Distemper on cloth
Image: 26 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (67.3 x 50.2 cm); Framed: 48 x 33 in. (121.9 x 83.8 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1995
This mandala, or ritual diagram, is conceived as the palace of the wrathful Chakrasamvara and his consort Vajravarahi, seen together at the center of the composition. These deities are important to the Newar tradition of Nepal as well as in Tibet, embodying the esoteric knowledge of Buddhist texts, the Yoga Tantras. The central divinities are surrounded by six goddesses, each set on a stylized lotus petal that forms a vajra—a feature that suggests an early date for this work. Framing the mandala are the eight great burial grounds of India, each of which is presided over by a deity beneath a tree. The cemeteries are appropriate places for meditation on Chakrasamvara and are emblematic of the various realms of existence. The lower register contains five forms of the goddess Tara as well as a tantric adept to the left and two donors on the right. This mandala is one of the earliest large-scale paintings to survive from Nepal. Stylistic features relate this painting to Nepalese manuscript covers and eastern Indian palm-leaf manuscript illustrations of the twelfth century.
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