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Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal

Vajracharya priest enacting Buddhist ritual at Bu-bahal monastery in Patan
Nepal, 1960s
Photograph by Mary Shepherd Slusser , Courtesy © Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler

In this photograph, a Vajracharya priest performs an esoteric ritual service while holding a ladle and bell (ghanta). He wears the elaborate crown that instills him with bodhisattva-like powers to disperse blessings and boons to worshippers, and chants the efficacious litany for the spiritual benefit of his client. The ritual is enacted over a mandala altar inset into the temple’s pavement. Flowers are scattered on the altar, and a conch shell on a tripod stand nearby serves as a dispenser for libations.

Exhibition History
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal," December 16, 2017–December 16, 2018.