Ushnishavijaya Enthroned in the Womb of a Stupa


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 252

This is one of the earliest extant images of the rarely represented Buddhist goddess Ushnishavijaya. She embodies a magical spell (dharani) recited by practitioners to reach liberation through the accumulation of merit. The power of multiplication in Buddhist merit making is suggested by the many small stupas (chaityas), which symbolically evoke the donation of one hundred thousand stupas. Ushnishavijaya is multiarmed and multiheaded, and white in color (like the autumn moon). Seated in the central stupa, she is flanked by red and green bodhisattvas and surrounded by the guardians of the eight directions and representations of Tara. As a manifestation of the Buddha’s head protuberance, or ushnisha, she is associated with wisdom. The lowest register shows the consecration scene during the performance of the Lakshachaitya ritual, the dedication of one hundred thousand stupas.

Ushnishavijaya Enthroned in the Womb of a Stupa, Distemper on cloth, Nepal

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