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A Yaksi Torso from Sanchi Author(s): Ananda Coomaraswamy Source: Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Vol.

27, No. 164 (Dec., 1929), pp. 90-94 Published by: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4170194 . Accessed: 20/10/2011 10:32
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low panelledform. This rectangular metal knife A Yaksi Torso from SanchiI was previously but was seen to be the unknown, has recently acquired, by gift of certaincoppermodels of Dynasty VI, THE Museum original fromDr. Denman W. Ross,whatmay well of which only became clear on the the character as the most important of example of the Hetep-heres knives. There were be regarded discovery artinthecollections. Thisis a female torso seven knives(threeof gold and fourof copper)and Indian in sandstone, from the Sanchi, nearly complete seven razors (two of gold and five of copper),as if from a in a set. Now thereis a neckto the knees. This torsois undoubtedly seven was the number of oneof thelarge which served Yaksi figures hieroglyphicsign long known to have the value part tothelower architraves of thegateways "to cut,"etc.,butnever as brackets sha'ad andto mean"knife," of the Great but it cannot be (toranas) Stupa,2 understood. It is nowclearthatthishieroglyph repto whichof the fourgateways the resents a bundleof fourof these curious rectangular saiddefinitely of the fragment belonged. The bracket figures with a string. knivestied together in situ, and of thoseof gate are complete In the earlyages of Egypt the objectsplaced in north in situ, the other the graveswere of two classes practicable objects the east gate,one is complete so, the remainder being in the Sanchi used in dailylife and traditional-ceremonial objects partially it follows thatthe Museum museum; torsomust made for the grave. The traditional-ceremonial to either thesouthern or thewestern objectswere those which had once been used in havebelonged of thewestern gateis dailylife,but had beendisplaced or gate. As theworkmanship by newerforms that of somewhat inferior to theothers, whilethe of new crafts. Thusit comesabout by the products of the torsois fullyequalto thatof the that,in the tombof Hetep-heres I,rectangular knives quality of the eastgate,it mayperhaps magnificent Yaks.and round-ended razors made of flintoccur along thatit belonged to thesouthern gate, with the practicable metalknivesand razors. Flint be assumed is regarded as the earliest of the four, dateof these two formshave been foundin which implements gatebeing gravesfromDynastyI to DynastyIII,andthe metal able about100-75 B. C., the western 50-25 B. C. about examplesof Hetep-herespresentclearlythe trans- thelatest, thisYaksistoodbeneath Undoubtedly a tree, lation into copper and gold of these original flint her feet on or nearits roots, her arms supported forms. The purpose forwhichthe implements were the stemor branches of the tree and used is obscure, probablyfor traditional acts or embracing of herweight. In thecase of the supporting part ceremonies practised by both men and women. the YaksI is Mr. Stewartis now at workon the greatgolden east gate figure(right bracket), fromthe treeand mainly supported by bed canopy. There remain anotherarmchair, the swinging butin thepresent it is clear example that curtainbox, the riled staves, and variousother thearms; of theweight must haverestedon part objects,includingseveralpieces of wood covered thegreater be thatthe Yaksileaned with remarkable inlaidpatterns of faienceand gold. thefeet. It mayeither from hertree,as in the east gate bracket The whole of the gold-casedwooden furniture outwards to, or she may have been enclosed came undoubtedly fromthe palace of the Queen. justreferred by the tree, as in the northgate The bed, thehead-rest, the canopy, and the curtain, and framed whichbore the nameof King Sneferuw, had been figures,and in the case of the smallerYaksIs3 between corresponding the positions given to Hetep-heresby her husband,but the whichoccupy and second, and secondand third architraves carrying chair,the jewel box, and the otherpieces first restoration on had been presentedby her son, Cheops, for on of all the gates. In the tentative in coDlaboration by Mr.Philip these pieces the Queen is calledthe Motherof the page 94, prepared
- all the furniThe greater part of the objects the implements, ture,the anklets, the stone vessels, - had been takenfrom and much of the pottery the palaceof the Queen. This was the bed on which she slept,the armchair in which she sat, the gold and ebony carrying chairin which she was borneshoulder the streets of Memphis. highthrough The copper spoon in Fig. 11 (bottom) was that with which she drew the perfumed ointment from the jars of the toilet box (Bulletin,Vol. XXVI, No. 157, p. 86) to use on her face and hands. The littleneedle with pierced eyelet was used by the Queen or her maid. The whole group of objectsgivesa view, incomplete perhaps, but vivid in its detail,of the intimate life of a royal personal lady of the Pyramid Age. It illumines forthe first time the great skill and the correcttaste of the

L. Hale,Mr.S. Tomita, and thepresent writer, it hasbeenassumed thatthefigure a left-hand formed and thatthe tree,as in someof theother bracket, wasa mango. examples, In costume, the figureconforms to the types usualin S'uniga art,and in mostrespects to thatof the otherSanchiYaksis. Althoughapparently shewears a thinmuslin nude, dhoti, fastened by a ontheproper girdle knotted left;thefolds of this garment between thelegsandwere passed tucked into the girdle at thebackin theusual way,as canbe seenat theback; it is understood clearly to be so thinand transparent as onlyto be visiblewhen thus foldedtogether, but it is not unlikely thatthe lower werealsoindicated edgesof thedhotl below

royal craftsmenof that age.


'Now exhibited in Room A3. 2For a full account of this stupa, see Sir John Marshall, Guide to Sanch;. "One of these is preserved in the British Museum (see Binyon, L., Asiatic Art in the British Museum, 1925, P1. 1) ; this may be the only Sanchi fragment, other than the present torso, to be seen outside of India.






Brckt Nort Gat

Bracket, East Gale


the knees in the complete figure. Some other by supersensual conceptions; its types are not, as folds are shown on the properright side. The they become later, introspective, but ratherimply appearanceof nudity, despite the wearing of a a completeacceptance of life as it is, as a desirable garment, is highlycharacteristic of S'unga art. In condition to be unreservedly enjoyed. Psychologiadditionto the ribbongirdle, or katibandha,the cally,by its affirmative character, it revealsitself as Yaksi wears the usual jewelled girdle(mekhala), anything but Buddhistic in character, even when it of five strings of linked metal disks,and dealswithBuddhist consisting material with edifying intention. this lattergirdle,highlycharacteristic for all divine This affirmative qualityis even moreobvious,and and fordancinggirlsfromthe earliesttimes, one may say morein place,when we passfromthe figures had probably an auspicioussignificance. The purelyBuddhist themesof the story-telling reliefsto mekhala is worn over the dhoti, but under the the greatmassof non-Buddhist elementsin which foldsbroughtup at the back. The upperpart of the edifyingmatter is embeddedand by whichit is the body is nude. A single necklace with a framed. The ensembleof early Buddhistart in heavy pendantfalls between the breasts. At the this respect exactly reflectsthe actualsituation of back, the hairis seen to be wornin long and very early Buddhism-nominallya strictlyintellectual heavy braidsattached at their ends. The head discipline, but actuallysurrounded by and already was covered with a kerchief,the ends of which affectedby a great complexof older indigenous are preservedat the top of the back between the theistic,animistic cults,altogether alien to its motifs shoulders;and overthishungthreefloralgarlands, and far too deeply rooted in humanattachments the greater partof the lengthof whichis preserved ever to be ousted. This powerful environment was at the back, restingon the braidsof hair. This destined, within another to bring coupleof centuries, fashion of wearing the hair in long braidsgoes abouta radical changein the character of Buddhism back to the earliest times (Indus Valley terra itself to resultin a deification of the founder, the of a cultimage,and the creation of a cottas) and still survived at Amaravatiat the development A. D. The fore- Buddhist pantheon. This is a partof the general beginningof the third century armsand the legs below the knee were doubtless development of Indian andart,dependent on culture bracelets coveredwith annular and anklets. the growthof devotional theism(bhakti). In the The figure is almostfullydevelopedin the round, face of purelyphilosophic asserts idealism, humanity but primitivefrontality is preservedto a certain itself; thisassertion results, not in a defeat of either so voluptuously full element, butinthesynthesis extent,inasmuchas the forms, whichwe callHinduism, in front, are considerably flattenedat the back. andin HinduandlaterBuddhist art. Inthissynthesis the treatment is the ideal conceptsof philosophy are personalized Apart from this dorsalflattening, and plastic,and thoughsim- and represented as persons for purposes entirely sculpturesque of worship. plified,is not idealizedor deliberately spiritualized. The corresponding fullydevelopedcultimageof the Indianart, which we see at Sanchiappliedto Guptaperiod, in completely and fusingintrospective is not yet at thistimepermeated sensuous qualities,faithfullyreflects this position, Buddhist purposes,




Back view oJ Yaksi torso


Ross Collection



Front view of Yaksi torso


Ross Collection



one, but a true which is not at all an arbitrary and emotion. of head and heart,reflection marriage could have been solved in no other The problem in now possessing way. The Museumis fortunate Indianstyle,repof the earlier example an adequate of physicaland material resentingthat foundation of spiritual actualitywithoutwhich the treatment onlyin in laterart could have resulted conceptions formsalien to the actualgenius of the attenuated to be called race. Without this, no art properly samsdras to thethoughtyas orcorresponding mystical
tat nirvCznam, "this very world of endless processes is itself our ultimate salvation," could have come into being. It remainsto speak somewhat more explicitly of the theme represented by this Yaksi torso. In ancient India, Yaksas and Yaksis, like other personal divinities,have usually been human beings and will again be born as humanbeings, but as a classpossessing the condition of yaksattva, Yaksa-hood, are local tutelary deities, nature spirits, and ,guardian angels (arakkha devatW).1 The term Yaksa was originallyhonorific,and there is no Indiandeity however exalted to whom (as also to the Buddha) the designation has not in one place or another been The chief of the Yaksas is Kubera, Reapplied.2 gent of the North. It is, however, more particularly with Yaksas and Yaksis as nature spiritsand especially as tree spiritsthat we are concemed. As such they dwell in trees, and are the guardiansof the vital sap (rasa)in trees, which is identified with amrta, the water of life, and with soma, the drink of the gods; and because this water of life is diffused in the cosmic waters, the originof all life, the Yaksas and YakUs are often represented as provided with animalvehicles (the makara or " crocodile," or fishtailed horses or elephants) symbolic of the waters. Tree-dwelling Yaksis, or dryads, in particularhave much to do with human fertility,receiving offerings in this connectionfrom passingwedding processions; a passage in the Mahabhdrata speaks of " goddesses born in trees, to be worshiped by those desiring children." In Sanskritliteraturethe tree-dwelling Yaksis are "dryads." also called very appropriatelyvrksakds, Two passages may be quoted also from Sanskrit literaturein which figures like those of our Sanchi brackets are described: in Mahibharata, 1II,265, 1-3a, a prince addressing Draupadi, found alone in the forest at night, says, " Who art thou that, bending down the branch of the kadamba tree, shinest lonely in the hermitage, sparkling like a flame of fire at night, shaken by the breeze, 0 fairbrowed one ? Art thou a Devi or a Yaks ... .?" and in A?vaghosa's Buddhacarita, IV, 35, it is said in a description of women in a park, that
1928), andconsee my Yaksas(Washington, 'On Yaksasgenerally, A., Vedisch Yaksa, later. Also Hillebrandt, to be published tinuations in neglected in FestgabeRicbardvon Garbe,1927, dealingwith material partof my Yoksas. the first of degradations with the latersectarian 2We are not here concerned and Jain the Yaksas to the status of giants and ogres. In Buddhist side by side with the later. The view often persists the earlier literature of theYaksaVairapani. angelin the person hasa guardian himself Buddha

Suggested restoration of the Museum torso

" others leaned, holding a mango-boughin full their bosoms like golden jars." flower, displaying It is interesting thus to comparethe literaryand versionsof what has been caled the sculptured " Woman-and-Tree ".in Indian motif art,and is in factone of itsoldestand mostfavoredcompositions. It may be added that, as ProfessorVogel has recently shown,' thismotifcame,in its architectural use, to be known as a salabha-iike, literally, thisdesignation "sal-flower gatherer," deriving from the old Indian flowergathering of the same festival name(see the Avaddnasataka,53rd story): it is to be inferred fromPaficasikha's songin the SakkapatnhaSuttantathatthiswas a fertility rite. Figuresof thiskind abound in earlyIndianart; some occur as reliefs on the uprightsof early 2 others,as we have seen, as Buddhist railings, bracket-figures. They are commonly classed with what are called the decorative motifsof the early art; but it is worthwhile to insistthat Indianartis never purelydecorative (i. e., never exists only as but has always a logical ornament, upholstery), theme and. significance. Our Yaksi dryads, together with the lotus scrollsthat springfrom the or fromthe mouthsor navels mouthsof makaras of Yaksasor from" full vessels"(Grail motif),are really old Indian water-cosmology and life-cult in new associations themespersisting to whichthey alien. are essentially
in Acta Orientalia, Vol. VII.
' The Woman and Tree or salabhanjika in Indian literature and art 'Two good examples in the collection are exhibited in Room A3.