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Kubera

  • Object:

    Figure

  • Place of origin:

    Uttar Pradesh (Kaman near Mathura, made)

  • Date:

    5th century-6th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Sandstone

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Major Weinholt

  • Museum number:

    IM.322-1921

  • Gallery location:

    South Asian Sculpture, Room 47b, case 4

This sandstone panel is carved in high relief with the figure of Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth. It was probably intended for a small village or wayside shrine. Here Kubera is seated in the attitude of ‘royal ease’, holding a long purse in his raised hand and a bowl of flowers in the other. His large, corpulent stomach is a sign of his prosperity and worldly comfort. His divine status is indicated by a nimbus (halo).

The panel belongs to the Gupta period (320-about 540 AD), when secondary deities such as Kubera assumed a secure place in the Hindu pantheon. The concept of Kubera as god of wealth also exists in a Buddhist context, where he is known as Jambhala.

Physical description

This is one of the earliest representations of Kubera, god of wealth. He holds a drinking cup (with lotus-pattern cover) and a cloth purse, symbol of the wealth he guards over. Kubera is seated in ‘royal ease’ (rajalilasana), the posture of princes. He is haloed, adorned with a pearl string, arm-bands and pendant ear ornaments and wears a skirt-cloth, visible at the waist and mid-calf. His physique is corpulent and gross, as befits his name.

Place of Origin

Uttar Pradesh (Kaman near Mathura, made)

Date

5th century-6th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Sandstone

Dimensions

Height: 22.5 cm

Object history note

Kubera, the ‘ill-shaped one’, a yaksa deity absorbed into Hinduism as the protector of riches and treasures. He is conventionally depicted accompanied by a mongoose, from whose open jaws flow pearls and precious stones.
Kubera is further associated with agricultural productivity, presumably because of his power over water - where treasures are stored, guarded by the nagas over whom he has overlordship. In Hindu cosmology he also serves as a directional guardian (dikpala), presiding over the north. He serves the same function in later Buddhism, where he is also acknowledged as Jambhala, the god of riches.
This small sculpture from the Mathura district of northern India, carved in the pink sandstone characteristic of the region, exhibits the distinctive Gupta-style treatment of the deity’s hair, ornaments and nimbus. It was probably intended for a small village or wayside shrine.

Descriptive line

Figure of a seated Kubera, sandstone, Kaman, near Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, 5th-6th century, Gupta period.

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

A K Coomaraswamy, Yaksas, 1971 (reprint), pl 4.2 as Kusana
Guy, John: Indian Temple Sculpture, London, V&A Publication, 2007, p.40, pl.41.
ISBN 9781851775095
Guy, John (ed.). L’Escultura en els Temples Indis: L’Art de la Devocio, Barcelona : Fundacio ‘La Caixa’, 2007. p.57, cat. 16.. ISBN: 9788476649466

Labels and date

13. Kubera, God of Wealth
400–600
Gupta period
Sandstone
Possibly northern India
Reportedly from Kaman, near Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
Given by Major D.A. Weinholt
Museum no. IM.322-1921 [06/06/2011]

Subjects depicted

Purse; Hinduism; Bowl; Halo; Lotus

Categories

Sculpture; Hinduism

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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