Stone lotus-patterned ceilings occur in 8th–13th century temples throughout northern India. The lotus is a recurring motif in Indian art where it is a symbol of prosperity, purity and fertility. Although the lotus grows out of muddy water, it emerges clean on the surface and finally produces a beautiful flower.
This sculpture may also be seen as a mandala, a symbolic representation of the universe which sometimes takes the form of a multi-petalled lotus flower. Framing the concentric layers of petals within its square border, and in the corners, are eight small grotesque faces of glory (kirtimukha). These magical devices with bulging eyes, small pointed horns and distinct fangs serve protective and decorative functions similar to gargoyles.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label