Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Stupa (Buddhist Reliquary)

མཆོད་རྟེན། 佛塔
(item no. 100024)
Origin Location Nepal
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Size 60.96x86.36cm (24x34in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F 1997.17.24
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Object/Concept

Interpretation / Description

Chariot Ritual (Sanskrit: bhimarata): the birthday celebration for an elder of Kathmandu, Nepal, upon reaching the age of 77 years, 7 months and 7 days.

Sanskrit: Chaitya Tibetan: Chor ten

The Chariot Ritual is a special birthday celebration. It is practiced by both Hindus and Buddhists and celebrated when an elder of Kathmandu Valley reaches the age of 77 years, 7 months, 7 days, 7 hours and 7 minutes. To commemorate this day, the Buddhists are required to commission the construction of a stupa, an architectural reliquary mound. If unable to build a full sized stupa the family can sponsor a small three-dimensional metal sculpture, or a hammered metal relief sculpture, or lastly a painting.

The key figures in the composition of the painting, starting from the top, are the Five Transcendent Buddhas. Below that are the ten astrological deities representing the planets in the heavens and the calculation of time. At the center of the painting is a stupa containing the Victorious Crown Ornament Goddess (Ushnishavijaya) representing the continuation of an already long-life for the birthday elder. Two further deities included in the birthday rituals are depicted below, Vasudhara, the Goddess of Abundance, and Manjushri (the bodhisattva of wisdom).

The lower registers of the painting depict the 77-year-old elder along with family members. The festivities of the day require the elder to mount a chariot and ride through the city accompanied by the performance of various religious services in front of a sacred stupa.

Jeff Watt 5-2005

Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley

Thematic Sets
Nepal: Stupas
Stupa: Painting, Textile & Print
Nepal: Late Mala Period Painting
Subject: Five Buddhas (Secondary Figures)
Subject: Chariots
Nepal: Paintings
Stupa (Chaitya): Main Page
Nepal: Buddhism
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Nepal
Subject: Chariot Ritual