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  • Thumbnail for Harihara
    Harihara

    The museum label states: "This sculpture from a temple niche represents Harihara, a figure combining Shiva (right half) and Vishnu (left half). Shiva has a crown of matted locks and holds a trident as his emblem of power. His bull, Nandi (missing its head), stands at his side. Vishnu's crown is miterlike, and he holds the conch and discus. The pairing of these two deities and their symbols represents the paradox of simultaneous destruction and creation in nature." -- India, Madhya Pradesh -- Red Sandstone -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (Lent by the Pritzker Fmily, 516.1983)

  • Thumbnail for Boar (Varaha) Incarnation of Vishnu
    Boar (Varaha) Incarnation of Vishnu

    As described on the museum label, "According to Hindu mythology, the earth began to sink under the burden of evil or overpopulation, and Vishnu, assuming the form of a boar (Varaha), recovered her from the ocean. This work represents the moment when Varaha (usually depicted as an anthropomorphic figure with a boar's head) has rescued the earth, personified as a beautiful woman perched demurely on his bent left elbow. She lays her right hand gently on his snout both for support and as a token of gratitude. The serpents (nagas) below vishnu's left foot symbolize water." -- Red sandstone -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf, 1997.707)

  • Thumbnail for Head of a Transcendental Buddha
    Head of a Transcendental Buddha

    The following information is from the museum label: "The Five Transcendental Buddhas are manifestations of five aspects of the Buddha's nature. Each embodies a different sort of wisdom, such as equanimity or accomplishment. This concept developed primarily in Mahayana Buddhism and suggests that it is possible to reach enlightenment through a variety of spiritual paths. In central Java, where their worship was popular, the Five Transcendental Buddhas are often depicted together in temples. Because only the head of this Buddha remains, it is difficult to identify which of the five it represents." -- medium: Andesite -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 188.1997) -- A broader note on the development Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia: "Three main schools of Buddhism developed over time, each concerned with the path to salvation, the path to freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth. - "Hinayana Buddhism holds that salvation lies in monastic life and the teachings of the historical Buddha, who guided others by his own example of enlightenment. Hinayana art usually focuses on depicting the Buddha's life and image. This school, often known as the Southern Tradition, flourished in India but was adopted in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia by the medieval era. - "Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism are often called the Northern Traditions. Mahayana Buddhism asserts that there are a variety of paths to enlightenment, and Mahayana artists create images of the Five Transcendental Buddhas in order to visualize the five holy qualities that led to salvation. During the medieval period, Mahavaya Buddhism became popular in China, Korea, and Japan. At the same time, Vajrayana Buddhism matured in Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia with the establishment of new relationships between Buddhist and local deities. Vajrayana art varies widely in content and style, reflecting the blending of many religious traditions."