I was fascinated by this stunning 14th century gilt bronze statue of Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) and Vishvamata (World Mother) at the New Asian Gallery of the Art Gallery in Sydney. From the little I have read and gathered in Tibetan Buddhism — Kalachakra’s partner (his Wisdom) is Vishvamata. The “time” part of the deity’s name, regarded as relative, refers to compassion; the “wheel” part, regarded as absolute, refers to wisdom (the realization of the emptiness of all phenomena). The most simple explanation I found was that Kalachakra and Vishvamata fused together symbolizes Buddhist enlightenment.
I am not sure if my understanding is correct so I will say no more but quote below the words from the Gallery, which itself is a fantastic read. Of course I can’t help but wonder how even gods manage a passionate embrace with each having 4 heads and then there are Kalachakra’s twenty-four hands and Visvamata’s eight.
“This extraordinary sculpture shows the Buddha couple Kalachakra and Vishvamata locked in passionate embrace, lovingly gazing at each other. Both figures are four-headed, with the lips and eyes on each face marked with pigments, lending added naturalism to the sculpture. Typical of Heruka Buddhas, Kalachakra strikes an energetic, lunging pose and Vishvamata mirrors his stance. Both figures wear elaborate jewellery, studded with brilliant blue turquoise and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The delicate festoon of pearls that hangs from Kalachakra’s headdress deserves particular attention.”
“Kalachakra’s twenty-four hands and Vishvamata’s eight, surrounding the couple like a golden aura, each originally held an attribute. Among the objects that survive in Kalachakra’s hands are the ‘vajra’ and bell, a partially broken sword, a flaying knife, a double-sided pellet drum, the Buddhist wheel, a ‘vajra’-tipped noose, a conch shell and a gem-encrusted jewel. In Kalachakra’s uppermost raised hand dangles the severed head of the four-faced Hindu god Brahma (‘Brahmakapala’). Although seemingly gruesome, this attribute symbolises Kalachakra’s infinite compassion towards all beings (Beer 1999: 309). Vishvamata holds a flaying knife and skull cup in her main hands hidden behind Kalachakra’s neck. Other implements that remain in her additional hands include a noose, a pellet drum, a lotus and a jewel. The figures’ striking pose, the intimacy they share and the dazzling display of arms create a dynamic tour de force.”
Note: Photographing it through glass is not the best way to do justice to this sculpture. For close ups see gallery photos by clicking on link below.