The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 17, 2018

Conch Shell with a Figure of Hevajra, 1100s

shell and bronze, Overall: 35 cm (13 3/4 in.). John L. Severance Fund 1977.176

Conch shells were blown in tantric rituals to make the sound that was considered to correspond to the initial syllable om of a mantra. Mantras are codified strings of syllables that practitioners repeat multiple times to help focus the mind through sound. Historically in South Asia, conch shells were used as a call to battle in military contexts. In the Buddhist ritual context, it signals the start of one’s process of destroying delusions and misconceptions.

The dancing tantric figure of Hevajra has been worked into the bronze embellishment of the shell. Hevajra was elevated to a prominent position in Khmer Buddhism of the Angkorian period as the standard figure denoting tantric practices.

The Cleveland Museum of Art (05/05/2013 - 09/15/2013); "Focus:Tantra in Buddhist Art" The Cleveland Museum of Art (10/14/2017-01/07/2018): “Beyond Angkor: Cambodian Sculpture from Banteay Chhmar”

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