Buddhist Deity: Avalokita (Red, Standing)
Red Avalokita | Avalokiteshvara Main Page | Avalokiteshvara Outline Page
This form of the deity is known in Kathmandu, Nepal, as Shristhikantha Lokeshvara. At the present time five paintings depicting this form of Avalokiteshvara are recorded in the Himalayan Art Resources database. It is clear that the origins of the idea for this depiction are rooted in chapter 4 of the Karandavyuha Sutra written in prose dated to the 4th-5th century (possibly Kashmir).
In the Karandavyuha Sutra there is a description of a number of Hindu gods arising from the body of Lokeshvara. However, there is no description of Lokeshvara having a red colour, or in a standing posture. It is most likely that the paintings shown below are based on the much later and extended version of the Karandavyuha Sutra, in verse, popularized in Kathmandu in the first half of the 2nd millennium.
The original version of the sutra describes nine gods as emanating from the body of Lokeshvara. The five paintings below each show several more gods emanating from Lokeshvara and they are not always consistent from one painting to the other. When comparing the iconography of the secondary figures they also can differ between paintings and artists. For example, Sarasvati in one painting appears with one face and two arms and holding a vina stringed instrument and in another painting she has four arms and seated on a white goose.
bka' 'gyur (stog pho brang bris ma). 'phags pa za ma tog bkod pa shes bya ba theg pa chen po'i mdo. Volume 74, Chapter 4, pages 501-502.
"From the eyes are the sun [Surya] and moon [Chandra], from the forehead Maheshvara [Shiva], from the shoulder Brahma, from the heart the Great Powerful One [Vishnu], from the two teeth the Goddess Sarasvati, from the mouth all of the wind is born [Vayu], from the feet earth [Bhudevi], and from the belly arises the Water God [Varuna]."
Jeff Watt 2-2013
The Origins of Om Manipadme Hum, A Study of the Karanadavyuha Sutra. Alexander Studholme. State University of New York Press (SUNY), 2002.
Avalokiteshvara Mural, Kathmandu, Nepal. The Huntington Archive.