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Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (British Museum)

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara - British Museum - Joy of Museums

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

This statue of Avalokiteśvara is the Buddist Lord of Compassion and embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. A Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has chosen to remain in the early realm to selflessly help others attain spiritual liberation. In this statue, the right hand is in the pose of the gesture of charity. His left hand may have held a lotus which is a symbol of purity. In Tibet, the Dalai Lama is believed to be his incarnation.

Bodhisattvas are a favourite subject in Buddhist art and are variably depicted, described and portrayed in different cultures as either female or male. In Chinese Buddhism, Avalokiteśvara has become the somewhat different female figure Guanyin. Avalokiteshvara is the earthly manifestation of the eternal Buddha, and he guards the world in the interval between the departure of the historical Buddha and the appearance of the future Buddha.


  • The primary attribute of Avalokiteśvara is compassion. How does this statue communicate compassion or empathy?
  • The interaction of Greek and Buddhist culture that flourished in the area of Gandhara produce the first Buddha representations in human form. Did the Greek version of Contrapposto also influence figures such as these, that stand with most of its weight on one foot so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs?


Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

  • Title:                 Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
  • Created:         1400 – 1500 – Nepal
  • Materials:      Gilded Bronze, copper,  inlaid with stones
  • Dimensions:  H: 138.4 cm
  • Museum:        The British Museum


“The mind is everything.
What you think you become.”

– Gautama Buddha


Photo Credit: 1) JOM

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