Twenty-three Deity Nairatma Mandala

Twenty-three Deity Nairatma Mandala

c. 1375

Opaque watercolor, gold, and ink on cloth

Overall: 82.5 x 72.4 cm (32 1/2 x 28 1/2 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1993.4


One of the main types of imagery in tantric Buddhist art is the mandala, a two-dimensional diagram of the realm of an enlightened being. This mandala depicts the palace of Vajradakini, who dances in the center surrounded by her entourage. Using the painting as a guide, the tantric practitioner in meditation
mentally projects the two-dimensional plan into three-dimensional space and enters into it.

The outermost ring contains depictions of the cremation grounds, where corpses are being burned and
consumed, as well as tantric yogis and masters who work there in order to understand the impermanence of the body, defeat their fear of death, and overcome irrational aversions to impure aspects of life.

Virupa is depicted twice, always pointing to arrest the sun with his raised left hand. He sits among the row of lineage masters along the top edge, and is also depicted in the topmost segment of the ring of cremation grounds, being served a cup of liquor. Along with lineage masters at the top of this impressive painting, bodhisattvas and important masters are depicted in the spandrels, each identified by an inscription.

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