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For use in a procession

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Tamil Nadu, India, Asia

Medieval Period

c. 975

Copper alloy

32 × 14 3/4 × 10 inches (81.3 × 37.5 × 25.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

* Gallery 324, Asian Art, third floor (Caplan Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, the John D. McIlhenny Fund, and with funds contributed by the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of their 100th anniversary, 1982

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Rama—great hero, ideal king, and one of the ten avatars of the god Vishnu—is the protagonist of the Ramayana, a popular Hindu religious text. In this processional image, Rama’s hands are placed to hold a bow (now missing); it is with a bow and arrow that he kills his nemesis, the evil demon king Ravana. The temple hall in which this sculpture stands incorporates many images of Rama, including eight relief slabs (placed around the inside of the hall just below the ceiling) that once formed part of a much larger series that tells the full story of the Ramayana.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Bronze images from the eleventh-century Chola dynasty are peak creations of Indian art, and this image of Rama is among the best of them. These bronzes give form to the living, breathing, pulsating quality of the human shape--to the stream of life itself--which in turn becomes the body of the deity. Their naturalism is based neither on description nor on the structure of the human frame, but on the experience of breathing; it is one of rhythm and fluidity--within the bodily shape and the space it creates, and of the space that surrounds it. Rama, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, the ideal king and hero of the great epic the Ramayana, is customarily represented in human form, two-armed and holding a bow and arrow, although as is seen here, the weapon itself is not always shown. When the bow is depicted in sculptures such as this, it is held in the raised left hand and rests on the lotus base, while the arrow is grasped vertically in the right. Stella Kramrisch, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 50.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.