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Hindu Ascetic (Rishi) Figure Carved in Sandstone
North India
circa 12-13th century

height: 40cm, width: 28cm, thickness: 12cm

This fine figure of a Hindu ascetic, sage or rishi figure is carved from stone, probably pink sandstone. The figure sits almost cross-legged, with one foot lower
for balance.

The figure's most prominent feature are his long, dreadlock-like thick strands of matted hair which are piled atop his head into two buns. A strand may fall over
his left shoulder, or that is the figure's mediation strap (
yogapatta) which is wound around the arm and shoulder to allow him to maintain his position or
posture. What is likely to be a palm leaf manuscript is in his left hand.

He also has a small, pointed beard from his chin, a common feature in depictions of sages or ascetics.

The figure would have been commissioned to adorn the walls of a religious site such as a temple or monastery.

Click
here to see a stone rishi  in the V&A Museum.

The cult of the ascetic is widespread across India. Those who abandon worldly possessions in search of some higher truth and the liberation of the soul are
revered highly.

The example here is in fine, stable condition, without repairs or modification.

References:
Brand, M.,
The Vision of Kings, National Gallery of Australia, 1995.
Guy, J.,
Indian Temple Sculpture, V&A Publications, 2007.
Meister, M.W. & M.A. Dhaky (eds.),
Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture: South India, Upper Dravidadesa, Early Phase AD550-1075, American Institute
of Indian Studies/Oxford University Press, 1986.
Stadtner, D., pers. comm., October 2014.

Provenance: private collection, southern UK, acquired early 1970s

Inventory no.: 2645

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