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Paintings > Thangka > Svayambhunath Mahachaitya
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Svayambhunath Mahachaitya

Svayambhunath Mahachaitya

Svayambhunath Mahachaitya

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Tibetan Thangka Painting

Size of Painted Surface 15.0" X 20.5"
Size with Brocade 27.0" X 35.0"
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Svayambhunath Mahachaitya

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Viewed 3012 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
This painting represents the Svayambhunath Mahachaitya, which is regarded as the ontological source of the religion and sacred environs of the Kathmandu Valley and thus serves as the power source for Nepalese Buddhist religious practices. The monument, identified by the Nepali Buddhists as the physical manifestation of primordial Buddha, figures prominently in the local cosmogonic myth of the valley called the Svayambhu Purana. The sacred history commences in the remote past, when the valley was submerged under Nagavasa Hrida, a vast lake inhabited by supernatural serpents. The Svayambh Purana relates that each of the seven former Buddhas, known as Manushi Buddhas, of this age visited the sacred locale. The first Manushi Buddha, Vipashvin, contemplating the sacred nature of the lake, planted in it a lotus seed that had miraculously appeared from Akanishta, the highest heaven. The seed flowered into a thousand-petaled-lotus, a quintessential Buddhist symbol of transcendence. From the lotus emerged a radiant beam of light (jyoti), the Adi Buddha Svayambhu Jyotirupa – "Primordial Buddha Self-Originated Light-Form." The light consisted of rays of five colours, the essence of the five Dhyani Buddhas, who personify the five transcendental knowledges of a fully enlightened being. After visits by all seven of the Manushi Buddha, including Shakyamuni, the beam of light came to be encased in the form of the stupa that we know today as Svayambhunath Mahachaitya. Shantikara, the first Nepalese Buddhist Vajracharya priest is credited with encasing the Light Form in the core of the stupa and consecrating the shrines of the four Dhyani Buddhas on the face of the stupa mound in the cardinal directions, as symbols of the primordial light-rays. Shantikara Acharya, is also the first human guru in the Nepalese Chakrasamvara lineage. He receives his divine empowerment directly from Manjushri and the primordial goddess Guhyesvari.

The centre of the dome of Mahachaitya depicts the mandala of Buddha and decorated with garlands. A pair of eyes is portrayed on the entablature above the dome. Above entablature are extended eight steps, perhaps symbolizes eight-fold path of Buddha's teachings. Sun and moon with scarf are at the summit. The finial is festooned with two layers of banners on each side. Adepts and protector deities are depicted below the dome. Each side of the dome is brilliantly decorated with blooming flowers with leaves. The Svayambhunath Mahachaitya with mandala rests on three layers of petals on moon disk on a lotus flower. There is an aureole decorated with jewels. The Svayambhunath Mahachaitya with aureole and square is surrounded with four circles. The outer one is of the charnel ground, followed by the circle of fire fence which is florally rendered here. Then there is a circle of Buddhas in namaskara-mudra. After this comes a circle of lotus petals. The upper and lower corners are brilliantly filled with the figures of cosmic Buddhas along with their attendant devotees. The Buddha depicted in upper corners are shown seated in the courtyard of their paradise, while the lower ones are shown in the landscape. Below the upper corners two Garudas have been depicted, one on each side. The upper centre depicts a standing Buddha along with attendant deities in rainbow circle. Remaining area of the canvas is filled with the figures of trees, rock formation, lakes, waterfalls, natural vegetation, offerings, votive stupas, charnel ground, wild animals, peacock and Adepts etc. The border of the painted surface of the painting depicts stylized dragons and Dharmachakra.

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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