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Face of Bhairava

Artist/maker unknown, Nepalese

Made in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, Asia

c. 16th century

Mercury-gilded copper alloy with rock crystal, paint, foil, and glass

28 1/4 × 29 1/4 × 14 3/4 inches (71.8 × 74.3 × 37.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

* Gallery 325, Asian Art, third floor (Imasogie Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Stella Kramrisch Fund, 1998

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A wrathful form of the Hindu god Shiva, Bhairava, like Durga, is a popular deity in Nepal. As the protector of the city of Kathmandu he is venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists. Monumental masklike faces of Bhairava, such as this repoussé example, 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 homebrewed 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.

* 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.