shortly after he made a pilgrimage to the holy city of Varanasi (Benares) in India, and was modeled on temples he saw there. Thus its presence helps to date this painting.

In addition to magnificent depictions of urban architectural spaces, the artist has paid careful attention to the details of everyday life. A cat sits on a roof, a tigress nurses her cubs, and merchants, yogis, monks, and pilgrims of many ethnicities are distinguished by dress and feature.

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all text & images © The Philadelphia Museum of Art

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