Manjusri in art : painted depictions

     Manjusri is a bodhisattva; a yidam in Tibetan Buddhism and associated with prajna. Manjusri  means gentle glory, he is considered a youth Manjusrikumarabhuta. He is an important Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. He figures in the Prajnaparamita sutra  and symbolises prajna. He is accorded Vimala,his pure land as per the Lotus sutra  located in the East. He is a meditational deity and is a fully enlightened Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. He figures in Manjusrimula-kalpa and Manjusrinamasamgiti. His consort is Sarasvati in some traditions.

    Manjusri is male and wields  a flaming sword in his right hand which is symbolic of cutting down ignorance. In his left hand he holds the Prajnaparamita sutra supported by a lotus symbolising attainment of ultimate realisation from the blossoming of wisdom. In Japanese and Chinese art, his sword is replaced by a ruyi  scepter. In China he is called Wenshu and is associated with the mountain Wutai. In Tibet he manifests in many Tantric forms; Yamantaka is popular in Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is called Monju in Japan. In Indonesia he was revered by the Sailendra dynasty,patrons of Mahayana Buddhism, during the 8th century.

   The non-tantric forms of Manjusri have one head and two arms.The usual form is white or yellow, seated in dhyanasana, meditative posture with left hand holding a pustaka or book,right hand holds khadga or sword,maybe seated on a lion;sometimes in dhyanasana vitarka mudra, holding stem of lotus with pustaka on the flower,right hand having the khadga. 

   The dharmachakramanjusri  is depicted in dhyanasana , in dharmachakramudra,  with stems of lotuses supporting khadga and pustaka. Another form  Manughosa is white,seated in dhyanasana,vitarka and varada mudras, holding lotus stems with pustaka and khadga at shoulder level. The other forms include maharajalilamanjusri Dharmasankhasamadhimanjusri.  The tantric forms have one head and more than two arms or more than one head and two or more arms. Manjuvajra is also a tantric form having three heads ,six arms. Yamanataka  rhas nine heads,34 arms,16 legs and is fierce from to conquer Yama, the God of death.

File:Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Manjusri Bodhisattva.jpeg

Painting of Manjusri, Prajnaparamita Sutra manuscript, Ranjana script, Nalanda, Bihar,  700-1100 CE.

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Manjusri,Yulin Caves,7th -14th century, Gansu, China.

By Anonymous artist-craftsmen of the Tang-Yuan Dynasties (Yulin Caves, Gansu Province, China) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Manjusri debates Vimalakirti,  Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra,  Mogao Caves,Tang Dynasty,Dunhuang,7th-8th century, China.

By File created by user “pandahermit.” Artwork created by anonymous ancient source. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Hachiji-Monju/Ashtasikha Manjusri with eight attendants,13th century, Japan.

By English: Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Manjusri with another bodhisattva and donors,painting,13th century,Tibet,Walters Museum.

By Anonymous (Tibet) – Walters Art Museum: Home page  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18843075

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Mandala of the forms of Manjusri,14th century,Tibet.

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

File:Mural of Manjusri at Namdroling.jpg

Manjusri and Sarasvati,mural, Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara, Namdroling Monastery,20th century,Karnataka,India

By Christoper J. Fynn (Own work (photograph)- artist of mural anonymous) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Manjusri Painted.jpg

Manjusri,painting by Cecilia at Buddhafield Festival, 2006

By John Wigham (originally posted to Flickr as Manjusri) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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.
  • Gordon,Antoinette K/The iconography of Tibetan Lamaism,New Delhi : Mumshiram Manoharlal Publishers,1998.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

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About historyreads

Book lover, art history buff !
This entry was posted in art history of India, asian art, Bodhisattva, Buddhist art, Manjusri and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Manjusri in art : painted depictions

  1. Dr B says:

    Manjushri and Saraswati our two favourite bodhisattva, icons in our home and many favourite sites in Kathmandu especially around Swayambhu

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr B says:

    Yes really. Writing about Manjushri in a couple of days time. Hope you’ll comment too

    Like

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