Bodhisattva Manjusri


Bodhisattva Manjusri



Bodhisattva Manjusri is one of the most popular Buddhist deities in Nepal and is associated with the legend of origin of the Kathmandu valley. It is believed that originally the valley was a lake and it was Manjusri who cut a path with his sword
and created the Chaubar gorge in the south through which the water escaped to leave behind the verdant fertile land. His popularity can also be accounted for due to his role as the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge without which enlightenment is not possible.
In this metal image, he is represented as a princely youthful figure seated in the meditative posture known as vajraparyanka with feet placed on the thighs. He has four arms, two of the hands clearly holding the sword and the manuscript of the Prajnaparamita text. The other two would have held an arrow on the right and a bow on the left. While the sword symbolizes the cutting of the knots of ignorance, the book needs little explanation. The bow and arrow made of flowers are of course the attributes of the god of desire Kamadeva with whom Manjusri is identified. One of his synonyms is Vajrananga, Ananga being an epithet of Kama. In a number of descriptions Manjusri is said to display the flavour or mood of love (shringara rasa).
As Vajrananga he is imprecated in spells to bewitch women.
Likely here the bodhisattva is portrayed in the form known as Arapachana Manjusri since he presides over a group of five deities that originate from the five syllables a, ra, pa, cha, na. His popularity is evinced by the fact that the circa 12th century Sanskrit compendium of meditational visualizations (dhyana or sadhana) known as the Sadhanamala includes eight examples, though none describes him with four arms.

Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection


Himalayan Art

Object Type

Figurine religious object


Gilt bronze






c 1700




18.5 cm