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Entries for month: August 2012

Vajradaka Sculpture - Updated

August 25, 2012 ·

Vajradaka: A deity of purification from the Vajradaka Tantra belonging to the larger category of the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Tantras.

"...Vajradaka with a body blue-black in colour, one face. With the two hands at the heart performing the King of Desire gesture, the right holds a vajra and left a bell. Possessing three eyes, yellow hair flowing upward, a radiant face and adorned with bones, jewels and the eight great nagas. Wearing a lower garment of tiger skin, with the left leg extended, ..." (Chogyal Pagpa, 1235-1280).

The physical sculpture of Vajradaka is a ritual piece used while performing one of several specific meditations involving purification. At a certain point in the ritual black sesame seeds are inserted into the mouth of the Vajradaka sculpture which then fall through the hollow body of the metal sculpture and onto an incense pot filled with burning embers or coals. The seeds are burnt and the smoke rises upward and dissipates just as the defilements and sins of the practitioner are imagined to be destroyed through the power of the ritual.

The sculpture is made in two pieces. The top piece is the figure of Vajradaka. The bottom piece is the pedestal containing the burning coals. The pedestal is sometimes created with the botttom flush with the surface it stands on and sometimes created as a square box or in the shape of a tripod vessel similar to a Chinese style incense burner. Most examples of Vajradaka sculpture  in museum and private collections are missing the bottom pedestal which holds the burner for the charcoal. (See examples with pedestal: Vajradaka 1 and Vajradaka 2).

Sculptural representations of Vajradaka are generally depicted in either a squatting or seated position with the legs loosely arranged in front. A few examples portray the figure as standing with the right leg bent and the left leg straight. In these cases an added metal structure is placed under the bottom of the figure 'like a small chair or bar stool' which acts as a chute for the sesame seeds falling down and as a chimney for the resulting smoke from the seeds. (See example 1, example 2, and example 3).

Tags: updates · Sculpture

Life Story Paintings - Updated

August 20, 2012 ·

Life Story Paintings are compositions that pertain primarily to a single individual and depict a series of narrative vignettes in chronological order relating the [1] life story, [2] partial life story, or [3] significant life event(s).

The two most common life stories to be depicted in Tibetan art are those of Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and Tonpa Shenrab, the founder of the Bon Religion. For Shakyamuni Buddha the subject of life story is further divided into three or four categories. The life story of Tonpa Shenrab is divided into two categories. The two founders are followed by the Eight Great Bodhisattvas, the Six Ornaments and Two Excellent Ones, Padmasambhava, and a few miscellaneous Indian teachers - scholars and mahasiddhas. For the important Tibetan historical figures there are many depictions of life stories such as that of Milarepa, Chogyal Pagpa and Je Tsongkapa.

Life story paintings are depicted in several different formats. A story can be painted as a single composition depicting the entire narrative on a single canvas. The story can be divided into sections and narrated using a number of individual compositions with the full set of paintings depicting the entire narrative. Life story paintings are also commonly depicted as murals in assembly halls or temples. (See Life Story Painting Sets).

Tags: Biography · updates

The Monastery of Taranata - Additional Images

August 15, 2012 ·

Additional images of Puntsog Ling Monastery of Jetsun Taranata have been uploaded courtesy of Uranchimeg Tsultem. Along with Gongkar Chode Monastery of Central Tibet, the wall murals of Puntsog Ling Monastery of Tsang Province are an excellent example of the Khyenri style of Tibetan painting.

Tags: Murals · additions · Tibet

Drolma Lhakang Temple - Additional Images

August 15, 2012 ·

Additional images of Drolma Lhakang have been uploaded courtesy of Uranchimeg Tsultem. This temple located on the Western outskirts of Lhasa is known for the very large standing bodhisattva figures along with the lion supported thrones. Built by the later Tibetan kings, it is believed that Jowo Atisha visited this temple in the 11th century.

Tags: Sculpture · additions · Tibet

Dratang Monastery - Additional Images

August 15, 2012 ·

Additional images of Dratang Monastery have been uploaded courtesy of Uranchimeg Tsultem. Located approximately half way between Lhasa and Samye monastery (by road), Dratang Monastery is an excellent example of large scale and beautiful 11th century Tibetan murals.

Tags: Murals · additions · Tibet

Chotsang Cave Temple of Mustang - Added

August 15, 2012 ·

Chotsang is located in North Eastern Mustang above the walled town of Lo Monthang. The wall murals of the cave temple follow a Sakya/Ngorpa iconographic program while the various sculpture appear to be predominantly Kagyu. Apparently in the recent past there was another temple situated close by. That other temple was Kagyu in tradition and the location faced faster erosion than the Chotsang hillside location. The sculpture from the Kagyu Temple were removed prior to the collapse of the cave. They were then placed in the Chotsang cave Temple for safe keeping. (The images are courtesy of a private collection).

Tags: Murals · additions · Mustang

Black Stone Carvings - Updated

August 13, 2012 ·

Black stone is a medium for carving sculptural images. The primary figurative subjects represented are protectors and wrathful deities with occasional figures of siddhas and teachers. Sometimes sets of figures are created such as the example of Vaishravana Riding a Lion and the Eight Horsemen. For this example only three of the nine figures are currently known.

Black stone has been used for sculpture for over a thousand years and continues today. It is very difficult to distinguish a black stone carving from hundreds of years ago and a black stone carving made today from Eastern Tibet.

The Shadbhuja Mahakala shown at the left is one of the finest examples of a carving in black stone.

Tags: Sculpture · additions

Tantric Feast (Ganachakra) - Added

August 07, 2012 ·

Tantric Feast: (Skt. ganapuja, ganachakra): a gathering ritual, gathering circle. A Ganachakra is a collection or assembly, a gathering of foods and substances, to be offered to the Tantric Guru, meditational deity, and an assembled group of initiated Tantric practitioners, generally conducted on textually prescribed astrological dates based on the Indian, or Tibetan, lunar calendar.

The selection of images on this page are either primarily depicting the subject of a Ganachakra or there are significant secondary images in the composition detailing the practice of Ganachakra. See the image located at the middle left side of the Yogambara painting. Note the offerings arranged in front of the teacher Kalzang Gyatso.

Tags: additions

Panjarnata Mahakala - A Very Fine Sculpture

August 05, 2012 ·

Panjarnata Mahakala is the special protector for the Shri Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra (canopy, or pavilion) a Sanskrit language text from India, and an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to the Hevajra Tantra itself. It is from the name of this Tantra that the specific form of Mahakala is known. 'Vajra Panjara' means the vajra enclosure, egg shaped, created from vajra scepters large and small - all sizes, completely surrounding a Tantric Buddhist mandala. The name of the Tantra is Vajra Panjara and the name of the form of Mahakala taught in this Tantra is also Vajra Panjara. The full name for the protector is Vajra Panjara Nata Mahakala (Vajra Pavilion Lord Great Black One). (See the Panjarnata Mahakala Main Page, Outline Page and Panjarnata Masterworks).

Read the full article about Panjarnata.

Tags: Sculpture · Mahakala · additions

Shalu Monastery - Additional Images

August 05, 2012 ·

Additional images of Shalu Monastery have been uploaded courtesy of Uranchimeg Tsultem.

The monastery of Shalu, approximately 40 kilometers from Shigatse, was founded in 1040 A.D. by Chetsun Sherab Jungne. At the suggestion of Buton Rinchen Drub (1290-1364) the monastery was expanded and elaborately decorated by Kunzang Dragpa Gyaltsen in the early 14th century.

There are many different chapels and shrine rooms located on the various floors and sections of the Monastery. Surrounding the central assembly hall on the ground floor is a circumambulatory (korlam) that is fully decorated with murals. Also accessed from the circumambulatory is a very small storage room with a hidden Avalokiteshvara Chapel with murals painted in the iconographic tradition of the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition. For an overview of Shalu Monastery see the Shalu Association: Monastery Report.

Tags: Murals · additions · Tibet