Period: Shunga period

Date: ca. 50 B.C.

Culture: India (Madhya Pradesh)

Medium: Sandstone

Dimensions: H. 35 in. (88.9 cm); W. 18 in. (45.7 cm); D. 13 in. (33 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Jeffrey B. Soref, in honor of Martin Lerner, 1988

Accession Number: 1988.354


Yakshas (male nature spirits) are personifications of the natural world. Over time they were worshipped as minor gods in both the Buddhist and Hindu pantheons, often functioning as protectors of the earth’s riches, and they became associated with wealth. This potbellied dwarf once raised his arms to support a bowl on his head, which identifies him as a “carrier,” or bharavahaka yaksha. The closest stylistic parallels to this form are seen on pillar capitals at the great early Buddhist stupa (a moundlike structure designed to hold objects of veneration) of Sanchi, near Bhopal. In all probability this yaksha served as an attendant at a stupa’s entrance, its bowl used to receive devotees’ donations.