Ratanapon Period, 19th Century
Carved wood, originally painted
h. 9 in., w. 4 1/8 in., d. 3 11/16 in.
Gift of Konrad and Sarah Bekker, 1987
Among the iconographically diverse images in the collection is one which imagines the Buddha in one of his former lives, the Seated Wungyi figure representing the Jataka tale of Vidhura-Pandita. According to this Jataka, the Buddha came to earth as Vidhura, a man of uncommon wisdom. He became a Wungyi, the highly esteemed chief minister to King Dhananjaya in the city of Indapatta. News of Vidhura’s eloquence and wisdom spread to the kingdoms on earth, as well as those above and the Naga kingdoms below.
A Naga queen, longing to hear the eloquent words of the sage, implored her husband to bring her the heart of Vidhura. Unwilling to do the deed himself, the Naga king offered the hand of his beautiful princess in marriage to anyone who could produce Vidhura’s heart. The feared ogre, Punnaka, accepted the challenge.
Endowed with great magical powers, Punnaka rode off to the city of Indapatta. He challenged King Dhananjaya to a game of dice. Punnaka offered his magical horse and lapis lazuli gem as his prize to the king. The king accepted and offered his body, his honor and all that he possessed as his prize to the ogre.