Miniature Stela of the Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara



Miniature Stela of the Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara




11th-12th Century


Pala Dynasty
Bengal, India


Black chlorite
10 1/2 x 6 3/4 x 3 in. (26.7 x 17.1 x 7.6 cm)

Object Number



Like the Seated Buddha to its right, this statue is also a product of the Pala period's florescence in Buddhist art and architecture. A Bodhisattva is "one whose essence is awakening." In later Indian Buddhist thought, this term meant a spiritually advanced person who, through exquisite compassion, delays his or her own enlightenment in order to help others along the path. Avalokiteshvara was a very popular deity in Northern Buddhism, and later, in Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism. The name means "one who looks down upon," and as the glance of this statue shows so elegantly, Avalokiteshvara looks down upon all beings with exquisite compassion. Buddhas from other lifetimes serve as witnesses.

A meditator would note Avalokiteshvara's graceful posture, itself an act of compassion towards those "lower" than he. He is feeding the "hungry ghosts," or souls of the dead which are suffering the consequences of their own deeds. From his outstretched hand, drops of nectar fall to nourish them. It was probably a statue like this that prompted the Sanskrit poet Ratnakirti to compose the words:

All conquering is the savior of the world. His lotus hand, stretched down in charity, is dripping streams of nectar to assuage the thirsty spirits of the dead. His glorious face is bright with gathered moonlight and his glance is soft with that deep pity that he bears within.

Credit Line

Ester R. Portnow Collection of Asian Art, a gift of the Nathan Rubin-Ida Ladd Family Foundation


MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2004 - Present
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 120.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2006.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Miniature Stela of the Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed July 11, 2020,

Social Bookmarking


Copy the code below into your web page