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HOME : Asian Art : Art of Nepal : Wooden Bhairava Mask
Wooden Bhairava Mask - LK.118
Origin: Nepal
Circa: 1500 AD to 1700 AD
Dimensions: 10.5" (26.7cm) high x 12.8" (32.5cm) wide
Collection: Asian Art
Medium: Wood

Location: Great Britain
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Bhairava has a special significance in Nepal as he is the guardian of Kathmandu. His image is still paraded through the streets every year as part of the festival of Indra-Jahra. This is part of an ancient tradition in which the deity was valued for his ability to ward off evil with his ferocious appearance. Bhairava was regarded as a manifestation of Shiva, created to punish Brahma during a dispute between the two deities. The argument arose because Brahma tried to usurp Shiva in his role as supreme creator of the universe. As punishment, Bhairava beheaded one of Brahma’s five heads.

In this mask Bhairava has all his traditional attributes including a headdress formed from writhing serpents, three bulging eyes, flaring eyebrows and a pair of tiger’s teeth clearly visible in his open mouth. Above the forehead is a representation of Shiva in his peaceful form. The quality of the carving is impressive, especially the two larger snakes that adorn the deity’s earlobes. There are considerable traces of red pigment on the mask. This is a ritual powder that reminds us that this object was once an important focus of worship. - (LK.118)


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