Ga'u or Portable shrine
Probably from Eastern Tibet, Kham Province
Private collection, London
This amulet box or ga'u from Tibet made in iron, is rounded with a flattened base. The front is in the repoussé technique and chased in high relief with the image of Buddha seated in padmasana on a lotus throne. Underneath is a platform piled with several layers of textile decorated with floral motifs. The Buddha is holding a bowl in his left hand, which may refer to the Buddha of healing and medicine (Bhaisajyaguru). It could also represent Akshobhya, the guardian of the East.
The Buddha has a halo around his head, a decorative halo emanates from his body. The background is decorated with scrolling lotus leaves. The sides are engraved with leafy scrollwork. A ring on each side allowed the box to be attached to a belt, worn across the chest.
The backside is engraved with a double vajra on a background filled with floral motifs.
The iron material and the long narrow face of the Buddha indicate an early date.
Ga'us were found in Tibet and Bhutan. They were stored on a domestic altar or worn during traveling.
Iron ga'us are relatively rare. An exemple is illustrated in Ghose (2016, p. 46) and in Clarke (2004,p. 24), both attributed to the 15th century.