Tag Archives: Buddhist art

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.


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.


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

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.


     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


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.

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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

Stambhas in architecture : depictions from India


          Stambha is a column with cosmic connotations, a connection between heaven and earth. Stambhas have been mentioned in early Hindu literature like the Atharvaveda.

    Stambhas are of different types; dhwaja stambha, kirtistambha, vijaystambha, deepastambha and the stambhas of King Ashoka.

   The dhwaja stambhas are placed in front of the main deity of a temple; kirti/vijay stambhas usually commemorate victories. The Ashoka pillars depict the royal edicts of King Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty. The deepa stambhas are lit up on festival days at temples.

  There is a magnificent vijaystambha ot tower of victory, also referred to as kirtistambha or tower of glory at Chittorgarh Fort in Rajasthan dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Built by Rana Kumbha in 1448 to celebrate his victory over Mahmud Khilji fighting the armies of Malwa and Gujarat. The tower was designed by architect Sutradhar Jaita. The genealogy of the kings of Chittor and names of the architect and carved on the tower.

The image of Padmavati, Jain Goddess is on the top story. The word Allah is also carved in the third and eight stories.

     The Ashoka pillars were columns built by Maurya king and emperor Ashoka during 3rd century B.C. These pillars were inscribed with his edicts. Nineteen pillars still exist with the inscriptions. Six of them have lion capitals and some had the bull. The pillars weigh 50 tonnes in weight and were average 15 m in height. They were transported between large distances to their destinations. The pillars were carved out of red-white or buff-coloured  sandstone, mostly at Buddhist monasteries after being brought from Chunar and Mathura. 


Ashoka pillar, 3rd century B.C.,Vaishali(without edict), Bihar.

By Bpilgrim (talk · contribs) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1763101



Ashoka Pillar, Allahabad, 1870.jpg

Ashoka pillar at Allahabad, 1870 image.

By Thomas A. Rust – British Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35791625


Lion Pillar on the way to the Dhauli Giri.JPG

Ashoka pillar with lion capital near Bhubaneshwar,3rd century B.C.,Odisha.

By Amit Bikram Kanungo – my digital camera, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21228830

The Ashoka pillar of 13 m height, at  Ferozeshah Kotla at Delhi was originally at Topra in Ambala from where it was brought and reinstalled at Delhi by Feroze Shah.

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Ashoka pillar, Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi.
By Anupamg – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51531041
Ashoka Pillar at Feroze Shah Kotla, Delhi 02.JPG
Inscriptions on Ashoka pillar.
By Dhamijalok – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21346736
File:VijaystambhIMG 0324.jpg


Vijay stambh, 15th century, Chittorgarh, Rajasthan.

By Praxipat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

At the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka is a victory pillar with inscriptions from the eighth century. The inscription relates the victory of Vikramaditya II of the Badami Chalukya over the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.


8th century Kannada inscription on victory pillar at Pattadakal.jpg

Victory pillar with inscriptions, 8th century, Pattadakal, Karnataka.

By Dineshkannambadi at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4725456

      A brahma stambha stands in front of the Parsvanatha Basti on top of the Chandragiri Hill at Sravanabelogola in Karnataka’s Hassan district. The temple was built in the 11th century and is called Kamata Pasrvanatha Basti.The image of Parsvanatha stands on a lotus pedestal. Lord Parsvanatha is  the 23rd Jain Tirthankara and who had an encounter with his enemy Kamata. In late 17th century a manasthambha, also referred to as Brahmastambha facing the temple, 65 feet in height was erected.

Brahma stambha (Pillar) near the Parsvanatha Basadi at Shravanabelgola.jpg

Brahmastambha, 17th century,Hassan, Karnataka.

By HoysalaPhotos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21740722

     The Kolaramma temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati worshipped as Kolaramma. She is the presiding deity of Kolar in Karnataka. It was built 1000 years ago. by the Cholas. Ornately carved statues from granite stone, lend splendour to the temple which the Maharajas of Mysore used to visit regularly. The second deity at the temple is Chellamma who protects from scorpion-bites. The Hundi of the temple is believed to have a large hole dug into the earth from where one can still hear the sounds of the coins collected over hundred of years.


Stambha in the Kolaramma Temple at Kolar.jpg

Dhwajastambha, Kolaramma temple, Kolar, Karnataka.

By Gautamoncloud9 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21526497

   In the Hutheesing Jain temple at Ahmedabad,Gujarat which was built in 1848 dedicated to the 15th  Jain Tirthankara,Dharmanatha. Hutheesing was a rich trader who helped traders by building the temple so that they could be engaged in work during drought which lasted two years. Designed by Premchand Salat, the main building is  double storied. The temple houses 11 deities and an additional 52 shrines. The temple has a manastambha or a column of honour.

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Manastambha,Hutheesing Jain Temple

By Vaishal Dalal – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17907102


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Deepastambha, Harsiddhi Mata Temple, Ujjain.

By Gyanendra_Singh_Chauhan (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/41416750) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Shantadurga or Santeri temple near Panjim in Goa is dedicated to Goddess Shantadurga who is believed to have mediated to stop the quarrel Between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu of the Hindu trinity. The temple was built during the reign of King Shahu, grandson of Shivaji in the 18th century between 1713 to 1738. The temple had undergone many modifications and Neo-classical architecture can also be seen. On the left side of the courtyard is a deepastambha which is lit up with oil lamps on festival days.

Shantadurga Temple, North Goa District, Goa.jpg

Deepastambha,Shantadurga temple, 18th century, Goa.

By Netguru – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21127897

References :

  • wikipedia.com
  • indiathatwas.com



Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


© author






Wheels in art : some chariot images


Chariots have been an important aspect of warfare and have been used from very remote times. The Rigveda cites chariots and so does the Atharvaveda. Initially the fighter and charioteer used to be the same. Later the Brahmana texts mention the rathakaras ie. the chariot-keepers. The great Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana mention charioteers accompanying the kings during combat. The most well known charioteer was Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Kurukshetra war of the Mahabharata. Charioteers needed  certain skills and were referred to by various names like the sarathi,rathin, suta etc. His duty was to manage and lead a chariot during war and obey the warrior on the chariot. He needed amazing skill in being able to advance quickly, turning and wheeling quickly and making circles.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra mentions a special officer to supervise the chariots and train the warriors. Chariots were also drawn by ox,mule and asses in case horses were not available. Chariots were of different types. Chariots which were used during war, chariots for training, chariots in daily life for conveyance etc. Chariots could be two-wheeled,four wheeled and eight wheeled. Chariots had their banners, flag-pole with dhwaja or ketu having symbols of animals, trees, flowers etc. The chariots had umbrellas and fans too. The use of chariots declined by the 7th century A.D as evident from the literary sources; not mentioning the chariot any more.

Some chariot depictions from Indian and Thai art are showcased ; the Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, temple built by the majestic Cholas in Tamil Nadu, the grand Surya Deul built by a Eastern Ganga dynasty king at Konark, Odisha, paintings on paper from Rajasthan,mural from Bangkok etc.

The Great Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh was originally commissioned by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. and more structures were added to it over time. The stupa is a hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.The stupa has four toranas. Scenes from Lord  Buddha’s life and Jataka tales are carved on the toranas and the stupa complex.


Carvings on the west pillar (chariot can be seen) of the North torana or gateway at Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh, India.

By Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [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.

Subhadra is a character from Mahabharata who is the sister of Lord Krishna and Balarama. She was suggested as bride to Duryadhona by Balarama but Krishna wanted her to choose Arjuna. Being unsure that she would choose Arjuna, Lord Krishna urges Arjuna to kidnap her. Balarama though annoyed initially , later agrees and the marriage is conducted, as per the legend.


Subhadra, half sister of Lord Krishna driving away in a chariot with Arjuna,lithograph, India.

By Original uploader was Sridhar1000 at te.wikipedia – Transferred from te.wikipedia; transfer was stated to be made by User:Fatbuu., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18636394

The Kurukshetra war is a part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, between  two groups who are cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas over agame of dice, for the throne of Hastinapura. They belonged to the Kuru clan. The war is said  to have lasted for eighteen days. The Mahabharata is dated to probably  around 3000 BC. The use of the chariot is evident from the art works created about the war. Lord Krishna was the charioteer to Arjuna; the Bhagavadgita being the advice given to him on the battlefield.


Painting depicting the Kurukshetra war from the Mahabharata. Arjuna who is one of the Pandavas is in the chariot behind Krishna facing Karna, commander of the Kaurava army, painting from Kashmir or  Himachal Pradesh, India.

By Artist/maker unknown, India, Himachal Pradesh or Jammu and Kashmir – http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/70158.html, Public Domain,



Bundi or Kota opaque watercolour and gold on paper painting, depicting the battle scene between Arjuna and Karna from the Mahabharata, 18th century, Rajasthan, India.

By Indian, Rajasthani, about 1740 –

http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/obverse-the-slaying-of-the-demon-pralamba-reverse-the-fight-between-arjuna-and-karna-149742, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18851070

Dronacharya or Guru Drona was teacher to the Kauravas and Pandavas; son of sage Bharadwaja who trained them in advanced military arts. His favourite pupil was Arjuna, who was most dedicated and talented; to him he taught the use of special astras or weapons.


Illustration from a book ,Dronacharya riding in a chariot, scene from the Mahabharata, India.

By Ramanarayanadatta Sastri – http://archive.org/details/mahabharata04ramauoft, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21170710


Illustration from a manuscript of the Kurukshetra war from the Mahabharata, probably 18th century, India.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=619546


Gods look down upon the battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and Kauravas, painting,16th century, India.

By Unknown – http://www.warfare.altervista.org/Moghul/16thC/Arjuna_vs_Kauravas-Bhagavad_Gita-large.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18636412

The Ramayana, a great epic of India written by Sage Valmiki which narrates the life of Lord Rama. The epic is divided into seven books called kandas. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakhman, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are central to the story. There are versions of Ramayana in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and also Buddhist and Jaina adaptations.


Hanuman , scene from the Ramakien(Thai Ramayana) depicted on a mural at Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, 1800, Thailand, Bangkok.

By Jpatokal – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=662542

The Rigvedic Gods Surya and Agni ride in chariots. Chariots have been depicted and documented not only in literature but alos on stupas; example as in Sanchi stupa in Madhya Pradesh. Chariots used by the Magadha king Ajatashatru had blades extending horizontally from each end of the axle during 475 B.C . Chariots were called ratha in India and can be seen in paintings and temples across India.

As mentioned ratha or chariots were of different types; the sangramik ratha for wars,deva ratha for the Gods, the Karni ratha for queens, the Vainayik ratha for training, the pushya ratha for royal processions and the kreeda ratha for races and competitions.

The temple at Konark; the sun temple or Surya Deul was built by the Eastern Ganga dynasty by King Narasimhadeva I in the thirteenth century. The entire temple complex is in the shape of a chariot  of the sun God Surya, having 24 carved wheels, being pulled by seven horses. The temple is known for its exquisite carvings.


Sun temple at Konark, in the form of a chariot, Odisha, India

By Anshika42 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21548009


One of the wheels of the Sun temple, Konark, Odisha

By Asitmonty, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31965266

The Cholas have built great temples like the ones at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda, Cholapuram and Darasuram between the 10th and 12th centuries. Darasuram near Kumbakonam at Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu has the Airavateswarara temple built by Rajaraja Chola II. As per legend Indra’s elephant Airavata worshipped Lord Shiva at this temple. Yama is also said to  have worshipped the deity Airavateswarar who cured him of a curse of a sage. The temple is rich in art; the main mandapa is called Raja Gambira as the elephant draws the chariot. Other beautiful carvings include a  ceiling carving of Shiva and Parvathi inside an open lotus and dance postures of Bharatanatyam.


An exquisite chariot carved onto the mandapa of Airavateswarar temple,Darasuram, 12th century, Tamil Nadu, India.

By User:Ravichandar84, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26052023


References :



Posted by : Soma Ghosh






Cosmic in Asian art : mandala images from the East

Mandalas exist in many eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. A mandala resembles a circle or a geometric pattern, which is a spiritual symbol representing the universe. It symbolises the cosmos metaphysically and is considered  as the microcosm of the universe. Mandalas are of different types., though its basic form is in shape of a square with four gates containing one or more circles. The meaning is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’ and has now become a generic term depicting a cosmic diagram that represents and reminds us of our connection to the infinite, the microcosm to the macrocosm. A mandala is an integrated structure around a centre. Building a structure around a centre is a common theme in architecture. Mandalas depict radial balance. Mandalas are used for the purpose of meditation and  focussing attention, especially in Tantric Buddhism and Hinduism.

The mandala pattern or design is used in many cultures and religious traditions. Hindu mandalas are described in the Tantric and Agama texts. A mandala is the format on which the mantra is chanted to invoke the deity, the mandala becoming the deity itself.


Vishnu Mandala, painting on cloth, Nepal

By Jayateja (, died N/A) – LACMA[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2380938


Mandala as Sriyantra, Shiva and Shakti with a coiled serpent and the ten mahavidyas, Madhubani painting, India

By toyin adepoju – the_birth_of_ten_mahavidyas_with_shiva_parvati_dk47.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16543786

Buddhist Vajrayana monks create sand mandalas with the sand made from crushed semi-precious stones. After the ritual the mandala colours are all mixed and put in jars or into flowing water, to bring attention to the temporariness of life on earth. Tibetans believe a mandala has a teacher, a message, an audience, a site and a time.


Sand mandala,Tibet.

By Mary Mueller – Tibetan Sand Mandala, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6046571

In the medicine Buddhist mandala, as per the Atlas of Tibetan medicine, Lord Buddha has been depicted as the Medicine Buddha or Menla residing at the centre of the mandala. Surrounding him are a number of gods, goddesses,rishis,protectors of medicine, healing herbs, mountains with medicinal plants, minerals and medicinal hot springs.


Medicine Buddha mandala with Goddess Prajnaparamita in the centre,19th century, Bhutan.

By Anonymous – Rubin Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3631419

The Five Buddha mandala represents various aspects of enlightenment; for example; the Five wisdom Buddhas has Vairochana, Aksobhya, Ratnasambha, Amitabha and Amoghasiddi. A mandala can represent the entire universe with Mount Meru at the centre, surrounded by the oceans and continents. In mandalas the outer ring of fire depicts wisdom, the second ring has vajras representing enlightenment. Lotus petals in mandalas signify purity.

Thangka painting with five dhyani buddhas (including the background), late 13th century,Tibet.

By Unknown – Honolulu Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3160468

In Japan, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism uses the mandalas for initiating monks and other rituals using the garbadhatu or womb realm mandala and the vajradhatu or the diamond realm mandala.


Garbhadhatu mandala, Japan.

By Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25458


Vajradhatu mandala, Shingon school, Japan.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=443680

Shadakshari is the form of Avalokiteshwara ,(a bodhisattva, a compassionate being who looks down on all beings and has postponed  own buddhahood or enlightenment,also known as padmapani), of whom the Dalai Lama is an incarnation. Shadakshari Lokeshvara is believed to live in a paradise called Potolaka or Potala.


Mandala of the Bodhisattva Shadakshari Lokeshvara ,17th-18th century, Tibet.

By Image: http://collections.lacma.org/sites/default/files/remote_images/piction/ma-31975668-O3.jpgGallery: http://collections.lacma.org/node/172922, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27332284


Painted Mandala, 19th century, Bhutan.

By Unknown – Seula Gonpa, Punakha, Bhutan, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4639871

Jainsim is another important religion from the east where mandalas are used. As per Jainism, every soul is potentially divine and jinas are beings who have attained enlightenment. There were 24 jinas who were the tirthankaras, the first being Adinatha and the 24th being Lord Mahavira who lived in the 6th century; who is frequently depicted in the Jaina mandalas.



Painting of Lord Mahavira,1900 A.D,Rajasthan.

By Jules Jain – Photograph of Art taken by Jules Jain, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4550539


Painting of Samavasarana or assembly of a tirthankara,1800 A.D. Rajasthan.

By Unknown – Painting, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18780461


Samavasarana of Lord Mahavira, 19th century, Mysore.

By Anishshah19 – 19th Century art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11069284

Mandalas depict a beautiful amalgamation of religion and art. In recent times also mandalas are constantly being created by children and adults alike. They are being used for meditation and as a form of art therapy. Rangoli designs made at the entrance and courtyards during festivals in  homes across India, also resemble mandalas.


A modern mandala representing the summer solstice.

By RaulFalco78 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39849608


Pookalam(rangoli of flowers), Kerala, India.

By Gopakumar V R – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51151244


References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Bowker,John/ Oxford Dictionary of world religions;New York: Oxford University Press,1997.
  • Lowry,John/ Tibetan art;London:HMSO,1973


Posted by : Soma Ghosh