Monthly Archives: March 2017

Vajrapani in art : protector of Buddha

        Vajrapani means one who holds the vajra, a thunderbolt-like weapon in his hand. He is the protector of Buddha and symbolises his power. He is a bodhisattva around the Buddha and also called Vajrasattva. He is thought to be the general of the yakshas as per the Golden Lotus-sutra. He forms a triad along with Bodhisattva Avalokiteswara and Amitabha in some forms of Buddhism.

    Vajrapani is mostly depicted with a wrathful,angry expression; holding the vajra in his right hand. He sometimes wears a skull-crown but usually a five-pointed crown representing the  five Dhyani Buddhas.

     Vajrapani has many forms. He is called Dhyani-Bodhisattva equivalent to Akshobhya. He is referred to as Acharya Vajrapani in his role as Dharmapala with a third eye, a bell and a lasso. He is called Nilambara-Vajrapani when he has one head and four arms and treading on snakes. As Mahachakra-Vajrapani he has three heads , six arms and carrying the vajra and snakes. He is also depicted with the head,wings and claws of Garuda, when he takes this form to protect the nagas who came to worship Lord Buddha from the birds who devour snakes.

      In different countries where Buddhism flourished he is seen in different depictions.In Nepal he is white in paintings.In Cambodia he has four arms. In Japan he is seen depicted in mandalas. In Tibet he is seen in many fierce forms. His Indian depictions are many. In Gandhara art he is the protector of the Buddha.He is on one side of the Buddha along with Padmapani on the other at Cave No.1  of Ajanta caves at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

     Vajrapani is believed to rock the mountains with his weapon vajra as mentioned in some Buddhist texts.

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Vajrapani,7th century,Ajanta caves, Maharashtra,India.

By Indischer Maler des 7. Jahrhunderts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Vajrapani, 8th-9th century,Lalitagiri, Odisha.

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

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Vajrapani,  wall painting , Caves of the Statues, Kizil, 406-425 AD,Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

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

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 Vajrapani, 9th century, Tibet,British Museum,UK.

By Anonymus (British Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Vajrapani, 1731, gilt bronze, Nepal, Norton Simon Museum.

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

References :

  1. wikipedia.org

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

© author

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Dhyani Buddhas in art : some depictions

      The Dhyani Buddhas are representations of the five qualities of the Buddha. They    are also called the Five Wisdom Thatagatas. In Vajrayana Buddhism they figure as an important subject in the mandalas.  The Dhyani Buddhas are aspects of the dharmakaya or dharma-body which embodies the principle of enlightenment in Buddhism.

The five Dhyani Buddhas are Vairochana,Amogasiddhi,Amitabha,Ratnasambhava and Akshobhya. Vairochana is associated with space,all accomodating,teaching the dharma; Amogasiddhi is associated with air,all accomplishing and represents the wisdom of perfect practice. Amitabha  is associated with fire,inquisitiveness and represents the wisdom of observation; Ratnasambhava is associated with earth, giving and represents the wisdom of equanimity; Akshobhya is associated with water,non-dualism and represents the  wisdom of reflection.

The Dhyani Buddhas are sometimes called the Five celestial Jinas or Conquerors. They usually have the urna,the usnisa and the long lobed ears, which are among the 32 lakshanas  or superior marks of a Buddha. They are bare headed with short curly hair with a shawl draped over one shoulder and arm.

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Five Dhyani Buddhas,painting.

By Unknown – http://www.fodian.net/world/buddhas/5b/5ba.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16961889

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Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara  seated on a lion,in lalitasana , snake wrapped vajra scepter, lotus flower, 5 Dhyani Buddhas are also seen, statue, black shist, Bihar, India, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

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

Vairochana is mostly depicted with the dharmachakra mudra, Akshobhya with bhumi sparsha, Ratnasambhava with varada, Amitabha with dhyana and Amoghasiddhi with abhaya mudra.

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Altar painting of Vairocana,after 1590,Korea.

By Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea – http://www.cha.go.kr/korea/heritage/search/Directory_Image.jsp?VdkVgwKey=12,13630000,36&imgfname=b1363000036001.jpg&dirname=treasure&photoname=%BA%F1%B7%CE%C0%DA%B3%AA%BA%D2%B5%B5, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16341797

Amoghasiddhi, 14th century,Tibet, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco,USA. 

By jaredzimmerman (WMF) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33809747

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Amitabha and Eight Great Bodhisattvas, Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Korea,Freer Gallery of Art,USA.

By unidentified Goryeo-Dynasty artist – http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/singleObject.cfm?ObjectNumber=F1906.269, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29190158

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 Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya,painting.

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

Depicted below is a thangka of Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya. The background consists of multiple images of the Five Dhyani Buddhas.

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Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya, thangka, late 13th century,Tibet, Honolulu Museum of Art,USA. 

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

Ratnasambhava, Kadampa Monastery, Central Tibet, 1150-1225, LACMA,USA.

By anonymus – LACMA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26940160

 

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 : Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers,1998.

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

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.

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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

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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

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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

© author