Achala is Sanskrit for 'immovable' and natha for 'ruler'. The immovable, unyielding deity of Tibetan Buddhism functions as a dharmapala, which means the 'protector of dharma'. He does so with characteristic wrath - He is one of Tibetan Buddhism's stuff-of-folk-tales wrathful deities - and watches over His dharmic devotees with fierce protectiveness. In this richly coloured thangka from the Exotic India collection, the determined stance of the dharmapala is set off by the lifelike flames leaping up behind Him. The fact that the aureole thus constituted gives away the direction of the wind and even sets the nearby clouds aglow, adds soul and dynamism to the whole painting.
Achalanatha boasts of arguably the most complex iconography of the entire Hindu-Buddhist pantheon. Beginning from the bottom, He is usually portrayed with large, decisive feet set firmly atop a rock base symbolic of His steadfast nature. His loincloth is resplendent and matches the brightly hued jewels that grace His powerful arms and chest. The vajra or 'treasure-sword' He holds is strictly erect, almost as if He is simply giving adharmees a hint of what it can do without actually flourishing it (like, for example, the Bodhisattva Manjushri). In the other hand, He holds a lasso that He wields together with the vajra when need be. Achalanath's two fangs famously point in opposite directions, with the lower fang biting the upper lip and the upper fang biting the lower lip, which serves to strike fear into the hearts of adharmees.
The lotus set in His hair, the ubiquitous Buddhist symbol of compassion, gives away the fact that this thangka was intended to tone down the insatiable ferocity of Achalanatha, especially given that He is usually portrayed in a tigerskin loincloth and a stance infinitely more ferocious. Despite the flaming halo and the wrathful composure of countenance, the backdrop is populated by pastel-coloured bodies of rock, a limpid stream, and delicate florals and foliage. The rolling shades and tints across the skies and the grass, and the way they blend into each other, make for a soothing aesthetic experience for whoever views this thangka in your space.
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