Sculpture

The art form that traces Nepalese culture from its early beginnings right upto modern times is sculpture. As previously mentioned, many carved artifacts have been found in the Terai region of the country, providing an insight into the religion of the country of early times. Nearly all-Nepalese sculptures are of a religious character. It seems that the artists themselves were greatly imbued with a feeling of religious devotion.

Nepalese sculpture reached its zenith in the Lichchhavi period (A.D. 330 – 879). Stone, copper and bronze images from this period show round faces with slanted eyes. A distinguishing feature of Lichchhavi sculptures is their simplicity. The use of clothes and ornaments was quite restrained, many Hindu deities, for example, are shown wearing only a Dhoti (skirt-like lower garment). Buddhist deities were carved to show them wearing long sanhatis (a saffron coloured robe that the Buddhist wear hanging from the shoulders). Lichchhavi period sculptors most often used basalt for their work, first chiselling and then smoothing and varnishing, perhaps with iron dust. The limbs of Lichchhavi period idols were so beautifully executed that it is not possible to find one specimen with a chisel mark. Some of the best examples of Lichchhavi art are the image of “Sleeping Vishnu” in Budhanilkantha, located eight kilometers north of Kathmandu and Vishnu Vikranta or Dwarf Incarnation found near Lazimpat in Kathmandu.

The Sleeping Vishnu lies in a basin on a bed of intertwined snakes which are part of the eleven headed giant snake of Seth. The saga tells, that the 17th century king Pratap Malla was visited in a dream by Vishnu, who warned, that no Nepal king should visit the sleeping Vishnu, otherwise will die soon.
Sculpture Media

Nepalese sculptors worked in many media, including stone, metal, wood, and terracotta. Their metal sculptures are either heavily gilded or, if the gold has worn off, have a slightly reddish patina that derives from their high copper content. Many of these, especially later ones, are decorated with inlaid semi-precious stones.