This small bronze figure probably represents Arjuna, one of the five Pandava princes in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Arjuna was an archer of enormous prowess; during the battles in which the Pandavas battled their cousins the Kauravas for supremacy, the Hindu god Krishna acted as Arjuna's charioteer and advisor.
The figure is part of a collection of forty-one Indian, Nepalese and Southeast Asian bronze miniatures assembled by the donor. The figures were mostly made in India over a period spanning eleven hundred years, and were produced for use in temples or in household shrines and by pilgrims.
As an example of Hindu iconography, this image represents one of the worlds great and ancient religious traditions. Hinduism is as much a philosophy and culture as it is a religion, a rich and complex aggregate which has drawn on a collection of holy books and incorporated a wide range of influences since its origins around 4000 years ago. The multiple deities, demi-gods and heroes of the Hindu pantheon and Hindu literature reflect the syncretistic nature of Hinduism in their diverse forms and complex lineages, and are represented in a magnificent corpus of figurative sculptures, large and small.
These images were intended to remind people of spiritual truths and sacred stories and to function as aids to meditation. They follow forms and dimensions that are carefully prescribed for each deity, and all parts and attributes such as the position of the body, the emblems and ornaments, and the accompanying minor divinities have significance.