Indra

13th century
Nepal
Copper alloy
Height:21.2 cm - 8 ⅜ in

7

Majestically seated in the posture of royalease (maharajalila), Indra exudes anair of dignity and grace. The weight of his lithe frame issupported entirely by his left hand while his right hand drapes languidlyacross a bent right knee. Cast bya skilled artist, the deity's youthful and naturalistic body is beautifullyproportioned. Folds of fabricunfurl beneath his feet indicating the presence of a dhoti, and a simple yet impressive array of jewels decorates hisotherwise unadorned torso. The broadcollar necklace, belt, armbands and distinctive shield-like crown with beadedborder[1]would at one time all have been inlaid with large semi-precious gems attestingto the deity's important status as the king of gods. Suspended from his left shoulder, a beaded upavita, or sacred cord, fallsgracefully across the divinity's torso, and framing his face a pair ofdisk-shaped earrings hang prominently against cascades of wavy hair. Although he does not bear a vajra, Indra's characteristic attribute,the presence of a horizontal third eye identifies him as the god.[2] His outward gaze is direct, and hisdelicate bow-shaped mouth bears a benign expression.

Indra's importance has waned in India sincethe era of ancient Vedic religion (c. 1500-100 B.C.E.) when he was consideredto be the most powerful god of the Hindu pantheon. However, the deity remains ahighly important figure in Nepal. There, both Buddhists and Hindus revere Indra as the king of the gods, anda variety of imagery devoted to his worship reflects his great significance withinthe culture.[3] Conceived as the god of rains, aprotective deity of directions, and an infinite cosmic force, Indra is afavorite subject of local artists. Unprecedented stylistically elsewhere, images such as the presentexample portray a purely Newari portrait of the god.

Provenance:

Carter Burden Collection, New York(acquired in the 1960s).

Notes:

[1] See Pal (1985), p. 119. The style of Indra's crown in the present example is exclusive to Newarirepresentations of the deity.

[2] Ibid. Derived fromVedic literature and symbolized by the horizontal third eye, Indra is said topossess one thousand eyes that represent his cosmic omniscience.

[3] See Pal (2003), p. 44. In Nepal, an important festival with processions and ceremonies devotedto the god Indra continues to be held annually.