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Eleven-Headed, Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara)

Eleven-Headed, Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara)

c. 1500

Opaque watercolor and ink on cotton

Overall: 94.6 x 69.2 cm (37 1/4 x 27 1/4 in.)

Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1982.147

Location

Exhibition

Himalayan art rotation

Description

One thousand arms surround the central figure like a radiating halo. Each hand has an eye in the palm to see the suffering of all beings, generating the sense of compassion that this figure embodies. The special form of the central image of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara derives from the mystic vision of a nun named Gelongma Palmo, who was born a Kashmiri princess, but prayed for leprosy to avoid having to marry and became an accomplished nun. While meditating in a cave, she achieved this vision of 11-headed, 1,000-armed Avalokiteshvara, who cured her leprosy and guided her on the path to enlightenment.

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