Mon people Buddha on Vanaspati 8th century Description: stele depicting Buddha with two attendants upon Rahu, the king of demons
Place made: Thailand
Creation Notes: Dvaravati period (7th-11th centuries)
Materials & Technique: sculptures, greenstone
Dimensions: 53.5 h cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1973
Accession No: NGA 73.281
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is currently being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • with antique dealership Peng Seng, Bangkok, 1973 or before
  • which sold it to Reinhart Hassert, Sydney, 1973 or before
  • who sold it to the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1973 for AUD 8,600
  • Sometimes referred to in Thai art as the Buddha on Vanaspati, this rare early sculpture probably depicts the Amitabha Buddha accompanied by two companions as he descends from heaven to welcome a dying person. While most Mahayana Buddhist images show Amitabha standing on a lotus while floating down on a cloud, in this unusual depiction he is on a giant bird, possibly the Garuda.

    Looking down with compassion, the Buddha’s hands signal welcome at the time of death. Amitabha Tathagata is often depicted with two bodhisattva saviours, Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamarprapta. Avalokiteshvara on the Buddha’s right, holds a lotus which he offers to the soul as a seat to ascend to heaven. The tendon protruding from the back indicates how this sculpture was attached to a larger architectural relief.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
    From: Asian gallery extended display label