Though a little intricate, the Tantric interpretation of the figure, as also the overall theory in general, is more or less apprehensible. The basic idea is that the body has two sets of energies : the known energies and the unknown dormant energies that lie coiled in the body like a serpent. Seen as ‘chakras’, the fasted to move, and as lying coiled, that is in ‘kundalini’ form, these dormant energies are called ‘Kundalini-chakras’. Such dormant energies are multi-million times more potent than body’s known energies. Now even the modern neurologists hold that a larger percentage of brain’s energies, about ninety-five, lay dormant, and if activated would release incalculable capacities. The Kundalini-sadhana is the spiritual method discovered in early India for awakening or activating these dormant energies. Now for long a theme from Tantric realm, the body is seen as comprising six ‘chakras’, the dynamic elemental – Tattvika, centres : ‘Muladhara’, ‘Svadhisthana’, ‘Mani-pura’, ‘Anahata’, ‘Vishuddha’, and ‘Ajna’. Over all them is situated ‘Sahasrara-padma’ – the thousand-petalled lotus. Kundalini-sadhana, by which dormant energies are kindled : the essence of all Tantric systems, begins in ascending order, that is, from Muladhara.
This Kundalini-pata portrays its theme using a female figure with white body, symbolic of purity, seated in Padmasana : cross-legged. Five of the ‘chakras’ are drawn within the body, the sixth, in the form of a third eye between the two eyebrows, and Sahasrara-padma, a yellow circle radiating into innumerable flames’ like petals, above the head. A Shiva-ling enshrines its centre. The Muladhara, on the bottom, consisting of four petals, is symbolic of ‘yoni’ – vulva, the very basis of Kundalini-chakra-sadhana. In Tantric vocabulary inverted triangle stands for phallus, the male principle, and the upward, for vulva, the female principle. A red inverted triangle, symbolic of phallus, in the centre of Muladhara, inserted in between two upward triangles, is suggestive of coitus going on uninterrupted. In Tantrism coitus is the ground wherefrom the journey to kindling ‘Kundalini’ takes off. At the base of the ‘ling’ is the Brahma-dvara – divine door, where Kundalini lies asleep. This is also the seat of creative desire. When awoke, this creative desire pricks Kundalini to awake which marks the beginning of the process of awakening Kundalini. Around the navel is situated ‘Svadhisthana’, a six-petalled lotus manifesting six qualities or states of being. Above it is the ten-petalled Manipur, the third. Here too the male principle dominates.
The journey towards ‘Sahasrara-padma’ begins with fourth ‘chakra’, ‘Anahata’ – a lotus with twelve petals, situated in the region of heart. Here ‘jivatma’ – self, appears like a flame. The painting has visualized it as a hexagon with male and female principles alternating mutually commanding all its six arms. Vishuddha ‘chakra’, the fifth, is seen as situated at throat level. The sixth, Ajna, conceived as a third eye, is situated in between the eye-brows on the mid-forehead. Now devotee practiser is in direct touch and contact of godly glory, which in the painting, the Shiva-ling enshrining yellow circle represents and to which the third eye, representing Ajna, is joined. The ‘jivatma’ has now shed its colours and transcending material existence merges with Parmatman perceived as Sahasrara-padma, both in Tantra, as also in the painting. It is the state of complete transcendence.
In the painting three things deserve special attention, one, the form of Sahasrara-padma, second, Shiva-ling enshrining Sahasrara-padma, and third, the background. In most representations of the theme Sahasrara-padma is a circle without form suggestive of void : the existence beyond form. Here in the painting, corresponding to the meaning of the term ‘Sahasrara-padma’ – a thousand-petalled lotus, the artist has painted the circle as radiating into innumerable forms resembling both, the lotus-petals as also the divine rays. Perceiving a Shiva-ling enshrining it corresponds to Shaivite contention that Shiva is the axis of entire creation and enshrines its centre. Interestingly, the background on the figure’s left consists of non-flowering creepers painted in darker tints, and on the right, flowering, painted in red and brighter tints, representing perhaps the negative and positive aspects of creation.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.