Bust of Hevajra

Period: Angkor period

Date: late 12th–early 13th century

Culture: Cambodia

Medium: Stone

Dimensions: H. 52 in. (132.1 cm); W. 29 in. (73.7 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1936

Accession Number: 36.96.4


This colossal bust of the Esoteric Buddhist deity Hevajra is claimed to have been found near the East Gate (the Gate of the Dead) at Angkor Thom, the great walled city of Jayavarman VII (r. ca. 1181–ca. 1218). Built within the Angkor complexes, Angkor Thom was the final major monument of the Khmer civilization.

Recent studies suggest that the mutilated lower part of this sculpture, in a dancing posture, survives at Angkor. If this sculpture was intended as a representation of the dancing Hevajra, there would have been eight arms on each side. Quite a few small bronze sculptures of this deity exist to support this iconographic view. The seven-headed sculpture should originally have had one more head on top to bring the total to eight—the orthodox number for Hevajra.

The magnificent serenity of the major face is in marked contrast to the frank, almost staring aspect of the others. The god's compassionate gaze from its original height must have been awe-inspiring to worshippers. Even in its fragmented condition, this monumental sculpture has a powerful impact.