The Nat Nakayain
This wooden statue overlaid with gilded lacquer and set with stones and small pieces of mirror is of Nakayain (also known as Pegu Medaw or Pegu Mother Royal), a patron nat or deity of the Mon people of south-eastern Burma but which is widely propitiated throughout lower Burma, particularly around Pegu (Bago).
She wears her characteristic buffalo-shaped headdress, has her hands out-stretched and has beautiful long black hair that falls down her back. Her eyes are inlaid with mother-of-pearl in the manner of many Mandalay-style cast bronze statues of Buddha. She stands on a round, red dais, the front of which is painted with Burmese script, probably giving the deity’s name.
The outline of her legs and body beneath her
longyi is particularly naturalistic and well done (see the photos below).
Buddhism is the religion of most Burmese but the majority also retain pre-Buddhist animistic beliefs. These focus on a myriad of supernatural beings called
nats of which there are a special group of 37 ‘royal’ nats. Nakayain is not one of the 37 but nonetheless is widely acknowledged and is believed to be particularly partial to offerings of fried fish.
A similar image is illustrated in Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 6.
Inventory no.: 296