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Paintings > Thangka > Mandala of Mahamaya (The Worldly Mother of Shakyamuni Buddha)
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Mandala of Mahamaya (The Worldly Mother of Shakyamuni Buddha)

Mandala of Mahamaya (The Worldly Mother of Shakyamuni Buddha)

Mandala of Mahamaya (The Worldly Mother of Shakyamuni Buddha)

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Tibetan Thangka Painting

Size of Painted Surface 17.5 inches X 22.0 inches
Size with Brocade 26.0 inches X 37.5 inches
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Mandala of Mahamaya (The Worldly Mother of Shakyamuni Buddha)

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This multi-color thangka portrays the mandala of Mahamaya, who is also known as Mayadevi. The center of the mandala depicts the scene of nativity of Shakyamuni Buddha. In Tibetan Buddhism, a series of twelve major events of the life of Buddha developed and venerated and among them birth of Shakyamuni Buddha is most popular. Mayadevi is worshipped as goddess in Buddhist world.

The term Mandala has been derived from the Sanskrit word mandal, meaning “circle” which appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, and the term Mandala is also used in other religions , particularly in Buddhism as a sacred diagram of the universe. In early Buddhism, the mandala can be found in the form of the stupa while in Tibetan Buddhism, mandalas have been developed into sand-painting. In various religious traditions, mandala may be employed for focusing attention of adepts and practitioners, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation. Thus, a mandala is not merely squares and circles, rather a sacred diagram of the universe, and encompasses an area in which divine forces are present. It also aids the devotee in meditation when he or she seeks to focus on divinities and to gain access to divine forces.

Tibetan Buddhists or who are following Tibetan forms of Buddhism most commonly used mandalas as an aid to meditation. A Buddhist mandala is visualized as a sacred space, “a Pure Buddha Realm,” and also as an abode of fully realized beings or deities. Moreover mandala is regarded as a place separated and protected from the ever-changing and impure outer world of samsara and thus seen as a place of Nirvana and peace. Further a mandala also represents the entire universe, which is traditionally depicted with Mount Meru as the axis spindle in the center, surrounded by the continents. In another way we may say that mandalas are three-dimensional residence of the deity. Geometrically it is subdivided into squares and circles

In The center of this mandala depicts Mahamaya who is holding a branch of shala tree and newborn baby Siddhartha has been shown as if just he has completed seven steps. According to the relevant legend or tradition, Shakyamuni was the son of queen Mahamaya and king Suddhodana from the Gautama family, who ruled the Shakya kingdom in northern India.

As per the tradition when Shakyamuni was reborn in Tushita heaven as Svetketu, he perfected the ten stages of Bodhisattva path in according with the aspirations and prophecies made in previous lives, and was enthroned as the Dharma-guru of the diving beings in that realm. Once he heard some verses of music in the heavenly palace which reminded him of the prophecies made about him by the past Buddhas, Dipankara and Kasyapa and he nobly resolve to take re-birth, attain perfect awakening, refutes heretics and spread the Dharma in the dark age of the human world. Thus he makes up his mind to take re-birth in the human world to relieve the people from their sufferings. He transmits his lineage to Maitreya in Tushita heaven. He then chosen queen Mahamaya and king Suddhodana as his worldly parents and descended to earth in the form of a White Elephant. Mahamaya was sleeping alone in her chamber and she saw a White Elephant that flew through the air in clouds and touched her right side with its trunk. She subsequently became pregnant.

When Mahamaya’s time was approaching she took a trip to parental home, Devadaha to have the baby there with her mother, an ancient custom that is still practiced. It is said that during that period, there were numerous miraculous signs in the Lumbini grove, all the trees and plants burst into flowers, jeweled lotuses bloomed and there were heavenly lights and so on. When Mahamaya reached beautiful Lumbini garden she alighted from her palanquin and went to admire the tree, which was laden with flowers. As she stood beneath the branches of the tree, it seemed to bend down to her. The queen reached out to clasp a branch of the tree and as she did so, it said, baby Siddhartha was born from her right side. The baby was bathed by celestial beings. This motif is common in ancient Indian art. If a young woman grasps a tree branch this way, it is said that the tree will burst into bloom. Taking this image one level further, it means that she herself is bursting into bloom, which indicates fertility. Brahma, Indra and other Devas were present at the birth. The new born baby walked seven steps towards each point of the compass, exclaiming – “this is my last incarnation.” A monument at the birthplace of the Buddha, erected by emperor Ashoka after 375 years of the event, still stands witness to his historical character. The newborn child was brought to Kapilavastu and named Siddhartha, meaning whose purpose has been fulfilled. Queen Mahamaya passed away seven days after the birth of her child. His mother’s sister Mahaprajapati Gautami, who was also his stepmother, then mothered Gautama. The child preferred solitude and thoughtfulness to the frolics and pranks natural to his age.

The area outside the inner circle of this mandala is decorated with stylized designs. The walls of the square are also beautifully decorated with floral motifs. The building has four gateways protected by Peaceful and wrathful deities. Over the each corner of the square, the auspicious symbol, Endless Knot has been depicted. The square of the mandala is surrounded by circles. The outermost is the circle of wisdom fire, which burns the sins of the meditator. In another words we may say that the circle of fire symbolizes the process of transformation and burning of ignorance of practitioner, because one can enter the sacred territory, only after transformation. Then is the circle of charnel ground, depicting, corpses, skulls and birds etc., symbolizing enlightenment’s power to transform death into eternal life. After this, comes a circle of auspicious symbols, Adepts and devas etc. After this is the circle of syllable mantra. After this comes a circle of lotus petals. Here the spiritual realm begins and one enters the mandala of Mayadevi. The lotus represents purity and rebirth on a higher level.

In the row across the top, Heruka Father-Mother is in the center, while both the upper corners are filled with the figures of Lokeshvara, who are seated in front of shrines along with their attendants. Remaining area of background is filled with extremely ferocious deities, dragons and auspicious symbols. The middle ground depicts high peaks covered with snow, a stupa, flowers, lakes and offerings etc., while the foreground is filled with figures siddhas, wrathful and yab yum figures, lakes and offerings etc. the border of the painting is decorated with dragons and ashtamangala symbols. The painting is brilliantly drawn and painted.

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.)”.

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