Monthly Archives: February 2017

Vasudhara in art :Goddess of prosperity

              Vasudhara is the Goddess of wealth in Buddhism. Vasudhara literally means stream of gemsVasudhara is the Buddhist giver of wealth, similar to the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi.

 She is usually depicted seated in lalitasana (royal posture of ease) on a lotus with one foot tucked in towards her and the other hanging at the lotus base but resting on a small treasure.Her right hands make a gesture of generosity and holds a spray of gems. In her left hands she holds a manuscript,the Prajnaparamita-sutra, a sheaf of grain, and a water-pot. She can have two, four or six arms. She is a goddess of fertility and prosperity, and a consort of the wealth-god Jambhala. She is highly revered among the Buddhist Newars of the Kathmandu valley in Nepal.In this region she is a common household deity and it is believed that her worship brings wealth and stability. In Tibetan art she appears more commonly with two arms.

    She has been depicted as a beautiful woman in Buddhist art and can be identified as the bodhisattva with the elaborate head-dress and jewellery. Her skin has a golden hue in sculpture and painted images.This colour is related to  precious metals and symbolises opulence and fertility. Vashudhara had varied depictions; yellow Vasudhara (solitary) Dharani Tradition, yellow Vasudhara (solitary) Vajrapanjara Tradition, yellow Vasudhara (solitary, standing) Jamari Tradition, yellow cow-herd  Vasudhara (solitary, standing), red Manohara Vasudhara (solitary), red Vasudhara (solitary) Sakya tradition, yellow Vasudhara (six hands, solitary) Vasudhara with five deities and Vasudhara with nineteen deities.

Vasudhara, gilded copper sculptrure inlaid with semiprecious stones, 11th century, Nepal,Arthur M. Sackler Gallery,Washingfton,USA.

By Daderot – Own work, CC0,

        When Goddess Vasudhara is two armed and single  faced, she has a golden hued body, representing the earth element, Ratnasambhava in her crown, sometimes two eyes or sometimes three eyes which represent perfect awareness, understanding, compassion, wisdom and insight into the past, present and future.

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Vasudhara, copper alloy sculpture with gemstones, late 12th-early 13th century,Nepal,LACMA,USA.


Attribution :

           With her three left hands she holds a small treasure-vase, for long life and wealth,  a tuft of grain, for abundant harvest and a sacred text to grant wisdom. In her hands, Vasudhara holds a variety of objects attributed to her. Her first right hand makes the gesture of charity or the varada mudra,an another can be seen holding jewelled lotus buds.


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Vasudhara,copper alloy sculpture with gemstones ,12th century,Nepal, LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Vasudhara Mandala, 14th century, Nepal.

By Jasaraja Jirili (Sotheby’s) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Vasudhara, 14th century, Nepal,CSMVS Museum, Mumbai.

By G41rn8 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons




References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Avalokitesvara images : varied depictions

       Avalokitesvara or Lord who looks down, is  a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. This bodhisattva is  depicted differently and described.In Chinese Buddhism he becomes the somewhat different female figure Guan-yin.  Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapani ,holder of the Lotus or Lokesvara or Lord of the World. In Tibet, Avalokitesvara is Chenrezik. In Cambodia, he appears as Lokesvara. Avalokitesvara remained popular in India until the 12th century.

       In Mahayana Buddhism,as per the Karandavyuha sutra, the sun and moon are said to be born from Avalokitesvara’s eyes, Shiva from his brow, Brahma from his shoulders, Narayana from his heart, Saraswati from his teeth, the winds from his mouth, the earth from his feet and the sky from his stomach and he is an attendant of Amitabha. He is also mentioned in the Lotus sutra, Heart sutra, Nilakanthi dharani sutra and few others. From the 15th century, the Dalai Lamas are held to be his incarnations.

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Padmapani(Avalokitesvara), cave painting,6th century,Ajanta caves, Maharashtra.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Water-Moon Avalokitesvara (Musee Guimet).jpg

Water moon Avalokitesvara,painting,10-14th century, Goryeo dynasty,Korea,Musee Guimet,France.

By Goryeo-Dynasty artist ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Padmapani, Nepal, 14th century, gilt bronze,Berkeley Art Museum,USA.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

        Avalokitesvara is highly revered in Tibetan Buddhism, and is regarded in the Vajrayana teachings as a Buddha. He is depicted on a lotus pedestal in yogic control and with differently numbered arms and multiple headed too. In thangkas, the sun and moon emblems can be seen on top. It is believed in Tibet that Tara was formed from a teardrop of Avalokiteswara which became a lake which revealed her in a lotus opening.

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Chenrezik (Avalokitesvara), thangka, Tibet.

Attibution :

       Avalokitesvara has number of manifestations in different forms; Aryavalokitesvara,root form of the Bodhisattva,Ekadasamukha with  ten additional faces to teach all in ten planes of existence,Sahasra-bhuja Sahasra-netra thousand-armed, thousand-eyed sees and helps all beings. Chintamanichakra holds the bejewelled chintamani wheel; Hayagriva is a wrathful form. Cundi is a woman portrayed with many arms. Amoghapasa is with rope and net .

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 Avalokitesvara, brass sculpture, 11th century, Tibet,LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin), China, c. 1220-1300 AD, gilded bronze - Östasiatiska museet, Stockholm - DSC09614.JPG

Guanyin( Avalokitesvara), gilded bronze, 13th century,China,Östasiatiska Museet, Stockholm.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Avalokitesvara, probably Padmapani Lokeshvara,  Newari painting by Anandamuni Shakya,1940s,Kathmandu, Nepal.

     There is a belief that Avalokitesvara had taken a vow to free all beings suffering in samsara, and his head splits into eleven pieces struggling  to understand everyone’s misery; Amitabha helps him to get eleven heads to hear and react to the cries of the suffering. However his hands are shattered too, Amitabha then gives him a thousand hands to reach out to help the needy.

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Avalokitesvara,sculpture,Le or Nguyen Dynasty,18th century,Vietnam. Jean-Pierre Dalbéra



References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Tara in Buddhist art : various depictions

      Tara is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana and Theravada are the two main forms of Buddhism.Tara is the mother of liberation and represents the virtues of achievements and success in work. In Tibetan Buddhism she is regarded as the bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avilokiteswara, an important bodhisattva in Buddhism and it is also believed that she originated from his tears.

Picturesque Nepal (1912) (14801528783).jpg


By Internet Archive Book Images – book page:, No restrictions,

Green Tara. Sumtsek hall at Alci monastery, Ladakh, ca. 11th century.jpg

Green Tara,11th century,Alci monastery, Ladakh.

By Unknown Artist – Sumtsek hall at Alci monastery, Ladakh, India., Public Domain,

India, bihar, tara, 1100-1200.JPG

Tara, sculpture,12th century,Bihar.

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0,

        Tara is the generic name given to a set of bodhisattvas of a similar quality. There are many known forms of Tara. Green Tara or Syamatara is known for enlightened activity, while White Tara is known for compassion, healing and serenity. Red Tara or Kurukulla is the fierce aspect, Black Tara represents power, Yellow Tara for wealth and prosperity, Blue Tara for transmuting anger, Chittamani Tara of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Khadiravani Tara who appeared before Nagarjuna, Buddhist philosopher of the 2nd century, in the predominantly acacian forest of the same name in South India. Tara was a well-worshipped deity in India and Tibet during Pala period in the 8th century.She was likened to the Mother Goddess in India. She is popular in Tibet,Mongolia,Nepal and Bhutan.

Presently Green Tara and White Tara are popular representations of Tara. Green Tara is associated with protection form fear, White Tara is associated with longevity; she counteracts illness and helps in having a long life. She is full of compassion, and is likened to the moon as being white and radiant.

A Very Fine Gilt Copper Alloy Figure Depicting Tara.jpg

Tara,gilt-copper sculpture, early 15th century, China.

By Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period (1403—1424) – Sotheby’s, lot.86, Public Domain,

     Below are depicted  two Taras  seated on lotus thrones. White Tara, represented with the multiple eyes of omniscience, sits in the dhyana or  meditation posture, while the Green Tara hangs one leg slightly;both lower one hand in varada-mudra of boon-giving.

White Tara and Green Tara.jpg

White Tara and Green Tara, 15th century,distemper on cloth,Tibet.

By Unknown – direct link, Public Domain,

Different Taras,Tibetan thangka, 18th century.

By Anonymous – Rubin Museum of Art, Public Domain,

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • Fisher,Robert E./Buddhist art and architecture,London : Thames and Hudson,1993.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Symbols of Buddhism : ashtamangala depictions

         There are eight auspicious symbols which are revered  in  Buddhism. They are represented together in an ashtamangala. The symbols in early Buddhism included: throne, swastika, hand-print, endless knot, vase of jewels, water libation flask, pair of fishes, lidded bowl. In Buddhism, these eight symbols of good fortune represent the offerings made by the gods to Buddha immediately after his enlightenment.Depictions in art are found in Asian countries wherever Buddhism flourished.

The ashtamangala in Chinese,Tibetan and Nepali Buddhism are  conch, endless knot, two goldfish, lotus,parasol,vase dharmachakra , dhwaja or victory banner.

File:Colossal Parasol with Eight Auspicious Symbols - Circa 1st Century CE - Gita Enclave - ACCN 00-72-5 - Government Museum - Mathura 2013-02-23 5570.JPG

 Eight symbols,1st century,Mathura Museum,Uttar Pradesh.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Four of the Ashtamangala symbols, Thimpu,Bhutan.

By Christopher J Fynn – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

8-SIGNS at JDWNRH 2.jpg

Four of the Ashtamangala symbols, Thimpu,Bhutan.

By Christopher J Fynn – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Ashtamangala,Hall of Fame, Leh,Laddakh.

By Redtigerxyz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

The symbols represent various concepts ; the right turning conch shankha represents the  sound of the dharma, which awakens followers from the deep slumber  of ignorance.

The endless knot Srivatsa is the symbol of the ultimate unity of everything;the intertwining of wisdom and compassion.

The two goldfish or gaurmatsya symbolise the auspiciousness of all beings in a state of fearlessness without danger of drowning in samsara.In Buddhism, the fish symbolise happiness as they have complete freedom of movement in the water.

File:Window Samten-Chöling Tsakaling.jpg

Temple window with symbols,Bhutan.

©Christopher J. Fynn / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

The lotus or padma symbolises purity and renunciation. The lotus flower has its roots in the mud at the bottom of a pond, but its flower lies perfect and unaffected  above the water.

The jewelled parasol or chatraratna represents the protection of beings from harmful forces and influences.

The  vase of treasures  or bumpa represents abundance  health, longevity and  prosperity; similar to the Kumbha or Kalasa in Hindusism.

The dharmachakra or wheel of law represents the Buddha and  the  Dharma teachings.

File:Ceiling of Global Vipassana Pagoda.jpg

Dharmachakra, ceiling, Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai.

Joe Ravi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

       The dhwaja or flag was a military standard of ancient Indian warfare. The symbol represents the Buddha’s victory over the four maras which tried to disturb him on his path to  enlightenment. These hindrances are excessive pride, desire, disturbing emotions and the fear of death.

Door with the ashtamangala symbols,Nepal.

By Christopher J. Fynn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Decorated tent with symbols,China.

By Popolon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Bowl with eight symbols in fencai enamel,Hong Kong Museum of Art,Hong Kong.

By Mk2010 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Ashtamangala symbols,wedding card,Nepal.

See page for author [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons


Auspicious symbols,wood carving,Tibet.

Source and copyright owner: Tibetan Museum Society [CC BY-SA 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Bodhisattvas in art : painted images

    Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit term for anyone who has generated bodhichitta, motivated by great compassionwhich is an intense wish to attain buddha-hood for the benefit of all. Bodhisattva is a being who has not attained enlightenment, and may refrain from nirvana in the hopes of aiding others to reach it. The term is applied to hypothetical beings with a high degree of enlightenment and power. Bodhisattvas are an important subject in Buddhist art.

In Indian Buddhism, the term bodhisattva referred to the Buddha in his former lives. The Jataka tales, which are the stories of the Buddha’s lives, depict the various trials of the bodhisattva to develop self-sacrifice and imbibe high moral values. In fact Mahayana Buddhism is based on the path of a bodhisattva.  It is believed that this term is synonymous with Bodhisattvayana. The list of Bodhisattvas include AkasagarbhaAvalokitesvara, Ksitigarbha,Mahasthamaprapta,Maitreya,Manjusri,Nio,Padmasambhava,Samantabhadra,Sangharama,Sitatapatra,Skanda,Tara,Vajrapani and Vasundhara. Suryaprabha and Supushpachandra are other bodhisattvas.

Bodhisattva Akasagarbha is related to space, Avalokitesvara is the bodhisattva of compassion and the most universally acknowledged bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism.  Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha is  revered in East Asian Buddhism and  depicted as a Buddhist monk. His name may be translated as Earth Womb. He is the guardian of children and patron deity of deceased children and aborted fetuses in Japanese culture. Mahasthamaprapta represents the power of wisdom.Maitreya is regarded as the future Buddha. Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and preach pure dharma or religious righteousness. Gautama Buddha before being born on earth was a Bodhisattva having attained this position by taking a vow for enlightenment, and then went through various births and was in Tushita heaven as the reigning Bodhisattva.

Manjusri is a bodhisattva associated with prajna or transcendent wisdom. Nio are two muscular guardians of the Buddha standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in East Asia. Padmasambhava or Lotus-Born, also known as Guru Rinpoche. Samantabhadra is associated with action and he has made ten great vows .Sanghrama are revered in Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, a group of devas who guard viharas. Sitapatra or the white parasol is a protector against supernatural danger. Skanda is regarded as a devoted guardian of viharas and the Buddhist teachings. Tara is a female bodhisattva, or set of bodhisattvas, in Tibetan Buddhism. She represents success in work. Vajrapani is protector of Gautama Buddha and rose to symbolize the Buddha’s power.Vasudhara means stream of gems in Sanskritand she is the bodhisattva of wealth, prosperity, and abundance, similar to Goddess Lakshmi in Hinduism.

   The Bodhisattva path is an arduous, difficult monastic but glorious path one can take, as described in Buddhist texts. The bodhisattva has to take vows to work for the enlightenment of all beings by practising six imperfections.A bodhisattva is one liberates beings from samsara, cycle of death, rebirth and suffering. A bodhisattva’s mind is known as the bodhichitta or awakened mind .

Hinayana Buddhism recognizes only Maitreya.The painted images of Boddhisatvas have been made in countries wherever Mahayana Buddhism has  flourished.

Mural depiction of worshipping bodhisattvas, Wei Dynasty,6th century, China.

By unknown ancient Buddhist artist(s) – Cave 285. Wei Dynasty (535-556 A.D.), Public Domain,

Cave mural of Avalokitesvara, worshipping bodhisattvas,Tang Dynasty,618-907 A.D.

By unknown ancient Buddhist artist(s) – Cave 57. Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), Public Domain,

File:Amitabha with Eight Great Bodhisattvas (Tokugawa Art Museum) 2.jpg

Amitabha with  bodhisattvas,10th-14th century, Tokugawa Art Museum, Japan.

By Goryeo-Dynasty artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Painting of Akasagarbha, 13th century, Kamakura period,Japan.

By unknown artist – zAHGDjCz55_mHg at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

Avalokitesvara painting,palm-leaf manuscript ,12th century, India.

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. –, Public Domain,

Ksitigarbha painting,  late 14th century,Goryeo, Korea.

By Unidentified artist –, Public Domain,


Mahasthamaprapta,painting,13th century,China.

By China, Tangut State of Hsi Hsia, Khara-Khoto, 13th century –, Public Domain,

Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Maitreya Detail.jpeg

Maitreya ,illustration,manuscript,early 12th century, India.

By Metropolitan Museum of Art created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. –, Public Domain,

Manjusri,illustration, palm leaf manuscript,Nalanda,700-1100, Bihar.

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. –, Public Domain,

Padmasambhava,wall painting,14th century,Bhutan.

By Baldiri – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Brooklyn Museum - Bodhisattva Samantabhadra.jpg

Samantabhadra,painting,late 18th-early 19th century.

By Unknown – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1993.192.2_transp4510.jpg, Public Domain,

Skanda as portrayed by Zhao Mengfu,Yuan Dynasty,13th-14th century, China.

By Prajnyaapaaramitaa_Hridaya_by_Zhao_Meng_Fu.JPG: Zhao Meng Fuderivative work: Tengu800 (talk) – Prajnyaapaaramitaa_Hridaya_by_Zhao_Meng_Fu.JPG, Public Domain,

White Tara, Tibet, 1644-1911 AD - Sichuan Provincial Museum - Chengdu, China - DSC04498.jpg

White Tara,painting,1644-1911,Tibet, Sichuan Provincial Museum,China.

By Daderot – Own work, Public Domain,

Vajrapani, painting on one side of the Buddha, Cave 1,Ajanta,7th century,Maharashtra.

By Indischer Maler des 7. Jahrhunderts – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain,

Vasudhara Mandala, by Jasaraja Jirili, Nepal, dated 1365. Sotheby's.jpg

Vasudhara mandala,14th century,Nepal.

By Jasaraja Jirili – Sotheby’s, Public Domain,







References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


© author






Buddha in art : images of enlightenment

      Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha or the enlightened one, was born in the sixth/fifth  century B.C. and was the founder of Buddhism, a religion based on his teachings. He was Siddhartha Gautama and also Shakyamuni Buddha. He lived and taught mostly in Magadha and Kosala in eastern India of ancient times. He attained Enlightenment or full Buddhahood as  understood in Buddhism.

     He preached a middle path between over-indulgence connected with the senses and severe asceticism.He shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. His discourses, monastics and various accounts and incidents of his life were summarised by his disciples and followers. The knowledge was passed on through oral tradition and written accounts were made 400 years later.   The sources for the life of Siddhārtha Gautama are a variety of different, and sometimes conflicting, traditional biographies. These include the Buddhacharita, Lalitavistara Sutra, Mahavastu, and the Nidanakatha . The Jataka tales tell tales about his previous births.

      Gautama was born as a Kshatriya, the son of Suddhodana,  chief of the Shakya clan whose capital was Kapilavastu, Gautama was the family name. His mother was Maya-devi.

      At the age of 29 Siddhartha left his palace,his wife and son, despite his father’s efforts to hide from him the sick, aged and suffering. Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man,a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. All this depressed him, and he tried to overcome ageing, sickness, and death by living the life of an ascetic sage. However Gautama realised that meditative dhyana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism did not neccesarily  work.

          Gautama meditated  under a pipal ( variety of fig) tree or Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya where he vowed to meditate until he had found the truth. Evil demons like Mara tried to disturb him along with his army. He raised violent storm and rain. He even sent his daughters to seduce him. After  49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment, and became the Buddha or Enlightened one. He realised the Middle Way, a path of moderation or the Noble Eight-fold Path is the right way. Thus he attained liberation from samsara or the cycles of birth or death.At the age of 84, the Buddha announced that he would  reach Parinirvana, or the final deathless state.He abandoned his earthly body soon after having his last meal.

File:Four Scenes from the Life of the Buddha - Enlightenment - Kushan dynasty, late 2nd to early 3rd century AD, Gandhara, schist - Freer Gallery of Art - DSC05124.JPG

Enlightenment of Buddha,schist, 2nd-3rd century,Kushana,Freer Gallery, USA.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad are 30 rock-cut cave monuments which date from the 2nd century B.C to 600 A.D. The caves include paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of Hindu, Jaina and  Buddhist religious art including the Jataka tales.The caves were built in two phases starting around 2nd century BC, with the second group of caves built around 600 A.D.  A sculpture from Ajanta of Buddha in padmasana is depicted below, his hands in dharmachakra mudra.

File:Lord Buddha at Ajanta caves.jpg

Buddha, Ajanta caves, near Aurangabad,Maharashtra.

By Manu Jha (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons



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Buddha meditating while demon Mara tries to disturb him, painting, Lao monastery.

By myself (Painting in Laotian monastery) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Sri Lanka, Buddha, Sri, Lanka, Statue, Religion

Buddha meditating, sculpture, Gal Vihara, Sri Lanka.

Source of image : O, Public domain)

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Manuscript of a meditating Buddha being disturbed by Mara, the demon,Pala period, Nalanda.

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. –, Public Domain,


Buddha,painting,Mogao caves, 4th-11th century, Dunhuang,China.

By AnonymousOriginal uploader was Евгений Ардаев at ru.wikipedia – Transferred from ru.wikipedia, Public Domain,



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Buddha Tanhankara, 13th century, Upali Thein temple, Bagan, Myanmar.

By Jacklee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Shakyamuni Buddha - Google Art Project.jpg

Thangka,Shakyamuni Buddha,18th century, Tibet,Rodin Museum of Art.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Buddha, resisting the demons of Mara, Wellcome V0046085.jpg

Buddha resisting Mara,lithograph,19th century,Sri Lanka. (Wellcome images)

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:The Victory of Buddha.jpg

Victory of Buddha, painting, Abanindranath Tagore, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists,1914.

Abanindranath Tagore [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Buddha,acrylic on canvas,20th/21st century.

References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


© author







Raslila in art : celebration of divine love

         Raslila is a celebratory dance done in the form of a ras mandala by gopis along with Lord Krishna  Gopis are cowherd maidens who are smitten with Lord Krishna, Radha being the main among them.The Raslila is described in the Bhagavata-purana and Jayadeva’s Gita -Govinda. The word lila means play or act, whereas ras refers to emotion or essenceflavour/mood etc. It is difficult to find an exact synonym in the English language; raslila is a dance of  divine love.

       It is believed that one night, on hearing Krishna playing on his flute, all gopis of Vrindavan left their homes and joined him in a dance in the forest or grove where they danced through the night. Lord Krishna manifested himself in multiple form and each gopi believed that he was dancing with her. A unique circle is formed in the raslila called the ras-mandala. The Bhakti tradition followers believe that the earthly romantic love  between human beings is a dilute form and the intense love for Krishna felt by the gopis is like the soul searching for the ultimate , the God divine in the spiritual realm. The gopis are believed to be shadows of Lord Krishna’s own form.

     The Raslila is popular theme in many Indian dance forms like Kathak,Odissi,Manipuri and Bharatnatyam.

Krishna's Dance of Delight (Rasa Lila) LACMA M.75.66.jpg

Rasalila, Bundi,17th century, Rajasthan, LACMA,USA.

By Image:, Public Domain,

Brooklyn Museum - Rasa-lila (Drawing).jpg

Raslila, drawing, 19th century,Brooklyn Museum, USA.

By Anonymous (India) – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 80.278.3_IMLS_PS4.jpg, Public Domain,

Raas Lila.jpg.jpg

Raslila,painting, probably 21st century.

By Raj441977 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,



References :

  • Thomas, P/Epics, myths and legends of India, Bombay : D. B. Taraporevala and Sons.
  • Dehejia, Harsha.V/Radha: Gopi to Goddess,New Delhi :Niyogi Books,2014.



Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

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Prithvi in art : some images of Goddess Earth

            Prithvi or Goddess Earth is revered in Hinduism and some branches of Buddhism. She is Mother Earth. She is also associated with the cow. Prithu, a form of Vishnu milked her as a cow. In the Rigveda she is addressed along with the sky or dyaus pita and she is prithvi mata. She is a national personification in Indonesia, where she is known as Ibu Pertiwi. Pṛithvi Sukta or Bhumi sukta is a  hymn in  the Atharvaveda dedicated to Prithvi. As per Buddhism Prtihvi protects and is witness to Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment. The Buddha is seen in bhumisparsa mudra or earth touching gesture at many places.

     The sculpture below is in high relief and is carved in a shallow niche at Udaigiri in Madhya Pradesh. The relief depicts Varaha, the boar incarnation of Vishnu, rescuing the Earth Goddess ,Bhu devi or Prithvi from the engulfing ocean. Varaha lifts Bhu Devi on his massive shoulder, his foot subduing a naga who folds his hands in obeisance,while gods and sages surround Varaha in recognition of the miracle. A circular lotus flower appears above the god’s head.

File:WLA lacma Varaha the Boar Avatar of Vishnu Mathura.jpg

Varaha with Bhu devi,sculpture, red sandstone,3rd century,Mathura,LACMA,USA.

By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “ARTiFACTS” [CC BY-SA 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons


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Varaha lifting Bhu devi or Prtihvi,5th century, Udayagiri Caves, Madhya Pradesh.

By Michael Gunther (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

            The sculpture below too depicts the Varaha, incarnation of Vishnu. Goddess Prithvi is also depicted; being lifted by Varaha in this sculpture.  The sculpture is located at inner walls of the sanctum area of the Lakshmana temple.

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Varaha with Prithvi, Lakshmana temple,12th century,Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.

By Rajenver (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Prithu - Crop.jpg

Pruthu chasing the goddess Earth or Bhu ,illustration, Bhagavata-purana,Guler,18th century.

By Attributed to: Manaku, Indian, ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Varaha avtar, killing a demon to protect Bhu, c1740.jpg

Varaha killing demon Hiranyaksha and lifting Bhu devi or the Earth above the ocean,Chamba,18th century.
By Anonymous (British Museum [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.


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Soma Ghosh

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Dasavatara in art : some depictions

                Dasavatara refers to the manifestations of Lord Vishnu. The avatars are different forms of a single divine force. He is a part of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He is the God of Preservation.Lord Vishnu incarnates on Earth from time to time to eradicate evil forces, to restore dharma and  liberate his worthy devotees from the cycle of births and death. He is a saviour and brings balance to the earth. His ten avatars are Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.

Matsya avatar : This is the first avatar of Vishnu;  the great fish from Satyuga. He saves Manu  and all other creatures of the earth from deluge in the form of a half human,half-fish. There is another version which says he takes the matsya form to save the Vedas sacred texts of the Hindus from the demon Hayagriva and also saves the seven sages or saptarishi.

Kurma avatar :  Kurma means turtle in Sanskrit, also the second avatar of Vishnu. This incarnation is also from Satyuga. Vishnu as Kurma supported Mount Mandara from sinking during the churning of the vast ocean of milk or samudramanthana for the pot of nectar for the devas to drink, as they had lost their strength due to a curse by Sage Durvasa.The devas had lost their strength an the asuras overpowered them; Lord Vishnu stepped in to help The serpent Vasuki served as the churning rope.  Vishnu had to take the form of a turtle during the churning as the Mount had started to sink. The devas and asuras both churned the ocean in order to have the nectar. Fourteen precious items rose from the ocean; Dhanwantari, the God of ayurveda brought with him the nectar. The asuras immediately got hold of the nectar. Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini, a beautiful woman and distracted the asuras and the devas could get the nectar to themselves. On drinking it they became strong and could defeat the asuras.

Vishnu and his Avatars, 11th century. Black schist. Brooklyn Museum.jpg

Vishnu and his avatars, black schist,11th century,Brooklyn Museum,USA.

By Trish Mayo – originally posted to Flickr as P1240913, CC BY 2.0,

Varaha avatar : Lord Vishnu appeared  as a boar to defeat Hiranyaksha , a demon who had taken the Earth,Prithvi or Bhu and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to have lasted for a thousand years, which was won by Varaha. Varaha carried the Earth out of the ocean and restored it to its place in the universe.

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Dasavatara,Panchadarla temple, 11th-13th century,Vishakapatnam.

By Srichakra Pranav – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Narasimha avatar : Hiranyakashipu, the elder brother of Hiranyaksha, a demon or rakshasa was granted a powerful boon from Lord Brahma, by which he becomes invincible that is he cannot be killed by anyone, human or animal, at any time like day or night, or any place either inside or outside. Lord Vishnu take the form of Narasimha, half-lion, half-bird and kills him at the threshold of his house at dusk holding him on his thighs. The Narasimha avatar is also from Satyuga.

File:Panel relief depicting the Dashavatara (ten avatars) of the god Vishnu in the Vidyashankara temple at Shringeri.jpg

Dasavatara,Shri Vidyashankara Temple,8th century, Shringeri,Karnataka.

By Mashalti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Vamana avatar : Lord Vishnu takes the form of a dwarf, during Treta Yuga. Another demon,the fourth descendant of Hiranyakashyapa, Bali, defeats Indra, the Lord of the heavens. Bali takes over all the three worlds.The gods appealed to Lord Vishnu for protection Lord Vishnu takes the form of a dwarf . Vamana during a is ayagna is promised by Bali for three paces of land. Bali agrees and the dwarf then changes his size to that of a giant. He steps over heaven in his first stride, and the netherworld with the second. Bali realizes that Vamana is Lord  Vishnu himself. He offers his head for him to place his third step. Vamana does so and grants Bali immortality an makes him the Lord of Patala, the netherworld.

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Dasavatara, scroll-painting, 18th century.

By Unknown (production) –, Public Domain,

Parasurama : This avatar is a warrior with an axe, a brahmin-kshatriya from the Treta Yuga. He has received this axe from Shiva after along penance. He is the son of Jamadagni and Renuka. Once King  Kartavirya   visits the father of Parasurama at his ashram, and the saint was able to feed them with the divine cow Kamadhenu. The king wants the cow, but Jamadagni refused. The king takes it and destroys the ashram. Parashurama is very angry and   kills the king at his palace and destroys his army. In revenge, the sons of Kartavirya kill Jamadagni. Parashurama takes  a vow to kill every Kshatriya on earth twenty-one times over, and fill five lakes with their blood. Ultimately, his grandfather, Sage  Rucheeka, halts him.

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Dasavatara,oleograph,Raja Ravi varma,19th century.

Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rama : An avatar of Lord Vishnu from Treta yugaHe is widely worshipped and is the ideal man.His story is  His story is told in the great Hindu epic Ramayana. While in exile with his brother Lakshmana  his wife Sita is abducted by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. He travels to Lanka, along with Hanuman, a monkey or vanara army and kills Ravana; liberates Sita and goes back to his kingdom Ayodhya to be coronated.


Dasavatara,paining, Jaipur,19th century, V and A Museum, U.K.

By the Victoria and Albert Museum – Painting from Jaipur, India; in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (site is redesigned, old description is also available in Britannica”, Public Domain,

Krishna : Lord Vishnu is Krishna in the Dwapara-yuga. He is a popular deity in Hinduism. He is lovable as a cowherd companion of Radha at Vrindavan, the eighth son of Vasudeva and Devaki, and brought up by Yashoda.He has an important role as Arjuna’s charioteer in the Hindu epic Mahabharata and sermonises him as told in the Bhagavdagita.

Buddha: Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, from the Kali-yuga, is generally included as an avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. 

Kalki avatar : will be the final incarnation of  Lord Vishnu, will appear at the end of Kali Yuga, our present epoch. He will come on  a white horse and his sword will be drawn, blazing like a comet. He will destroy all evil at the end of this age.

Dasavatara,temple door, Sree Balaji Temple, Goa. 

By Aruna Radhakrishnan – originally posted to Flickr as Dashaavathaaram…ദശാവതാരം…, CC BY 2.0,

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Dasavatara,ivory carving,late 18th Century, south India, National Museum, New Delhi. 

By Noman – Noman, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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Dasavatara, painting, Odisha.

By Revanthv552 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

References :

  • Vishnu : Hinduism’s blue skinned saviour/Cummins,Joan,ed.,Ahmedabad : Mapin   Publishing,2011.

Posted by

Soma Ghosh

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Battle-scenes in art : vivid images

          Battles have been a part of the history of mankind. Many battles have taken place since ancient times. Some battles are well-remembered and illustrated in art through miniature and oil paintings. The main Hindu epics of India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have two major battles in it. The Ramayana has the confrontation between Lord Rama with his vanara (monkey)army along with his brother Lakshmana against the demon King, Ravana. Ravana has abducted Lord Rama’s wife Sita during their exile in the forest and he has to liberate her from captivity in Lanka.

Battle-scene at Lanka, Ramayana,17th century.

By Sahibdin – British Library, Public Domain,

File:Battle Scene in a City, Folio from a Ramayana (Adventures of Rama) LACMA M.85.228.jpg

Battle-scene in a city, illustration,Ramayana, probably Varnanasi,early 17th century,LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

        The Kurukshetra war is also called the Mahabharata war fought mainly between the Pandavas and Kauravas, cousin groups, for the throne of Hastinapur in the Kuru kingdom. It occurred at Kurukshetra in modern Haryana and the battle lasted for eighteen days. It has been roughly dated to 3100 B.C.

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Battle-scene, Mahabharata,Kangra painting,1800.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Kurukshetra war,9th day,painting,21st century.

By RajeshUnuppally (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Battlescene,Bhagavata purana,illustration,17th century.

See page for author [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

       The first battle of Panipat was very decisive battle in the history of India. It was fought in 1526 between the forces of Babur and the Lodi empire. It ushered in the Mughal era in India. This battle used gunpowder and fire-arms. The guns used by Babur helped him win against Ibrahim Lodi, the booming cannons scaring away Lodi’s elephants who trampled its own soldiers.

First Battle of Panipat,illustration from Baburnama,16th century.

By Painters of Babur (Baburnama) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Battle-scene with boats, from Akbarnama, Mughal painting, 16th century.

By Tulsi (the elder) (artist), Jagjivan (artist) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The fierce battle of Talikota in 1565 was fought between one of the largest South Indian empires, the Vijayanagara empire and the powerful Deccan Sultanates. Vijayanagara lost at this battle in present North Karnataka close to Bijapur.

Battle of Talikota, 16th century.

By Aftabi – Template:Ta’rif-i Husain Shahi [1][2], CC BY-SA 4.0,

       The seige of Seringapatnam or Srirangapatnam in 1799 also called the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War will be remembered in history for ever. It was a confrontation between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore. The British allied with the Nizam of Hyderabad and stormed the fort of Seringapatnam. Tipu Sulan  Mysore’s de-facto ruler was killed in the action. After the decisive battle the British restored the Wodeyar dynasty to the throne while keeping indirect control over Mysore

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Battle at Seringapatnam,Qajar painting,Persia,1836/7.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Kangra painting of a battle scene presented to the US by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.jpg

Battlescene, Kangra painting,19th century.

By White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    The battle of Plassey (Palashi) in 1757 was another decisive battle in India’s history.Fought between the British East India Company, it consolidated Brtish position in Bengal which later covered most of India. The battle took place on the banks of the Bhagirathi river, 150 km form Kolkata(previously Calcutta) between Siraj-ud-daowlah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal and the British East India Company.

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After Battle of Plassey,painting.

By Francis Hayman – ( link: image source [1], Public Domain,

References :

  • An advanced history of India/Majumdar R.C,Roychoudhuri,H.C, Datta,Kalinkar,London : Macmillan,1948.



Posted by

Soma Ghosh

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