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Chinese Gilt Bronze Vaisravana
Chinese Gilt Bronze Vaisravana, fire-gilded bronze with colored details. The god of wealth sits in magnificent armor on the saddled lion, which turns its head towards the deity while roaring. This is covered by a fluttering scarf and holds the jewel-spewing Nakula in his left hand. The umbrella in the right hand is lost. The base is decorated all around with fine lotus leaves.
A GILT BRONZE FIGURE OF VAISRAVANA ON HIS LION
18th century, China
Height: 16,6 cm.
– The name Vaiśravaṇa is a vṛddhi derivative (used, e.g., for patronymics) of the Sanskrit proper name Viśravaṇa from the root vi-śru “hear distinctly”, (passive) “become famous”. The name Vaiśravaṇa is derived from the Sanskrit viśravaṇa which means “son of Vishrava”, a usual epithet of the Hindu god KuberaVaiśravaṇa is also known as Kubera and Jambhala in Sanskrit and Kuvera in Pāli.
In Tibet, Vaiśravaṇa is considered a lokapāla or dharmapāla in the retinue of Ratnasambhava. He is also known as the King of the North. As guardian of the north, he is often depicted on temple murals outside the main door. He is also thought of as a god of wealth. As such, Vaiśravaṇa is sometimes portrayed carrying a citron, the fruit of the jambhara tree, a pun on another name of his, Jambhala. The fruit helps distinguish him iconically from depictions of Kuvera. He is sometimes represented as corpulent and covered with jewels. When shown seated, his right foot is generally pendant and supported by a lotus-flower on which is a conch shell. His mount is a snow lion. Tibetan Buddhists consider Jambhala’s sentiment regarding wealth to be providing freedom by way of bestowing prosperity, so that one may focus on the path or spirituality rather than on the materiality and temporality of that wealth.
In China, Vaiśravaṇa, also known as Píshāméntiān, is one of the Four Heavenly Kings, and is he is considered to be a warrior god and protector of the north. He is also regarded as one of the Twenty Devas or the Twenty-Four Devas, a group of Buddhist dharmapalas who manifest to protect the Dharma. In Chinese Buddhist iconography, he holds a pagoda in his right hand and a trident in his left hand. In Chinese temples, he is often enshrined within the Hall of the Heavenly Kings with the other three Heavenly Kings. His name Duōwén Tiānwáng lit. “listening to many teachings”) is a reference to the belief that he guards the place where the Buddha teaches. In Taoist belief, he is conflated with the god Li Jing, whose iconography incorporates many of Vaiśravaṇa’s characteristics, such as carrying a pagoda.