Buddhist ritual conch shell with a dancing Hevajra, 12th-13th century


This bronze takes the form of a conch shell, a vessel used in both Buddhist and Hindu rituals. Blown at the beginning of ceremonies, the instrument makes the sound of the sacred syllable “Om,” believed to purify the mind before meditation. Buddhism and Hinduism were often practiced side by side in the kingdoms of Southeast Asia; however, Hinduism was the official religion of Khmer kings until the conversion to Buddhism of Jayavarman VII (reign c. 1181–1218), after which Buddhist art flourished. The embellished bronze features a dancing, multiheaded Hevajra, a key deity in Vajrayana Buddhism, a sect that emphasizes ritual as a means to enlightenment.

Buddhist ritual conch shell with a dancing Hevajra
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