Shakyamuni Triumphing over Mara (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

11th century
black phyllite
present-day India or Bangladesh, North Bengal, India
Overall: 39 1/2 × 19 1/2 × 8 in. (100.33 × 49.53 × 20.32 cm)
At the center of this elaborate composition sits the tranquil, poised figure of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. The smooth surfaces of his body contrast with the torrent of crisply carved detail surrounding him, an aesthetic effect quite appropriate to the episode illustrated. In an effort to disrupt Shakyamuni's meditations and prevent his Enlightenment, the demon Mara (Death) assaulted him with intimidation and worldly temptations. Here we see the moment when, having overcome these trials, Shakyamuni touched the ground, asking the Earth to witness his victory over death. Seated on a lotus throne, the Enlightened One is flanked by the Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya. Flying celestial figures and important Buddhist symbols, including stupas and a branch of the bodhi tree, fill the upper portion of the sculpture. Its complex stepped base is adorned with an elephant, lions, and kneeling donor figures.
Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Gift of Paul Mellon
Dye, Joseph M. The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. London: Philipp Wilson, 2001. (cat. no. 30, pp. 127-128)
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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