Friday, August 1, 2008

Three Images

Next time you are in India and if you happen to be visiting the holy places in Bihar, make a point of going to the Patna Museum. Its your typical Indian museum; housed in a once grand but now badly neglected British-period building, poor lighting, sometimes no lighting, dusty display cases, poor labeling and a book shop displaying a range of publications, none of which are available. The only innovation over the last 40 years seems to be that foreigners now have to pay R. 100 instead of the traditional 50 paice to get in. But for all that, the Patna Museum is a treasure-house of Buddhist art. There are Buddhas and bodhisattvas, Tantric deities and nagas and most of the bronzes from Kurkihar are there too. You could spend hours gazing at these products of Buddhist devotion. To me though, the finest pieces on display are a statue of Avalokitesvara and another of Maitriya which were originally placed on either side of a Buddha which happens to be in the museum also. The Buddha is okay but does not have the delicate proportions and the smiling expressions of its companions. It is also a little stiff and formal whereas the bodhisattvas have a pleasing, almost sensuous, fluidity. The eyes of both are downcast – Avalokitesvara as if to say; ‘I understand your pain’ and Maitriya as if whispering; ‘Be patient. I will come in good time.’
These three lovely statues are from the small village of Visnupur (Bishnupur on some maps) not far from Sobnath, just off the main road between Gaya and Rajgir. They were discovered, if I remember correctly, by Aural Stein during his tour of Bihar in the early 1900’s. In the report of his tour published in Indian Antiquary there is an interesting photo of the three statues in situ.

I am shutting down until the 12th because I will be on a teaching tour in Indonesia until them. Log in then when I will be exploring at all aspects of sexuality from a Buddhist perspective.


dyannne said...

Be safe and happy! Look forward to your return.

s,o,k,y,i,h said...

Hello! Just want to say that your book "Good Question Good Answer" is one of the rare books on Buddhism that I actually like reading. Thanks for writing it.