Entries for month: July 2010

Tara Main Page - Updated

July 31, 2010 ·

Tara, Mother of All Activity: according to Vajrayana Buddhism Tara is a completely enlightened Buddha that typically appears in the form of a beautiful youthful woman sixteen years of age. She made a promise in the distant past that after reaching complete enlightenment she would always appear in the form of a female for the benefit of all beings. She especially protects from the eight and sixteen fears and has taken on many of the early functions originally associated with the deities Avalokiteshvara and Amoghapasha. Practiced in all Schools of Tibetan Buddhism Tara, amongst all of the different deity forms, is likely second in popularity only to Avalokiteshvara. Meditational practices and visual descriptions for Tara are found in all classes of Buddhist tantra, both Nyingma and Sarma (Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug).

The most common forms of Tara are the Green which is considered special for all types of activities, White for longevity and Red for power. The different forms of Tara come in all colours, numbers of faces, arms and legs, peaceful, semi-peaceful and wrathful. There are simple meditational forms representing a single figure and then there are complex forms with large numbers of retinue figures filling all types of mandalas.

Tags: iconography · art

Postures in Iconography

July 30, 2010 ·

Postures in the Iconography of Himalayan art often follow standard descriptions of deities found in the original Sanskrit and Prakrit texts of the Indian sub-continent. Many of these source texts will describe a commonly depicted posture but rather than using the same name consistently will use a different name for that same posture. This naming issue has also continued into the translated Tibetan texts and other languages of the Himalayan regions. The postures and the names are not overly complicated. For the most part the names are simply descriptive of the posture described in the ritual texts and relatively easy to follow in the visual forms depicted in Himalayan paintings and sculpture.

Tags: iconography

Hand Gestures and Mudras Represented in Art

July 29, 2010 ·

 Hand Gestures & Mudras lists the principal buddhas, deities and Indian mahasiddhas and their unique gestures. The list is followed by an alphabetized version with the gestures listed by name.

Depictions of Tibetan and Himalayan teachers are generally depicted using the gestures of Shakyamuni Buddha or one of the Five Symbolic Buddhas. For example Vairochana Buddha is depicted with the hand gesture of Teaching the Dharma. This same gesture is used as the iconic gesture for the famous teachers such as Sakya Pandita, Buton Tamche Kyenpa, Bodong Panchen Chogle Namgyal, Tsongkapa, Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo and a number of Karmapas.

Ninety-nine percent (99%) of all gestures found in Himalayan and Tibetan art are represented in the examples found here which, for the most part, are the original source deities, or subjects, for all of these various gestures and for all subsequent uses and depictions in art.

Tags: iconography

Drums in Art

July 28, 2010 ·

Hand Drum (Skt.: damaru): a double-sided drum made of wood played in the right hand by twisting the wrist and causing the two strikers to beat against the stretched drum skins usually made of hide or snake skin. The damaru is a common ritual object of India. In Tantric Buddhism the drum is often placed next to the two principal ritual objects, the vajra and bell. The dissipating sound of the drum represents emptiness. The drum is generally made of wood although ivory is popular with wealthy teachers and the nobility. Sometimes two human skullcaps are fashioned into a drum exclusively for wrathful Tantric practices. A larger wooden version, round in shape, of the double-sided hand drum is used in the uniquely Tibetan Buddhist practice known as Cutting (Tib. Chod) popularized by the famous female Tantric practitioner Machig Labdron.

An even larger drum is used in temple rituals and dance performances. This drum (Tibetan: nga) is held with the left hand by a long handle and in the right hand a striker is wielded to produce the sound. For permanent installations this drum can be fastened in a wooden frame or suspended by rope from above.

Tags: art

Rakta Yamari Painting - Updated

July 15, 2010 ·

This beautiful painting of Rakta Yamari, in an Eastern Tibetan Palpung Monastery painting style, has been updated with iconographic information for each of the figures. The most unusual figure is probaby the Vajra Sarasvati - top right corner - not commonly depicted in painting or sculpture. She is associated with the Yamari class of deities and found in the Yamari Tantras.

Tags: iconography

Iconographic Instructions and the Artist

July 14, 2010 ·

Himalayan and Tibetan art is primarily focussed on three subjects: Religious Studies, Iconography and Art History. The first of these, religion, is by far the most researched and studied. The second, iconography has come a long way especially with the seminal works of individuals such as Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra. Trailing at some distance behind is the study of the actual physical work of art and approaching it from the side of Art History.

What is it we are actually seeing in a painted composition? What is dictated by religious texts? How much freedom does the artist actually have?

Presented here is a sampling of two translations from the Tibetan language, 11th and 13th century, describing the iconographic appearance of Avalokiteshvara with four arms. These short works also follow closely with the older and original Sanskrit texts. Accompanying the texts are ten examples of Tibetan paintings which would be based either directly on these two texts, or on other similar texts of the time and from the various religious traditions - modelled on the same Sanskrit texts.

Look at these examples, comparing with the translated iconographic descriptions, and note the differences in composition, use of space, colour balancing, variations in ornamentation, body proportions, types and styles of textiles, integration of foreground with background, over-all balance, harmony and symmetry.

Tags: iconography · art

Katog Tsewang Norbu (1698-1755)

July 04, 2010 ·

Although one of the most important teachers of 18th century Tibet, Tsewang Norbu is not well represented in painting and sculpture. The HAR website contains one image where Tsewang Norbu is depicted as the large central subject and three other images of paintings where he is portrayed as a secondary figure. It is likely that more images of this important author, teacher and diplomat will turn up in the near future now that we are on the look out for his distinctive iconographic appearance.

Tags: iconography

The Ashmolean Museum Has Re-opened

July 01, 2010 ·

Manjuvajra GuhyasamajaThe Ashmolean Museum of Oxford, England, has re-opened after conducting a major face fift over the last five years. The Himalayan and Tibetan section is expanded with numerous objects on display - mostly sculpture - along with three Tibetan paintings. Additional images from the museum will be added to the Ashmolean section of the HAR website over the next few weeks and broken links will be repaired where possible.

Tags: museums