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Paintings > Thangka > The Guardians of Directions (Lokapalas) Take Vow to Protect the Dharma
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The Guardians of Directions (Lokapalas) Take Vow to Protect the Dharma

The Guardians of Directions (Lokapalas) Take Vow to Protect the Dharma

The Guardians of Directions (Lokapalas) Take Vow to Protect the Dharma

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Tibetan Thangka Painting

Size of Painted Surface 13.5" X 21.5"
Size with Brocade 26.0" X 37.0"
Item Code:
TK29
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$275.00
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The Guardians of Directions (Lokapalas) Take Vow to Protect the Dharma

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Viewed 5986 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
This black thangka depicts three Transcendental Buddhas in a row, seated on an exquisitely decorated throne. Above the heads of Cosmic Buddhas are three beautifully rendered parasols in clouds. Two Adepts are standing with folded hands, below their thrones. Below them are four Lokapalas who are the protectors of Buddhism for all four directions of the universe. These are:

1. Virupaksha, the king or guardian of West

2. Vaishravana, the king or guardian of North

3. Virudhaka, the king or guardian of South

4. Dhritarashtra, the king or guardian of East

These Lokapalas are also known as Chatur-Maharajika, 'the four great kings'. They are mentioned in the earliest Buddhist works. It is said that the deities live on the shoulders of the axial mountain, Sumeru, and guard the entrances to Indra's heaven from the marauding titans or antigods. According to early Buddhist tradition Lokapalas appear before the Buddha and promise to uphold and protect his Dharma, or teachings, and its practitioners. They thus form an archetype for human kings and emperors in the history of Buddhism, who become moved by the Buddhas, or subsequent great masters, and at least partially renounce their worldly pride and vanity and become sincere supporters of the Buddhist community and Teaching. Thus the presence of Lokapalas before the Buddhas as shown in the present painting relates their assurance to the Buddhas for the protection of Dharma and its practitioners.

These four Lokapalas are standing slightly below the middle ground, two on each side. Virupaksha and Vaishravana are standing on the left. As mentioned above Virupaksha is the guardian of West. Moreover, he is the king of Nagas, and as such he is surrounded by thousands of them who paid homage to the Buddha Shakyamuni by offering pearls. Here he is holding a snake in his right hand, while his left hand is in abhaya-mudra. His dress is that of a warrior clad in armor, breastplate, backpiece, and bellypiece, strong boots with flowing dhoti.

Vaishravana is standing to the left of Virupaksha. He is the king or guardian of North and the Buddhist god of wealth. Moreover he is the king of Yakshas. Vaishravana too has appeared here in military attire. He is holding a banner of victory in his left hand, while a vase is in his left hand.

Virudhaka is standing in the right side and dressed in armor. He holds a sword in his right hand. He is the king of South, the direction always associated with Yama, the god of death. Virudhaka maintains a fierce demeanor to protect against wrongdoers. On the right of Virudhaka is Dhritarashtra. He is also clad in full military attire. Dhritarashtra guards the East and rules over gandharvas and pishachas. He is playing a stringed instrument (Vina), which is his distinctive mark.

The figures are brilliantly drawn. The middle and foreground depict beautiful landscape and lake. The painting is suitable for sadhana and ritual practices.

Select Bibliography

A. Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Tokyo, 1962

J.C. Huntington and D. Bangdel, The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art, Ohio, 2004

Marylin M. Rhie & Robert A.F. Thurman, Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, New York, 1999

This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)".

Click Here to View the Thangka Painting along with its Brocade


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