Category Archives: art history

Mauryan art : images from ancient India

          The Mauryan period in the history of the Indian subcontinent lasted between 323 B.C to about 125 B.C. It started when king Mahapadma of the Nandas was overpowered by Chandragupra Maurya in Magadha. He was guided by Chanakya whose teachings are revered even today. The Mauryan rule achieved great unity in ancient India, not just culturally but also politically. His grandson was King Ashoka who erected pillars at many places.

      The art of this time is evident from pillars, stupas and caves. Some remains of the capital city of Pataliputra are available which throw light on the styles prevalent. Greek influence is found on the style of art and architecture.

      The stupas at Sanchi,Sarnath and Amaravati were built as brick and masonry mounds during the reign of Ashoka. Pillars erected by him are found in Afghanistan,Nepal border,Odisha and Karnataka. The pillars were carved in two types of stone, red and white sandstone from Mathura; buff coloured, fine grained,sandstone with small black spots, from Chunar near Varanasi.

 The religious pillars were erected across the Gangetic plain, inscribed with Ashokan edicts. The capital part of the pillar had an animal; the lion capital of Sarnath, bull capital of Rampurva in Bihar, lion capital of Lauria-Nandangrah,also at Bihar.

Ashoka pillar,Vaishali, 3rd century, Bihar.

By mself – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1762981

       Pottery is associated with the Mauryan times; Northern Black Polished Ware is typical of early Mauryan era. It was made of alluvial clay either greyish or red. It was given burnished dressing , a jet black or deep grey glaze. This was used for dishes and bowls.

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Mauryan ringstone, with standing goddess. Northwest Pakistan. 3rd century B.C,British Museum,U.K

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=342265

The Pataliputra capital shows Greek and Acheamenid influence. It is dated to 3rd century B.C. it has volute, bead, reel and honeysuckle motifs. The capital city had a large timber palisade around it. it had 64 gates and 570 towers as per Megasthenes. The towers were made of sandstone similar to Ashokan pillars. Mauryan architecture can still be seen at the Barabar mounts, grottoes of Lomas Rishi.

Pataliputra Palace capital by L A Waddell 1895.jpg

Pataliputra palace capital.

By L.A. WADDELL (1854-1938), author of the book and the photograph – “Report on the excavations at Pataliputra (Patna)” Calcutta, 1903, page 16 [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52346710

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Statuettes of the Maurya period, 4th-3rd century B.C, Musée Guimet,Paris.

By No machine-readable author provided. World Imaging assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1145968

Rampurva bull capital side.jpg

Bull capital Rampurva, Indian Museum, Kolkata.

By User:Tinucherian – Composite of Wikipedia Commons [File:Indian Museum Kolkata 1527.jpg] (partial top, broken), and [File:Indian_Museum_Kolkata_1525.jpg] (base) with verification of design accuracy., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52572066

 

Female figure, northern India, Maurya period, c. 320-200 BCE, terracotta, HAA.JPG

Female figure, teracotta,Maurya period, North India.

By Hiart – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17609801

 

References :

  • The art of ancient India/Huntington,Susan,New York : Weatherhill,1985.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

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.

Altar Painting of Vairocana (Treasure 1363).jpg

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

Amitabha and Eight Great Bodhisattvas (Freer Gallery of Art).jpg

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

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26697696

        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 : http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark6mauno

           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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%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.
  • http://www.himalayanart.org

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 (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.

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

Tara,sculpture,Nepal.

By Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14801528783/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/picturesquenepal00browuoft/picturesquenepal00browuoft#page/n87/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43914726

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44076245

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Tara, sculpture,12th century,Bihar.

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17563844

        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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51782138

     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 – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/78194 direct link, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39107123

Different Taras,Tibetan thangka, 18th century.

By Anonymous – Rubin Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3580148

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.

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, 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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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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7827940

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.

A carved stone relief at Panchadharla.jpg

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

By Srichakra Pranav – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39107465

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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, 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.

Ten incarnations of Vishnu.jpg

Dasavatara, scroll-painting, 18th century.

By Unknown (production) – http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O17944/scroll-drawing-ten-incarnations-of-vishnu/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18763266

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.

File:Vishnu Avatars.jpg

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.

Fil:Avatars.jpg

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2763094

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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5049537

Dashavtar Ivory Carving.jpg

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

By Noman – Noman, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30484366

The painting by an artist from Raghurajpur.JPG

Dasavatara, painting, Odisha.

By Revanthv552 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26650537

References :

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

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Soma Ghosh

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