Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva & Buddhist Deity) - Chaturbhuja (4 hands)

སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས། 观音菩萨
(item no. 399)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Uncertain
Size 82.55x53.34cm (32.50x21in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.31.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Alternate Names: Lokeshvara Avalokita Lokanata Lokanatha Mahakarunika

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: chen re zi, chag shi pa, English: the Four Handed Lord Gazing Downward): the bodhisattva of compassion and the patron deity of Tibet.

Peaceful in appearance, white in colour (gold filled), he gazes forward with a beautiful countenance. The black hair is piled on the top of the head with some falling loose across the shoulders. The first pair of hands placed at the heart holds a precious wishing jewel. The first left upraised at the side holds a mala of prayer beads. The left also upraised holds a lotus blossom delicately between the fingers. Adorned with a crown of gold and jewels, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets, he wears a krishnasara deerskin across the left shoulder. With a silk scarf wrapped about the shoulders, the lower body is attired in a silk skirt. The legs are folded in vajra posture atop a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat surrounded by a large red nimbus and orange areola of radiant light. Pink lotus flowers and green foliage appears to adorn the edges. The ground in front is strewn with heaps of wishing gems, gold ornaments, elephant tusks, cymbals, a shell with scented water, lamp and flower vase.

"Unstained by faults, a body white in colour with the perfect Buddha as a crown, seeing beings with the eye of compassion; to Avalokiteshvara, I bow." (Sakya liturgical verse).

Completely surrounding the central figure are 200 small forms of Padmapani (the Lotus Holder) Avalokiteshvara. Each has one face and two hands, peaceful and white in colour (gold filled). The right hand is extended across the knee in the mudra (gesture) of generosity with the palm outward and the left is placed at the heart holding the stem of a lotus flower blossoming over the shoulder. They all sit with the legs in a relaxed posture on lotus seats surrounded by circles of light.

Avalokiteshvara is a bodhisattva arising from the sutra tradition and a tutelary deity of the Vajrayana tradition. Found in all 4 tantra classifications in singular form, complex mandalas, with a consort and wrathful in appearance, he is not only a popular deity in Tantra but undoubtedly the most popular figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

Jeff Watt 9-99

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