In Buddhism, Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, reached enlightenment but delayed entering nirvana in favor of helping mankind attain that very goal. Like many of the divinities in the Buddhist pantheon, Manjushri is able to assume multiple forms when necessary. One of the most commonly replicated images in Vajrayana (esoteric) Buddhism is that of Manjushri as Dharmadhatsuvajisvara, the widely venerated symbol of Buddhist wisdom with its clear, crisp knowledge of reality.
This sculpture is a familiar depiction of Manjushri Dharmadhatsuvajisvara seated in dhyanasana (meditation) with his female shakti (consort) Sarasvati. The deities are seated together on a double-lotus throne, which is supported by a sloping rectangular base decorated with intertwined figures and images of the mythological creature Garuda. Manjushri is canonically represented bejeweled in an ornate robe and with three heads, each surmounted by an elaborate five-tiered crown. His six arms brandish recognizable Buddhist attributes, most notably the khadga (sword of wisdom) and the Prajnaparamitasutra (scroll of knowledge) associated with his form as Dharmadhatsuvajisvara. Sarasvati is depicted seated on his right knee, reclining slightly in her rich, jeweled vestments. Her three heads are crowned, and with her hands she makes the gestures of varadamudra (blessing) and abhayamudra (reassurance). Framing the scene is an elaborate aureole of swirling scrollwork and foliage with a seated image of Vajradhara (the archetypal embodiment of all buddhas) crowning the apex. Crafted entirely out of high-quality bronze and subsequently gilded, this sculpture, in its overall style—and with the textual inscriptions on the reverse of the base, which date the work to 1823—is an example of superior Newari craftsmanship.