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 (http://tayler.tistory.com/679) [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 : http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane

       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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/8630165611

     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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dalbera/15517356585..by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

 

 

References :

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

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Soma Ghosh

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