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Bilu (ogre) seated as guardian figure

Red lacquered wood with gilding and glass inlays

Burma/Myanmar, Mandalay Period: 19th Century
BC 87.01.03.00; Northern Illinois University
Konrad and Sarah Bekker Collection

The Bilu (ogre) and his Bilu ma (female ogre), a type of fierce evil spirit found in Burmese folklore, is thought to bring bad luck, disease, and famine. Consequently, the Burmese perform various acts of exorcism to drive Bilu away from their villages. According to legend, when the Bilu heard the words of the Buddha, they renounced their evil ways and fought for the Buddhist cause. Therefore, their proper place within a Buddhist temple is at the entrance of the precinct or at the foot of the altar, their hands clasped in prayerful adoration.