Guy, John: 'Indian Temple Sculpture', London V&A Publication, 2007, p.40, pl.40. ISBN 9781851775095 Guy, John (ed.). ‘L’Escultura en els Temples Indis: L’Art de la Devocio’, Barcelona : Fundacio ‘La Caixa’, 2007. ISBN 9788476649466. p.57, cat. 17.
The cults devoted to nature spirit worship in early India generated the earliest corpus of sculptural evidence from the subcontinent, and prepared the way for image making for the religions which followed and displaced the yaksa and yaksi cults. Monumental stone sculptures survive from northern India, along with an array of small clay and terracotta images that were produced across the length of the Gangetic plains. The style and clay-body here suggests that this moulded image of a seated yaksa is from Bengal, where many examples of these cult figures have been found. This example is similar to finds from Chandraketugarh and other coastal sites in Bengal, but its precise provenance is unrecorded.
The figure is represented as a grotesque with a hunchback physique and corpulent body. He is garlanded and wears an ornamental woven headband crowned with a curious hair construction (jatamukuta); he is seated on a cane stool. The figure has been moulded in a two-part mould, the sections being luted together with a clay slip, the vertical seam remaining visible. Such images were produced in large quantities for placing at yaksa shrines, which may have ranged from a simple stone slab serving as a platform-altar beneath a tree or at a tank or riverside, to constructed yaksa shrines of which a number are recorded in inscriptions from the Kushan period. The precise religious or magical function of such figurines is unknown but we may assume they were essentially protective and talsimanic, to ward off the malevolent forces that were understood to roam the Indian countryside.