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Sculpture - Nagaraja Guardstone

Nagaraja Guardstone

  • Object:

    Sculpture

  • Place of origin:

    Sri Lanka (made)

  • Date:

    9th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Granite

  • Museum number:

    IS.8-1966

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Guardstone are traditionally placed at the base of stairs leading to the platform of a dagaba (stupa) in Sinhalese Buddhist architecture. They are usually in the form of nagarajas, subdued snake-deities who now serve the Buddha. The nagaraja is represented holding a flowering stem and a vase of plenty (purnaghata), symbols of fertility. This example lacks the elaborate decorative frame, with makaras and flamboyant foliage, seen on the finest examples, and dates from the end of the Anuradhapura period. It would have been one of a pair, placed at the foot of the stairs leading up to a stupa to guard the reliquary mound and its sacred contents.

Physical description

A male figure standing atibhanga pose with a naga hood, holding in his right hand the stalk of an elongated flower-bud and in his left a potted plant (purnaghata). 12th century, Ceylon

Place of Origin

Sri Lanka (made)

Date

9th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Granite

Dimensions

Height: 84.5 cm, Width: 37 cm, Depth: 16 cm

Object history note

Bought from Berkeley Galleries.

Historical context note

Guardstone are traditionally placed at the base of stairs leading to the platform of a dagaba (stupa) in Sinhalese Buddhist architecture. They are usually in the form of nagarajas, subdued snake-deities who now serve the Buddha. The nagaraja is represented holding a flowering stem and a vase of plenty (purnaghata), symbols of fertility. This example lacks the elaborate decorative frame, with makaras and flamboyant foliage, seen on the finest examples, and dates from the end of the Anuradhapura period.

(One of pair with IS 9-1966)
A male figure standing atibhanga pose with a naga hood, holding in his right hand the stalk of an elongated flower-bud and in his left a potted plant (purnaghata).

Descriptive line

Nagaraja Guardstone, granite, late Anuradhapura period, Sri Lanka, 12th century AD

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

C.E.Godakumbura, "Guardstones". Ceylon Archaelogical Dept. Colombo, 1964.

Labels and date

Nagaraja guardstone
800–900
Anuradhapura period
Sri Lanka
Granite
Nagas, or serpent spirits, are associated with the
protection of treasure, whether in the earth or at the
bottom of lakes or rivers. This figure is a nagaraja, or
‘serpent spirit king’. It would have been one of a pair,
placed at the foot of the stairs leading up to a stupa
to guard the reliquary mound and its sacred contents.
Museum no. IS.8-1966
800–900 [1/4/2009]

Production Note

Sri Lanka

Materials

Granite

Categories

Sculpture; Buddhism

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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