Bedecked in elaborate jewellery and crown, the bodhisattva sits in meditation pose on a lotus. The urna (tuft of hair between the eyebrows) is indicated by a circle on his forehead. His right hand holds a vajra or thunderbolt which he is about to hurl at evil-doers and the left hand exhibits the tarjanimudra or the gesture of admonition. Other than these two gestures of belligerence, he is portrayed as a gentle, elegant figure. The thunderbolt is the major clue to his identification as Vajrapani.
An inscription in Chinese characters on the upper surface of the lotus throne states, “Da Ming Yongle nian-shi”, meaning that the bronze was donated in the Yongle reign of the Great Ming period. Every feature of this image bears the characteristics of a group of bronzes that have now been firmly attributed to the reign of Ming Emperor Cheng Zu (1403–24) known to history as the Yongle emperor. This is particularly noticed in the two necklaces. The short one has two loops and a central medallion with three pendants. The longer one falls almost to his navel. The girdle which is tied round his dhoti has similar loops both in front and at the back. The two ends of the scarf draped around his shoulders are drawn forward loosely falling on his lap. Even the pedestal is noticeable for the treatment of the lotus petals with the tips slightly turned upwards; two strands of pearls run around the edges of the pedestal.
As the only one with an inscription of the Yongle period, this is not only the most important Buddhist bronze in the Tata Collection but it is also the only one of its kind in the Museum. Iconographically too, it is a rare image of Bodhisattva
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection
Yongle period (1403–24 CE)
15th century CE
21 x 15 x 12.3 cm