Cult and Colossus: Buddhist Sculpture from Odisha in History and Memory (8th to 12th centuries)


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


History of Art and Architecture


My inter-disciplinary doctoral study of a coherent corpus of sculptures (belonging to Odisha, eastern India) examined when, how, and why sculpted images of the bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Tara attained centrality in Indian Buddhist practice. It demonstrates that the placement, over-human scale, iconography, and inscriptions (mantra and dharani), which are usually studied separately in scholarship, mutually reinforced the living presence, agency, and efficacy of cultic sculptures. Rather than being mere tokens of piety, these sculpted images became the means (upaya) to attain worldly benefits at monastic sites in Odisha where sculptures of Amoghapasa (lit. “Unfailing Lasso,” a popular form of Avalokitesvara) were used for death rituals, linking monastic and lay communities.