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Marcel Nies

17. Prajnaparamita
Cambodia, Angkor Vat
12th century
Bronze, cast in the lost wax method
height 22 cm.


The Buddhist goddess of transcendental wisdom is distinguished by the blue lotus and the manuscript which she carries in her hands. Prajnaparamita is one of the most important female Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism, the actual creators of the universe. After reaching the state of enlightenment, she dedicated herself to guiding all beings to the true path of Buddha, leading to Nirvana. Being the personification of wisdom, Prajnaparamita is regarded as the mystic mother of all Buddhas.

Depicted in a standing posture on a rectangular base, Prajnaparamita holds the pustaka, the book which symbolises wisdom, in her left hand. Her right hand holds the Utpala, the blue lotus which symbolises purity and spiritual elevation. The goddess wears a diadem, the principal band of which is decorated with a row of stylised lotus patterns. The conical shaped headdress bears an image of the historical Buddha Gautama Sakyamuni in a seated posture. She is adorned with a crown, earrings, a necklace, bracelets and a fine skirt which is folded over a belt hung with pendants, and which has vertical engraved lines.

This fine bronze image is a classic example of Khmer art created during the Angkor Vat period. In the 12th century the worship of the mahayana trinity, comprising Buddha Sakyamuni, Avalokitesvara and Prajnaparamita, became a national cult and was the paradigm and heart of the religious system in Cambodia during the first 20 years of Jayavarman VII reign (1181-1201 A.D.). The temple complex of Ta Prohm was dedicated in 1186 A.D. to Prajnaparamita in honour of Jayavarman's mother. Typical characteristics of the Angkor Vat style are the connecting eyebrows in a straight line, the wide open eyes, the thick lower lip tapered at the sides, the typical construction of the fine folded sarong (skirt) and the shape of the jewellery and ornaments.

Reflecting the Angkor Vat style, this fine bronze can be considered a masterpiece of Khmer art. With careful and subtle modelling, this graceful image is depicted with lively imagination. Set in a frontal and convincing upright posture, her hands take a beautiful position, raised slightly differently and turning away from each other, enhancing the elegance of this Buddhist goddess of wisdom.

Formerly in the collection of Mr. H. Loschengruber, Germany.
Formerly in the collection of Mr. A. Kiepe, Germany.


all text, images © Marcel Nies

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