Known in Cambodia as Lokeshvara, the compassionate bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is often represented in Khmer art. Recognisable by the small image of the Amitabha Buddha in his headdress, depictions of Lokeshvara were especially popular during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, a devout Buddhist. The rectangular object held in the sculpture’s remaining hand is a palm-leaf manuscript of a sacred text, most likely the Prajnaparamita (The Perfection of Wisdom). It is likely that Lokeshvara’s missing hands held a lotus, a flask containing the nectar of immortality, and a string of prayer beads.
The style of the sculpture’s headdress and skirt cloth (sampot) suggest that it was made in the late Angkor Wat period, shortly before the establishment of the overtly Buddhist Bayon period (1177–1230).
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label