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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9557200

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9557135

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22564534

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

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. – http://asiasocietymuseum.org/region_object.asp?RegionID=1&CountryID=2&ChapterID=10&ObjectID=479, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12596710

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

By Unidentified artist – http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/07/eak/hob_29.160.32.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2826252

Mahasthamaprapta.jpg

Mahasthamaprapta,painting,13th century,China.

By China, Tangut State of Hsi Hsia, Khara-Khoto, 13th century – http://www.arthermitage.org/Painting/Mahasthamaprapta.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7754845

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. – http://www.nysun.com/arts/oases-of-color/83047/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11608769

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

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. – http://asiasocietymuseum.org/region_object.asp?RegionID=1&CountryID=2&ChapterID=10&ObjectID=479, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11441578

Padmasambhava,wall painting,14th century,Bhutan.

By Baldiri – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2164202

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10967395

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9608296

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51626216

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153071

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

Vasudhara mandala,14th century,Nepal.

By Jasaraja Jirili – Sotheby’s, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15195963

 

 

 

 

 

 

References :

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

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

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