Nepal, Then and Now

By Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art has deep institutional and personal
connections with Nepal, its people, traditions, and material culture.
The Museum’s collection of art, for example, includes almost 600 works
of Nepalese origin. The Rubin Museum’s mission is rooted in forging sustained
connections, through art and ideas, to the Himalayan region. This online exhibition continues to highlight the art objects and traditions from Nepal that are core to the museum's collection.


Nepal is at the heart of the Himalayan mountain range and is home to the famous Mt. Everest. This majestic and culturally rich region holds a special place in the Rubin Museum of Art's core collection. Many of the Museum's finest artworks were created in Nepal or inspired by Nepalese artistic styles.

Buddha Shakyamuni (14th century)Rubin Museum of Art

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Who are the Panchen Lamas? Why are they important to choosing the Dalai Lamas?


First Panchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyaltsen (1570-1662) F1996.21.2 (HAR 477) 


The Panchen Lamas are a lineage that has had a close relationship with the Dalai Lamas since its inception, described as “Sun and Moon,” “Father and Son,” or “Master and Disciple.” One is usually an adult when the other is a child, thus they alternately recognize each other’s newly born reincarnations, ordain each other as monks, and give each other teachings. More on the Panchen Lamas

For instance, the Fourth Dalai Lama was the first to name a Panchen Lama, “great scholar,” Lobsang Chokyi Gyeltsen (1570-1662). He also participated in the search for the Fifth Dalai Lama, who in return gave the Panchen Lama control over the Tsang region.

[copied from larger document] The Fifth Dalai Lama helped recognize and tutor the Fifth Panchen Lama Lobsang Yeshe (1663-1737). Future Dalai and Panchen Lamas continued these roles of recognizing incarnations and tutorship. Lobsang Yeshe attempted to restrain the Sixth Dalai Lama’s un-monk like behavior and give him monastic vows, but the Sixth Dalai Lama refused the monk’s life. The Fifth Panchen Lama was later instrumental in recognizing and educating the Seventh Dalai Lama.


At times when the Dalai Lamas were less powerful, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Panchen Lamas rose to greater prominence and formed close links with the Qing emperors in Beijing. The Sixth Panchen Lama Lobsang Pelden Yeshe (1738-1780) conducted diplomacy with the first British ambassadors to come to Tibet (in 1775) and went to Beijing to give religious teachings in the Qing court. The Seventh Panchen Lama (1782-1853). Character count test, test, test, test, test, test, test

Rato Macchendranath Temple (1850)Rubin Museum of Art

Nepalese Monuments

In the Rubin Museum's collection, there are many representations of temples and sacred architecture in Nepal. Many Nepalese temples have been damaged by the recent earthquakes and some have been completely destroyed. Since such monuments have been well documented in photos and film, it is possible for us to view contemporary photographs alongside artistic representations. In this section, we've selected three important monuments to pair with related objects from the Museum.

Baudhanath Stupa

Baudhanath Stupa is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, who flock there from across the Himalayas and indeed from across the world. This ancient monument was renovated by Tibetans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and is still a vibrant center for religious devotion as well as a community gathering site and an active marketplace in Kathmandu. 

Baudhanath Stupa (19th century)Rubin Museum of Art

A Tibetan inscription on the back of this embroidered silk references the Baudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu. Other aspects of the image suggest it might represent another stupa in Nepal.

Swayambhunath Stupa

This major pilgrimage site is colloquially called the "monkey temple" since it's home to the majority of Kathmandu's sizable monkey population. A recent earthquake damaged one of the pillars flanking the main monument, and many nearby residents lost their homes entirely. Fortunately the stupa itself was not damaged significantly.

Bhimarata Chariot Ritual (1776)Rubin Museum of Art

The presence of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, at middle left and a monkey at the bottom left identify this stupa as likely representing a specific site, the famous Swayambhunath Stupa of Kathmandu.

Rato Mccendranath Temple

This temple, located in the village of Bungamati in Kathmandu Valley, is one of the two homes of the red colored deity known in Nepal as Rato Mccendranath. This deity is worshiped by Hindus and Buddhists alike. In a yearly festival associated with monsoon, the statue of the red deity is carried from a temple in the city of Patan to this temple in Bungamati in an exciting and festive communal procession. 

Rato Macchendranath Temple (1850)Rubin Museum of Art

Rato Macchendranath

This monumental work depicts the temple of Rato Macchendranath in the ancient kingdom of Patan in the Kathmandu Valley. This is one of the largest Nepalese scroll paintings in existence.

Shiva Vishavarupa (mid-19th century)Rubin Museum of Art

Nepalese Paintings

Nepalese artists, and particularly artists from the Newar group who are native to Kathmandu, are famous across Asia. The Rubin Museum collection is graced by many Nepalese paintings that represent both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Nepalese paintings characteristically employ strong red colors and often depict the patron of the artwork in the lower left corner. This painting of the Hindu deity Shiva in union with his female counterpart Shakti is a masterpiece in the Rubin Museum's collection.

Rakta Lokeshvara/Macchendranath, 1842, From the collection of: Rubin Museum of Art
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Amoghapasha, ca. 1400, From the collection of: Rubin Museum of Art
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Mandala of Amogapasha, 1502, From the collection of: Rubin Museum of Art
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Siddha Lakshmi, 18th century, From the collection of: Rubin Museum of Art
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Vajrasattva (14th century)Rubin Museum of Art

Nepalese Sculpture

Nepalese artists, especially the Newar peoples of the Kathmandu Valley, are famously skilled in the arts. Newar artists are particularly renowned for their fine metalwork, as demonstrated in the sculptures selected for this section.

Shiva and Parvati, 13th century, From the collection of: Rubin Museum of Art
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River Goddess Yamuna (1700)Rubin Museum of Art

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, 13th century, From the collection of: Rubin Museum of Art
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Indra, 15th century, From the collection of: Rubin Museum of Art
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Durga Killing the Buffalo Demon (13th century)Rubin Museum of Art

The Monumental Quality of Durga
Credits: Story

Produced by the Rubin Museum of Art

Narration by Gautama Vajracharya

For more information about the Rubin Museum of Art, including our Honoring Nepal installation and gallery programs, please visit

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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