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Simon Ray Limited

Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century
Height: 20.2 cm
Width: 10.1 cm
Depth: 4.6 cm

This small grey schist sculpture depicts three figures finely carved in high relief. To the left is the Buddha with a nimbus, dressed in flowing robes with one bare shoulder, his long hair falling over his neck and shoulders. The Buddha�s long hair and style of drapery suggest that this depicts the Buddha prior to his Enlightenment and before the scene of the Great Tonsure, where he cuts off his princely locks with his sword.

The bearded and bare-chested man of classical aspect standing to the right wearing only a loincloth and a sash is Vajrapani, the protector of the faith who often appears next to the Buddha in Gandharan sculpture. As in the present sculpture, Vajrapani is usually depicted as a bearded man with a strong, bare upper torso, similar in many ways to Atlas and derived from classical Atlas figures, but essentially inspired by the closely related Herakles (Hercules), who seems to have had a popular cult in Gandhara, as did various other Greek gods such as Eros and Dionysus.

Vajrapani means �Holder of the Vajra� or thunderbolt, and the outlines of the vajra held by Vajrapani in his hands vertically against his left shoulder can still be seen. In Gandharan sculpture he is frequently depicted standing close to the Buddha and seems to be the Buddha�s bodyguard and inseparable companion, but the consensus is that what he is guarding is the message rather than the man. He is the personification of wisdom (prajna), which is conceived of as one half of the state of Buddhahood. He represents the power of all the Buddhas, the removal of obstacles, and the conquest of negativity through fierce determination, symbolised by the vajra he holds.

all text, images � Simon Ray Limited


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