Himalayan Art Resources

Nepal: Khasa/Yatse Sculpture & Painting

Nepal Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description
- Introduction by Laura A. Weinstein (below)
- Khasa Malla Description by Ian Alsop
- In the Khasa Malla Tradition A Thangka of Vikram Shahi (r. 1602-1631) King of Jumla by Ian Alsop, Kashinath Tamot and Punya Prasad Parajuli
- Nepalese Dated Works
- Masterworks
- Confusions: Malla Period
- Others...

Jeff Watt [updated 3-2018]

Introduction by Laura A. Weinstein:

This stylistic milieu is that which contemporary art historians have associated with the "Khasa Malla" kingdom, a realm which encompassed a large portion of modern-day western Nepal and western Tibet from the 12th through 14th centuries; ruling over subjects practicing a wide variety of syncretic religions. All of the sculptures in this milieu belong to the religious framework laid between the traditions of the Drigung Kagyu and Sakya orders, of which the Khasa kings where significant patrons (see Tucci, Vitali, and Petech's work for more information).

Scholarship on this stylistic milieu began with independent scholar Ian Alsop’s article, “Metal Sculpture of the Khasa Malla Kingdom” published in the periodical, Orientations in June 1994 (Volume 25, No. 6). Therein, Alsop describes the style as “a clear adaptation of Kathmandu Valley style” distinguished by its redesigned ornamentation, petite yet weighty physical features, and extravagant gilding. These, he says, are the defining elements of Khasa Malla Kingdom sculpture. Ian argues that the “Devanagari/proto-Nepali” inscriptions on the front of these sculptures’ bases rather than Newari ones, points directly to a Khasa Malla royal commissioner.

Nepalese anthropologist Gautama Vajracharya elaborated on the definition of this style in Nepalese Seasons: Rain and Ritual (Rubin Museum of Art, 2016): he notes the figure’s bodies modeled with compact yet graceful features and the high arch of the eyebrows, which nearly meet the hairline (more prevalent among female figures). One of the other marked characteristics, noted by the aforementioned scholars and many others since, is an incomplete lotus base with red pigment thereon.

Amy Heller expanded on this description with her 2020 study of wood and metal sculptures of Buddha Shakyamuni and of the Bon founder Shen rab mi bo found in Bicher, Dolpo. Heller describes the Khasa style as “a distinctive amalgamation of Tibetan and Nepalese stylistic features” (p. 220). She describes the robust physical proportions of the Buddha figures in particular as well as the rice-grain patterns on their robes as elements that differentiate them from the pure Nepalese aesthetic.

As a result, many sculptures such as the present that fit this description have been catalogued and sold in the art market over the last two decades as originating in the Khasa Malla kingdom and several of those are included in the below set.

However, it is important to note that the "Khasa Malla" terminology is a modern development. If we look at the genealogy of these kings, many had the suffix "calla" and took on Tibetan names. It seems that these kings and their Kingdom have been referred to in this way by modern scholars, as they were being compared to the contemporaneous Mallas of the KTMV. It is more appropriate to refer to the kingdom as "Khasa/Yatse Kingdom" because 'Khas' was the language and identifier of these peoples during their lifetime and 'Yatse' is the identity they chose to project to the many Tibetans they ruled over.

Laura A. Weinstein 12-2021/7-2022