Indian and Himalayan Art
Face of BhairavaMade in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, Asia
Malla Dynasty (1200-1769), c. 16th century
Artist/maker unknown, Nepalese
Mercury-gilded copper alloy with rock crystal, paint, foil, and glass decoration
1998-77-1Purchased with the Stella Kramrisch Fund, 1998
LabelA wrathful form of the Hindu god Shiva, Bhairava is the protector of the city of Kathmandu in Nepal and is venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists. Monumental, masklike faces of Bhairava are made in Nepal for various festivals, most notably for Indra-Jatra, which is celebrated over several days in early fall in the Kathmandu Valley. The mask is connected to a large pot filled with home-brewed beer, then garlanded with leaves and flowers and placed on a wooden platform. At the appropriate auspicious moment, the sanctified beer is released, spurting out of Bhairava’s open mouth as crowds of worshipers jostle to catch a mouthful, receiving it as a gift and a blessing from the god. This large, fierce face is an outstanding example of Newar mastery of the art of repoussé. The face is a single piece of hammered metal, while the hair, ears, earrings, and various crown pieces were made separately. Each component was gilded, parts of the hair and eyes were painted, and precious and semiprecious stones and glass were set into the jewelry. As originally assembled, the mask also included round, jeweled earrings, a neck, and shoulders.
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