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Asian art

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Temple strut (tunala) depicting a tree deity (yaskshi)

13th century


Unknown Artist


'This large wooden temple strut is carved with a distinctively stylised and elongated figure of a tree deity or 'shalabhanjika', also popular in Hindu and Buddhist India. This celestial woman stands with one leg crossed over the other, in a relaxed 'tribhanga' or triple-bend pose. Her proper right hand extends above to grasp hold of a tree branch. Her left hand is in 'vitarka mudra', with the index finger and thumb touching. She stands on the head of a squatting dwarf or 'gana', depicted in a stylised rocky landscape setting.

The long, slim, sinuous body of this tree goddess is adorned with armlets and bracelets, necklaces and a tasselled hip-belt, worn as a symbol of fertility, and she is accompanied by a parrot, a symbol of love. Above her head is the lush, vigorous foliage of a flourishing tree. The 'gana' figure beneath is rendered in angular lines, contrasting with the swaying, curvaceous figure of the woman. With bearded face and strong body, he is shown squatting with one hand extended to the floor and the other resting on his knee.

Asian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2000


Other Titles

Carved roof strut from the Sulima Ratnesvara temple

Temple strut (tunala) depicting a celestial female (yaskshi)


13th century

Media category


Materials used

Wood, traces of pigment


130.5 x 18.8 x 19.5 cm object with stand :

a - wooden object, 128 x 16.5 x 8.4 cm

b - metal stand, 13.1 x 1.9 x 2 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Bequest of Alex Biancardi 2000


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Walking with gods, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Jun 2019–05 Jan 2020


Ratneswar Temple, 1969-1975, Sulima Square/Patan/Kathmandu Valley/Nepal, published in Mary Shepherd Slusser, 'Indreshvara Mahadeva, a Thirteenth-Century Nepalese Shrine', Artibus Asiae, United States of America, 1979, 41, 2/ 3 pp.185-225, fig 41. Photograph was taken by the author in 1969. Removed from Ratneswar temple in 1975.

Alex Biancardi, pre Nov 1998, Australia

Estate of Alex Biancardi, Nov 1998-Feb 2000, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, bequeathed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Feb 2000.

Referenced in 3 publications


Pratapaditya Pal, Orientations, 'Sensuous Spirituality: Hindu and Buddhist Art from the Indic Cultural Realm', pg. 80-87, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 87 (illus.). fig.12

Mary Slusser, The antiquity of Nepalese wood carving. A reassessment, Seattle, 2010, 79, 82 (illus.). fig 71

Mary Shepherd Slusser, Artibus Asiae, 'Indreshvara Mahadeva, a Thirteenth-Century Nepalese Shrine', pg.185-225, United States of America, 1979, 212 ( illus.). fig.41