It is helpful that all exports from Nepal will include the Department of Archaeology certification and stamp. Indeed, all authentic Nepali statues and ritual items are certified before they leave the country. However, just because your new statue comes with a certificate and stamp does not mean the purchase was fool proof.
Indeed, it is also important to buy from a reputable source to assure quality craftsmanship. Nonetheless, the buyer is ultimately responsible for their purchase. Lets go over some basic precautionary steps to make sure you procure an authentic Nepali statue.
Department of Archaeology Certification and Stamp
Unfortunately, there will always be unscrupulous people who use sharp business practice. However, Buddhist sculpture creation is the national heritage of Nepal. As a result, the government of Nepal has prudently established the Department of Archaeology to inspect statues and other Buddhist art before export.
Therefore, all authentic Nepali statues and ritual items will be certified by the government – no exceptions. Therefore, they will come with the certificate and also the stamp.
Department of Archaeology Certification
Department of Archaeology Stamp
Unfortunately, the ministry certificate and stamp do not guarantee quality. As stated on the certificate, they are verifying that the statue or ritual item is not an artifact of national or archaeological importance.
Nonetheless, it is very useful because at least we know that the item was created in Nepal. Additionally, the statue will come with the certification stamp which will be attached to your item.
Due Diligence Reveals Low Quality Statues and Fakes
The most obvious precautionary measure is to use common sense. Therefore, the number one rule is to simply know what you are buying. Indeed, all authentic Nepali statues represent Buddhist deities that have standard attributes and characteristics that are affiliated with them. When you buy a statue, verify it’s identity first. If you do not know for sure – ask!
Therefore, please do not take someone’s word on faith alone. Additionally, never trust the seller based on their affiliation. A picture of the Dalai lama on their website is not a certificate of quality assurance. The case in point would be a recent transaction which occurred on the FPMT Foundation website.
A high level practitioner with lots of experience bought a Vajrayogini statue from them. However, upon inspection the statue appeared to be of very low quality. Indeed, she should have known better because the warning signs were rather obvious. Therefore, I think she made the purchase on faith alone. This was not a good idea, have a look for yourself.
The Photos Reveal a Low Quality Statue
Kapala “Skull Cup”
Vajrayogini is supposed to be holding a kapala “skull cup” in her raised left hand. However, as you can see her left hand is obscured by the khatvanga and the khatvanga is secured onto her left arm. No photos on the website show the kapala, thus when you make the purchase you do not know if it is even there.
Furthermore, in Vajrayogini’s right hand she is supposed to be holding a flaying knife. This is not a standard type of knife, instead it is comparable to what looks like a Eskimo’s ulu knife. As a result, it should have a pronounced, round curved blade. However, what she is holding in her right hand looks more like a poorly crafted vajra.
The ring of flames is an important aspect of the Vajrayogini statue. However, authentic Nepali statues will be hand sculpted and the flames will have form and depth. Unfortunately, the person who crafted this statue painted them on.
Frame and Khatvanga
Also, there are no photos of the back of the statue. This is an important oversight because most authentic Nepali statues have a removable frame and khatvanga. Thus, they can be completely removed or adjusted per the buyer’s preference. However, there is no reference made about this in the listing and no photos either.
Red Kalarati & Bhairawa
The worldly goddess red Kalarati and the worldly god Bhairawa are supposed to be trampled under the feet of Vajrayogini. However, the details of the bodies are conspicuously missing and the khatvanga is covering the face of Bhairawa.
Additionally, the space between the feet and the bodies makes it look like she is standing on stilts. She is meant to be barefoot.
The Buyer’s Obligation to Preserve Authentic Nepali Statues
Since important aspects of the statue are obscured, it is not possible to make an objective inspection. Therefore, you must have blind faith in whoever is selling it to you. Additionally, common sense should illuminate the missing kapala, flaying knife and other discrepancies.
However, what is even more alarming is the price of the statue. At $370.00 USD it is priced at a premium. Indeed, a authentic Vajrayogini statue that is fully gold gilded in 24k gold would go for about the same price – including shipping!
Although they claim their website is non-profit, this is no excuse. Therefore, buyers must take responsibility for their own purchase. As a result, the national heritage of Nepal will be preserved and we will continue to have authentic Nepali statues for many years to come.