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Ancient Buddhist, Hindu statues on show

Update: March, 30/2015 - 17:40

At peace: A statue of the Buddha in Nguyen Anh Tuan's collection.

by Do Quang Tuan Hoang

Nguyen Anh Tuan, an antiques researcher and a member of the HCM City Antiques Association, has announced an exhibition for his biggest and most original statue collection, focussing on Buddhism and Hinduism.

Tuan said he had collected more than 50 ancient stone sculptures, dating back to between the 6th and the 11th century, in different provinces and cities, including An Giang, Dong Thap, Can Tho, Kien Giang and Tra Vinh. He had started collecting these since the end of the 1990s.

"Most of the statues were discovered by local residents, while digging canals and house foundations," Tuan said.

Tuan's collection also includes statues of the Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy in robes, with the statue's posture that of deep religious contemplation or standing on a lotus-shaped pedestal. Some statues of Buddha's head are carved with Ushnisha, which is a three-dimensional oval at the top of the head of the Buddha. It symbolizes his attainment of reliance on the spiritual guide.

Besides ancient sculptures related to Buddhism, the collection has more than 40 ancient Hindu sculptures, such as the idols of linga-yoni, Mukhalinga and the Harihara and Vishnu deities.

The Mukhalinga idol, which is 27cm in height and 10cm in width, has a cylindrical shape and is divided into three parts. The top part is carved into Shiva's face, with a cloth headgear.

The middle section is an eight-sided cylinder, which is the symbol of Vishnu, who is a Hindu God and known as the Supreme God of Vaishnavism – one of the three principal denominations of Hinduism – and one of the three supreme deities of Hinduism.

The bottom section is a four-sided cylinder, which is the symbol of Brahma – the Hindu god of creation. This style of sculpting belongs to the 6th and 7th century.

The statue of Vishnu head, which is 30cm in height, was collected in the southern city of Can Tho. The statue has a young face with a slight smile and embossed pupils.

The statue has curly hair hanging down the temporals and has been dated to the 7th century.

The statue of Ganesa, one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon, is 39cm in height and 34cm in width. It is seen in the sitting position and has an elephant head and a human body. The elephant head has a long trunk; and the top of the trunk is placed in a bowl-shaped object.

The human body is portly with a big belly; the upper part of the body is bare, while the lower part has a skirt, whose length touches his ankle.

The statue of the Harihara idol, who is the combined deity form of both Vishnu and Shiva from the Hindu tradition, is 57cm in height and 23cm in width and was collected in the southern province of Tra Vinh.

The statue is wearing a cylindrical hat divided into two parts. The right part was carved with hair and some flowers. The left part has been left bare. A third eye was carved in the middle of the forehead.

Meditative: One of the statues in Nguyen Anh Tuan's biggest and most original collection focussing on Buddhist and Hindu deities. — VNS Photos Courtesy of Do Quang Tuan Hoang

The Kalki statue is 35cm in height and 23cm in width and has a horse head and a human body. The head has a four-stratum crown decorated with patterns of lotuses.

In Hinduism, Kalki is the final incarnation of Vishnu in the current Mahayuga, foretold to appear at the end of Kali Yuga, the current epoch.

Religious texts called the Puranas foretell that Kalki will be atop a white horse with a drawn and blazing sword. He is the harbinger of the end of time in Hindu eschatology, after which he will usher the Satya Yuga.

The statue of the Uma goddess is 30cm in height and 18cm in width. Her hair is twisted into a bun and is carved into the shape of a four-petal flower. Her ears are carved in the shape of flames. The statue has a pretty face and follows the sculpting style of the 11th century.

The Lakshmi statue is 79cm in height and 27cm in width. Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and is considered the embodiment of beauty.

She is the wife and active energy of Vishnu. Her four hands represent the four goals of human life considered proper in the Hindu way of life-dharma, kama, artha, and moksha. Her hair is twisted into a bun and she wears a crown and a silk ribbon.

The statue has a kind face and a smiling mouth. The upper body is covered with a thin silk material showing a full breasted figure. The lower body is covered in a dhoti, also known as mundu, pancha, mardani or veshti, which is the traditional men's garment worn in the Indian subcontinent-known during the ancient times as "Bharat Barsha".

Tuan said, "I hope to transfer the collection to a museum in the country for display and to serve residents' demand for studying and contemplating the artefacts. At present, many individuals and domestic and international museums have expressed an interest in buying some parts of the collection." — VNS

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