Hevajra and Consort
16th century
Gilt bronze
13.3 cm (5 ¼ in)

This elaborate sculpture depicts Cakrasamvara embracing his consort Vajravarahi in yab yum, symbolising the union of Wisdom and Compassion in tantric Buddhist belief. Cakrasamvara is one of the most popular deities in Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions after the 11th century.

Cakrasamvara is characterised by four heads and twelve arms, with each head represents a unique Buddha wisdom. He stands in the dynamic posture of alidhasana with his primary hands crossed behind his consort’s back holding a vajra (thunderbolt) and ghanta (bell). His remaining ten hands hold a variety of other attributes including a damaru, kartrika, pasha and khatvanga, Vajravarahi, with her legs wrapped around his waist, holds a kapala (skull cup) in her left hand and a kartrika (chopper) in her right.

Both figures are decorated with intricate beaded jewellery, while Cakrasamvara also wears a garland of severed heads that drapes between his legs.

Though the base is now lost, the figures would have originally been depicted on top of the crushed figures of Hindu deities Kalaratri and Bhairava, symbolising the defeat of the enemies of Buddhist doctrine.