Rato Machhendranath

bronze
Nepal (Kathmandu Valley, Patan), 16th cent. (?)
high: 17,4 cm.

Rato (Red) Machhendranath has his maijor temple in Patan (Lalitpur), where, once a year, is a festival in his honour and a huge wooden pole on a procession chart is pulled through the town, to bless the city. The Red Machhendranath is recognizable by his strange, flat face. This is derived from the original wooden statue of Machhendranath, probably datable from the 6th- or 7th century, where the face is completely worn away.

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This massive cast statue is extremely rare: I know of only one other statue with this caracteristic worn face, published in the wonderful book of Mary Schlusser, Nepal Mandala, volume 1, p. 379 ff.; volume 2, pl. 596. This statue is still in Nepal.
There is also a White (Seto) Machhendranath, whose temple is in the old centre of Kathmandu, at Indra Chowk. Both Machendranaths are considered as forms of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist bodhisattva of Compassion, (although, and this is common in Nepal, at the same time he is considered as a form of the Hindu god Shiva….). Also Seto Machhendranath has his festival with a huge wooden pole on a chariot, but then in Kathmandu.

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