The bodhisattva Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara) manifests in many forms, each of which demonstrates aspects of his compassion and salvific vows. This small sculpture shows the bodhisattva in an Esoteric Buddhist form called Nyoirin, (nyoi: the wish-fulfilling jewel, and rin: the wheel of the Dharma, or Buddhist teachings).
While many images of the bodhisattva have six arms, this sculpture has two. An inscription carved into the base indicates that it was a votive offering to a temple given in the fifth month of 1693. As the names of the donors indicate that they were women, it is possible that the sculpture was dedicated on the occasion of a monthly ritual popular in the Edo period called the jūkuya-kō, an assembly of female Buddhists that took place on the nineteenth of the month for health and the safe delivery of children.
Many stone relief stelae depicting a two-armed form of the bodhisattva dedicated on the day of this rite remain from the Edo period. Records indicate that a parallel assembly dedicated to a Shinto deity was also prevalent at the time.
With thanks to The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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