Chakrasamvara Mandala

Period: Thakuri–early Malla periods

Date: ca. 1100

Culture: Nepal, Kathmandu Valley

Medium: Distemper on cloth

Dimensions: 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)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.233


This is the earliest known Nepalese painting on cloth (paubha). Its rich palette is dominated by red and yellow, and the elongated proportions and animation of the figures are characteristic of contemporaneous illustrated manuscripts, as is the attention to detail and humor. The careful treatment of details throughout the painting—the jewelry worn by Chakrasamvara and his consort Vajravarahi, the delicate crossed vajras (ritual implements) that fill the outer edges of the central circle, the many jewels and other elements that decorate the mandala—exemplify the best of Nepali painting and foreshadow the influence of this artistic tradition in Tibet during the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries. The central couple is surrounded by six deities, rather than the usual four or eight. There are hundreds of forms of the Chakrasamvara Mandala because it is considered the chief of all Mother Tantras of the Unexcelled Yoga Tantra class. This one is remarkable for the medley of varied figures in the charnel grounds just outside the circle as well as for the variety of their movements and actions.