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

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

Carved roof strut from the Sulima Ratnesvara temple

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

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


  • Title : Temple strut (tunala) depicting a tree deity (yaskshi)
  • Year : 13th century
  • Classification : Sculpture
  • Medium : Wood, traces of pigment
  • Dimension : 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
  • Accession No : 33.2000.a-b
  • Country/ Geo-location : Sulima Square → Patan → Kathmandu Valley → Nepal
  • Collection : Art Gallery New South Wales, Australia
  • Credit Line : Bequest of Alex Biancardi 2000
  • Status : Located at: Upper Asian gallery
  • Provenance : (1) 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. (2) Alex Biancardi, pre Nov 1998, Australia (3) 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.
  • Exhibition history : Walking with gods, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Jun 2019–05 Jan 2020
  • Bibliography : 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