2. Tibetan Gilded Dharma Wheel Altar Stand inlaid with Semi-Precious Gems
silver; semi-precious gems
height: 33.2cm, width: 11.7cm, weight: 1,003g
This splendid dharma golden wheel and stand – one of the eight auspicious emblems of Tibetan Buddhism – was intended to decorate a Tibetan Buddhist altar. It is of repoussed and engraved gilded (gold-plated) copper and inset with more than a hundred semi-precious stones such as turquoise cabochons, rubies or topaz and rock crystal. The stones are inlaid all around the tiered base, the stand, and on one side of the wheel. The other side is chased in high relief with a kalachakra symbol atop a vase.
The base is decorated with pendant garlands with jewel terminals. The lower edge of the base is set with a row of dozens of turquoise cabochons. Above this, there is a row of dozens ruby (or similar) cabochons, all set in pitch in gilded box settings.
The mid-section of the base is decorated with a row of lotus petals in high relief, above which there is a chiselled leafy row, and then a border of turquoise cabochons. Then comes the support for the dharma wheel which is inset with a large central, oval turquoise amid other stones.
The dharma wheel itself has eight ‘spokes’ over oval turquoises around one large round turquoise. Rows of rubies, turquoise and other stones surround this.
A protective kirtimukha face rears over the dharma wheel, its eyes and head set with stones. And a lotus bud set with turquoise and with gilded, flowing ribbons serves as a finial.
The consecration of the wheel is intact; the underside of the base is enclosed with an un-gilded copper sheet decorated in relief with a six-pointed star.
The eight-spoked ‘golden’ wheel originally is a Hindu-Indian motif but was adopted by Buddhism as a symbol of the Buddha’s teachings. Wheels turn and so the emblem is associated with spiritual change. It represents the overcoming of obstacles and illusions. Buddha’s first discourse at Sarnath has become known as the ‘first turning of the wheel of truth (dharma)’.
Possibly, this item was a gift to a monastery by a wealthy donor.
Overall, a highly decorative and rare item in fine condition.
Beer, R., The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Serindia, 2004.
Brauen, M., et al., Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism, Arnoldsche/Rubin Museum of Art, 2009.
Henss, M., Buddhist Ritual Art of Tibet: A Handbook on Ceremonial Objects and Ritual Furnishings in the Tibetan Temple, Arnoldsche, 2020.
Pal. P., The Art of Tibet, The Asia Society, 1969.
Reynolds, V. et al, From the Sacred Realm: Treasures of Tibetan Art from the Newark Museum, Prestel, 1999.