Polychromed Terracotta Mask of Bhairava

SKU: MS.0081

Origin: Nepal
Circa: 16th century AD
Dimensions: 13.5" Height (34.3 cm)
Medium: Terracotta

This exceptional mask of Bhairava is finely modeled with an open mouth, bulging eyes, and sharply arched brows.  The wrathful expression is flanked by foliate hooped earrings and surmounted by a foliate skull tiara with the head of Ganga at center, while his hair stands wildly on end, supporting several small serpents.

Private collection, Europe, acquired 12 May 1990

Fine condition with abrasions and surface wear commensurate with age throughout. Some losses and minor chipping to elements of the hair and central medallions. Patches of pigment from evidenced ritual use remain.

A form of the Hindu god Shiva, Bhairava is the protector of the city of Kathmandu in Nepal and is venerated by both Hindus and Buddhists.

Monumental, masklike faces of Bhairava are made in Nepal for various festivals, most notably Indra Jatra, which is celebrated over several days in early fall in the Kathmandu Valley. During the festival, hollow faces like this one are garlanded in flowers and put on platforms. Each face has a spout emerging from its mouth that is attached to a vessel containing home-brewed beer. When the sanctified beer is released, Hindus and Buddhists jostle to catch a mouthful, treating it like a benediction from Bhairava that brings good luck for the year to come.

Himalayan Art Resources (himalayanart.org), item no. 58608


Southeast Asian

Polychromed Terracotta Mask of Bhairava

Southeast Asian

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