Kalpavriksha or tree of life : depictions from Asia

 

 The concept of the tree of life, wish fulfilling tree  exists in many cultures. In India the word used is kalpataru or kalpavrikhsha.  Also known as Kalpadruma, it  is a divine tree in Hinduism. It has been mentioned in Sanskrit  literature like Manasara, part of Shilpashastra  and Jain cosmology.  Some depictions in art are mentioned  herein from Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka in India and Java in Indonesia.

    The birth of the kalpavriksha happened during the samudramanthan or churning of the ocean as per Hindu mythology. Along with the tree, the wish fulfilling cow kamadhenu was also born. Lord Indra is supposed to have taken them to heaven, devaloka, along with him and planted it there.  As per mythology  there are five kalpavrikshas; mandana, parijata, santana, kalpavrikhsa and harichandana. All these are believed to grant different wishes to the  devas or gods and out of jealousy the asuras or demons waged wars with them. Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati gave away their daughter Aranyani to a Kalpavriskha for safekeeping when the demon Andhakasura waged war, with a request to bring her up as Vanadevi, or protector of forests. Another daughter Ashokasundari was created from a Kalpavriksha to be a companion to Parvati during period of loneliness.

     The banyan tree or nyagrodha is called kalpataru; the coconut tree whose every part is utilised by human beings for various purposes,the ashwatha (fig) tree, believed to be sacred, mahua tree, shami tree or jaant  of Rajasthan which stays green always and checks soil erosion is also referred to as kalapataru. A variety of palm is considered as kalpataru in Tamil Nadu in India. The Baobab or Parijata  tree is called kalpavriksh in Uttar Pradesh, believed to have been brought by Arjuna, one of the main Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata.    

      The Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, India has many depictions of the bodhi tree which is shown as being worshipped for its association with Lord Buddha. The bodhi tree is an akshaya vata, eternal, life giving tree. Originally commissioned by King Ashoka in 3rd century B.C many structures were added to the stupa complex by other dynasties. Scenes from Lord  Buddha’s life are sculpted on the toranas (gateways) and other structures in and around the stupa.

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

Photographed at the Sanchi Hill, Raisen district of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia

image005.png

Sculpture at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

By Nandanupadhyay (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

      A Hindu temple at Java in Indonesia Candi Prambanan from the 9th century is dedicated to the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The temple has pointed architecture with a large complex of many individual shrines. The epics Ramayana and Bhagavata-purana are depicted along the inner balustrade walls of the main shrines. The kalpataru is depicted on the lower outer wall niches.

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Kalpataru guarded by Kinnara and Kinnari, mythical beings at Candi Prambanan, Java, Indonesia.

By Gunawan Kartapranata (Own work originally uploaded in english wikipedia) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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Kalpataru and Kinnara, Siva Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (043 Kalpataru and Kinnara, Siva Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Kalpataru and peacocks, Vishnu Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java,Indonesia.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.
By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (124 Kalpataru and Peacocks, Visnu Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

image013.png

Kalpataru and lions, Nandi Temple, Candi Prambanan, Java,Indonesia.

Photograph from Prambanan temple compound near Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia taken by Anandajoti.
By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (129 Kalpataru and Lions, Nandi Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Kalpataru and monkeys, Brahma Temple,Candi Prambanan , Java, Indonesia.

By Photo Dharma from Penang, Malaysia (085 Kaplataru and Monkeys, Brahma Temple) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

     In Jainism too the kalpavrikshas are wish fulfilling trees. There are ten such trees who grant different wishes. The madyanga trees provides delicious drinks, the Bhojananga provides great food, yotiranga gives light, dopanga gives indoor light  The others  include pananga, turiyanga, bhusananga, vatthanga, alayanga, diviyanga who provide music, ornaments, mansions, utensils etc.

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Kalpataru, wall painting, Jain Basadi, Moodbidri, Karnataka,India

By Vaikoovery (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Ranakpur temple - Kalpavriksha leaf carving

Kalapavriksha  carving in marble, Jain temple at Ranakpur, Rajasthan, India.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pbarry ( Photo taken by Patrick Barry)

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

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