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Biblical Archaeology Review 48:4, Winter 2022


Pitalkhora, India

Even though his legs are broken off below the knees, this Yaksha—a male Hindu nature spirit—still stands more than 3 feet tall and smiles benignly. Found in the ruins of a Buddhist cave-temple at the site of Pitalkhora in western India, the stone statue holds a shallow bowl over his head and may represent the Yaksha Sankarin, mentioned in Mahamayuri, a Buddhist text. Others believe it could be a depiction of Nalakuvara, one of the two sons of Kuvera, the Hindu god of wealth.

Pitalkhora is home to more than a dozen Buddhist cave-temples, dating from the third century B.C.E. to the fourth century C.E. An inscription, written in Brahmi on the Yaksha’s right wrist, tells us that this statue, despite being made of stone, was made by Kanhadasa the goldsmith. The statue was discovered standing outside a pillared chaitya (cave shrine) with relics of the Buddha or a saint.

The Yaksha of Pitalkhora can be viewed today at the National Museum in New Delhi, India.

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