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Meditating Buddha Protected by a Three-headed Serpent Deity, 10th century

Thailand: Mon-Dvaravati period, 900-999
36 x 20 x 14 in. (91.4 x 50.8 x 35.6 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Michael Phillips and Juliana Maio
© Norton Simon Museum

Not on view

This iconic form illustrates an episode from the Buddha’s biography when, six weeks after his enlightenment in Bodhgaya, India, a terrible storm erupted. Following this event, the serpent king Muchalinda emerged from his subterranean abode, coiled around the Buddha’s body and extended his hood over the Buddha to protect him from the rain; this allowed the Buddha to continue his meditation uninterrupted.

This particular sculpture is unique in that it depicts Muchalinda with a three-headed hood rather than a seven-headed one.

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