Sunday, August 5, 2012

Panjarnata Mahakala Sculpture

Panjarnata Mahakala, the Great Black One of the Pavilion Tantra.

Panjaranata Mahakala is the special protector for the Shri Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra (canopy, or pavilion) a Sanskrit language text from India, and an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to the Hevajra Tantra itself. It is from the name of this Tantra that the specific form of Mahakala is known. 'Vajra Panjara' means the vajra enclosure, egg shaped, created from vajra scepters large and small - all sizes, completely surrounding a Tantric Buddhist mandala. The name of the Tantra is Vajra Panjara and the name of the form of Mahakala taught in this Tantra is also Vajra Panjara. The full name for the protector is Vajra Panjara Nata Mahakala (Vajra Pavilion Lord Great Black One). (See the Panjarnata Mahakala Main Page, Outline Page and Panjarnata Masterworks).

Western scholars, such as Laurence Austine Waddell and Albert Grunwedel, in the 19th and early 20th century believed that the meaning of the Tibetan word 'gur' is this usage meant a 'tent' and that this Mahakala was a special protector of the Tibetan and Mongolian nomads who lived in tents. This academically erroneous belief was however supported by Mongolian folk belief where they believed that Panjara Mahakala, originally introduced to Mongolia by Chogyal Pagpa in the 13th century, was indeed special for them based on the relationship between the famous Tibetan Lama Chogyal Pagpa and the Mongolian Emperor of all of China and Mongolia - Kublai Khan. The image of Panjara Mahakala was also used by Mongolians as a war standard (flag) during the time of Kublai Khan and the duration of the Yuan Dynasty.

The unique iconographic feature of Panjaranata Mahakala as described in the Vajrapanjara Tantra and according to the special Lamdre literature of the Sakya Tradition describes the deity as having no ghandi stick placed horizontally across the forearms. In the other more common Sakya traditions of Panjara Mahakala, such as the Three Deity, Eight Deity, etc., which descend from the tradition of Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo, then Panjarnata is depicted with the ghandi 'stick of emanation.' There are other exceptions to this ghandi stick rule but they are rare and not commonly found in art - primarily textual exceptions. The two main exceptions are found with the Nagarjuna lineage form of the deity and the Ngog lineage form of Panjarnata Mahakala.

The 'Vajra Pavilion' when represented in mandala paintings or for three-dimensional mandalas is known as the 'Vajra Circle' (Sanskrit: vajravali): inside of the outer ring of a two-dimensional mandala, painting or textile, is a circle of fire and then a vajra circle. This vajra circle is often difficult to see and easy to dismiss as simply decorative. The circle is a series of gold or yellow vajras, painted against a dark blue or black background, lined up end to end and circling around the entire mandala, deity and palace. The vajra circle is not envisioned as flat or horizontal like the lotus circle. The vajras are seen as a three dimensional pavilion, without doors or windows, completely enclosing the mandala. It is made entirely of vajras, small and large with all of the openings filled with ever smaller vajras. It is a three-dimensional structure and impenetrable. Envisioned as a three-dimensional object it is called the Vajra Pavilion.

As with most things related to Tantric Buddhism, there is some confusion regarding the name of this Mahakala. Specifically, the name 'panjara' or 'panjarnata' is referring to deities described in the different chapters of the Vajrapanjara Tantra. Therefore this form of Mahakala is the Vajrapanjara or in brief the Panjara form. However, generally speaking, there are other traditions of this same depiction of Mahakala found in other tantras such as the Twenty-five Chapter Mahakala Tantra and the Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantra. So, how are we to understand this?

Now it comes down to appearance. If the Mahakala form has one face and two hands, squat, holding a curved knife and skullcup at the heart, and generally (but not always) holding a ghandi stick across the forearms, then it is said both colloquially and in late Tibetan literature that this is named Panjaranata Mahakala, or the panjara form of Mahakala despite the original source text. It is likely that this came about because the Vajrapanjara Tantra and the Hevajra Tantra were so well known as both early Tantric literary works and practice traditions. Because the 'panjara' name was so well known and represented the one face, two armed, form of Mahakala, it is therefore most likely that the name panjara came to be applied to all forms of Mahakala that had this same or similar appearance.

The translation of the description of Panjara Mahakala below is from the Rinchen Zangpo Tradition. It is identical to the description of the Vajrapanjara Tantra Mahakala except for the inclusion of the 'gandhi' stick.

"The Great Vajra Mahakala, blazing, with one face, two hands, in the right a curved knife and left a skullcup filled with blood, held above and below the heart. Held across the middle of the two arms is the 'Gandhi of Emanation;' with three eyes, bared fangs, yellow hair flowing upward, a crown of five dry human skulls and a necklace of fifty fresh, blood-dripping. [He is] adorned with six bone ornaments and snakes, with a lower garment of tiger skin, flowing with pennants and streamers of various silks; dwarfish and thick, in a posture standing above a corpse." (Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557).

The general features that describe and define Panjarnata are the single face and two arms. The pair of hands hold a curved knife in the right and a skull cup in the left. Both hands are held to the heart with the right hand slightly above the skull cup. Panjara may or may not also have a 'gandhi' stick across the forearms. His body is short and squat with the legs bowed. He is also described as being a dwarf with short thick arms and legs. He typically stands atop a human corpse having an orange or yellow colour. All of the other characteristics of Panjarnata are identical with the general characteristics of the Mahakala class of deities.

This specific sculpture of Panjarnata Mahakala is counted as one of the best representations of Panjarnata sculpture in the world along with the famous white stone sculpture of Panjara in the Guimet Museum in Paris, France, and an unpublished Yongle Panjarnata in a private collection. These three rank as the best sculptural examples of the Panjarnata subject.

Alternate Names: Vajra Panjara, Vajra Panjarnata, Panjara, Panjarnata, Panjara Mahakala, Panjarnata Mahakala.

(Written for the publication and exhibition catalogue: Exhibition of Quintessence of Returning Tibetan Cultural Relics from Oversea. Beijing, China, July 2012).

Jeff Watt July 8th, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lhakang Chenmo Main Temple, Sakya Town

The Main Temple of Lhakang Chenmo Monastery, Sakya Town, Tibet. This set of images is still very large and needs to be divided into smaller groupings of images. The labeling will take some time to complete. The famous Temple Pillars have already been divided into a separate grouping.

Mandala Roof Balcony, Lhakang Chenmo

The Mandala Roof Balcony of Lhakang Chenmo Monastery, Sakya Town, Tibet, is located on the 2nd to top floor and faces in towards the central open courtyard below. The mandala paintings are subject to a tremendous degree of weathering because they are exposed to the harsh elements with only a roof above and no wall or protection facing the courtyard. The subjects of the mandalas follow closely to the iconographic programs of the Shalu and Gyantse Monasteries.

Bamo Lhakang, Sakya Town

The Bamo Lhakang is located in Lhakang Chenmo Monastery in the north-west corner tower. The various rooms contain a number of sculpture of famous Throne Holders of Sakya along with various small protector chapels the foremost being the for the Three Witches (Bamo). The various wall towers also serve as residences for senior monks and abbots.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Maharakta Ganapati

There are a number of very good paintings and sculpture of Maharakta Ganapati. This however has to be the best of the late paintings, likely to be 18th century. As for the provenance, it was owned in the 1960s by the Kumar Galleries of New Delhi and later sold to the Guimet Museum in Paris sometime in the early 1970s. Also during this period the painting was made into a poster and offered for sale in both Europe and North America.

The painting was commissioned by someone of the Sakya Tradition. The composition has several unique features such as the Ratnasambhava Buddha at the top center accompanied by several Sakya teachers, the special form of Bhutadamara Vajrapani unique to the Maharakta practice, and the Yugu Chesum - three wealth sisters - at the bottom center. It is really a fantastic example both for art and iconography of an important Power Deity in the Sakya Tradition.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Virupa Page on the HAR Website - Updated

Virupa, the Lord of Yoga, 9th century (Tibetan: bir wa pa, nal jor wang chug); foremost in magical attainments amongst the 84 mahasiddhas of India. He can appear in a number of different forms and colours. He can also appear in different contexts such as a set of lineage images, a narrative scene, the set of Eighty-four Mahasiddhas, as a Guruyoga meditation form, etc. Virupa is not unique to any one tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and therefore can be found almost anywhere. In the Sakya Tradition Virupa is typically depicted in one or all of six textually documented forms that follow the major events in his life story.

The image of the sculpture on the left is from the Lamdre Lhakang at Gyantse Palkor Chode in Tsang, Tibet. In this form Virupa is displaying a teaching gesture (mudra).

When depicted with the right arm raised in the air and performing a wrathful gesture Virupa can easily be mistaken for the Nyingma teacher Shri Simha who appears in a similar posture and gesture.

"Reversing the Ganga and subduing the evil king; while holding the sun - drinking the liquor of the entire country, without being drunk; completely shattering the Linga and subduing the Chandali; to the renowned Lord of Power, I bow my head." (Sakya liturgical verse).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sakya Tridzin Wangdu Nyingpo - New Images

Additional images have been added to the Wangdu Nyingpo main page. He was the 29th Sakya Tridzin and considered the second Padmasambhava of this Age. He was considered to be a rebirth of Ngor Khenchen Palden Chokyong and others. Most of his profound teachings were received from his father Kunga Lodro, the previous Sakya Tridzin. Wangdu Nyingpo constructed a new Vajrabhairava temple in Sakya with a bigger than life size central image along with the twelve wrathful retinue figures slightly larger than the size of a man. Along with that he constructed a new protector chapel with very large sculpture. Renowned as a 'treasure Revealer' (terton) his books are still available and read today.

Wangdu Nyinpo is sometimes employed as a guruyoga practice based on a text that he wrote himself. He is depicted in a wrathful form with either a black hat topped with a raven or a standard Sakya hat with lappets draped across the top.

The 69th Abbot of Ngor Evam Choden Monastery, Ngagwang Yontan Gyatso (1902-1963), was believed by some to be an incarnation of Wangdu Nyingpo, as is the current Sakya Tridzin, Ngagwang Kunga (born 1941).

The Pillars of Lhakang Chenmo, Sakya Town

The temple of Lhakang Chenmo in Sakya Town, Tibet, is famous for it very large and massive pillars. There are four principal pillars in the main temple of Lhakang Chenmo. Each of the pillars are named and have a special story relating their symbolic meaning and how they came to be in the main temple of Sakya.

- Yellow Pillar

- Tiger Pillar

- Wild Yak Pillar

- Black Blood Dripping Pillar

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bhutadamara Vajrapani

A new challenger has arisen to contest for the title of Best Bhutadamara Image. Those of you that are familiar with Bhutadamara and this website know that top spot has traditionally been held by the painting from the American Museum of Natural History. The strength of that painting is really in the form of the deity, the arms and legs along with the proportions. The image of Bhutadamara from Gonkar Choede Monastery is also good but not quite as wrathful. However, we have a new contender from the Gyantse Kumbum in Tibet. This form of the deity is very wrathful with great proportions. It now has the title of Best Bhutadamara Image.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chaturmukha Mahakala of the Sakya Tradition

In the Sakya Tradition this form of Mahakala cannot be shown to those that do not have the initiation. Unfortunately for Sakya other traditions have adopted this same practice and have loosened the restrictions. There are also numerous paintings and sculpture in museums and private collections around the world. This particular painting is very likely to be the earliest known painting of Chaturmukha Mahakala yet seen. Identifying the last of the lineage figures places the composition in the late 15th century. (See the Himalayan Art Resources website for more on this early painting of Chaturmukha, the Chaturmukha Main Page and Brahmanarupa Outline Page).

Mahakala, Chaturmukha (Four-faced Great Black One) associated with the Guhyasamaja Tantra along with the Twenty-five and Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantras. This form of Chaturmukha with the side faces white and red in colour identifies this iconographic form as belonging to the 'Accomplishment' category from the Five Categories of Chaturmukha.

The painting was created by the Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The subject and the lineage is Sakya up until it was incorporated into the Gelug Tradition. Within the Gelug Tradition it is a minor protector deity however within the Sakya Tradition it remains the 2nd of the two principal Mahakala protector deities - after Panjarnata Mahakala.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Nagarjuna, Balimtapa, Buddhajnana, Marmedze Zangpo, Shrideva, Drime Bepa, Ratnavajra, Ratnakirti, Risula Dakini, Nyen Lotsawa, Lama Nam Ka'upa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Sonam Tsemo, Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita and Chogyal Pagpa. etc.

This list of names from the Sakya lineage corresponds with the figures and names written in the top register. Due to the abrasions and losses on the painting only three other names can be read, Tsongkhapa, Gyaltsab and Kedrubje. The last two names belong to two important students of Tsongkhapa.

At the upper left is the meditational deity Manjuvajra Guhyasamaja. Chaturmukha Mahakala is the special protector deity associated with Manjuvajra Guhyasamaja. At the upper right side is the meditational deity Ekavira Vajrabhairava. This meditational deity was also special for the teacher Tsongkhapa.

The painting contains five forms of Chaturmukha. The name Chaturmukha means 'four faces.' The five forms are known as [1] Approximation, [2] Accomplishment, [3] Performing Activities, the [4] Four Families (or activities) and [5] Demon Faces.

The large central image of the painting depicts the Accomplishment Chaturmukha identifiable by the white and red faces on each side of the central face. Slightly to the right of the head of the central figure is a smaller Approximation Chaturmukha identifiable by the two green faces on the right and left. Immediately to the right of the trident staff is Demon Faces Chaturmukha identified by the wrathful blue face, the elephant face, the buffalo face and the lion face. At the bottom center and bottom left are two more forms of the deity likely to be the Performing Activities Chaturmukha at the bottom center and then the Four Families Chaturmukha at the left.

To the lower left of the large central Chaturmukha are two female attendant figures, black Dombini and red Rakshasi. On the right side are yellow Singhali and green Chandali.

Descending at the middle left are the Sakya protectors Panjarnata Mahakala, Shri Devi and the five figures known as the Putra Mising Nga. Descending at the middle right are four retinue figures belonging to the Demon Faces Chaturmukha.

At the bottom right is the protector deity Yama Dharmaraja - related to the meditational deity Vajrabhairava. Next to him is the wealth deity Yellow Jambhala. On the bottom left side, next to Chaturmukka, is Black Jambhala.

At this time, this is the earliest known Tibetan painting of Chaturmukha Mahakala. Based on the lineage and the last two figures one of which is Khedrubje Geleg Palzang [1385-1438], it is reasonable to assume that the painting was created at some point after his passing before the lineage became longer with the addition of later lineage teachers. A date of mid to late 15th century is perfectly reasonable based on the lineage figures and identifiable names.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hevajra Chapel, Gonkar Monastery

Incredible detail images of the Hevajra Chapel of Gonkar Monastery, Central Tibet, have been added to the Ariana Maki Photographic Archive on the Himalayan Art Resources website. This monastery belonging to the Dzongpa Tradition of Sakya is known as the home base of Khyentse Chenmo who is believed to be the founder of the Khyenri style of Tibetan art.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Manjushri Lhakang, Sakya Town

The Manjushri Lhakang (temple) of Sakya Town in Tibet, is located in a small room above the building known as the Drolma Lhakang located a short distance from the main Lhakang Chenmo temple complex of Sakya. The Drolma Lhakang has three separate temple rooms. The first, on the ground floor, is called the Drolma or Tara temple although there is little inside that is specifically dedicated to Tara. To the right side of the main entrance, accessed through a separate door, is the Tangtong Gyalpo Lhakang. In June of 2007 this temple was under going extensive renovations. From an upper floor window murals of repetitive images of Tangtong Gyalpo could be seen on the walls. (See a map of the Tsang region of Tibet).

The Manjushri Lhakang is located on the 2nd floor of the two storied Drolma Lhakang building. The room has a single pillar in the middle and a couple of small windows. There is no shrine or furniture in the empty room. The four walls are painted with murals, floor to ceiling, depicting every form of Manjushri, peaceful and wrathful. The more important, or common, of the forms are painted large scale with the minor, or more obscure forms, smaller in size. Each iconographic form is accompanied with a name inscription. Some of the Manjushri forms have retinue deities which can be seen clearly in image #46875. The iconography of the paintings represent the many forms of Manjushri found in the Kriya, Charya and Yoga Tantras of Tantric Buddhism. One wall has sustained damage and the paintings have been effaced with cracks patched and filled. The general format and stylistic elements of the murals and comparing them with the more datable murals of Jonang Monastery, Tagten Damcho Ling, not far away would suggest a date of 17th century the creation of the murals. (The photos were taken in June of 2007).

Sakya Town, Cityscape Murals

These murals depict the town of Sakya prior to 1959. They are located in one of the corner towers of Lhakang Chenmo Monastery. Although recently painted they offer a glimpse into the Sakya of old. Most of the architectural representations and areas of the cityscape are accompanied by inscriptions. (SRG Archive 2007).

Protector Chapel, Lhakang Chenmo, Sakya

These are images of the main Protector Chapel in Lhakang Chenmo Monastery, Sakya, Tibet. There are of course many smaller protector chapels in other buildings but this is the main free standing Protector Chapel. It primarily contains masks of the different deities and a selection of Bamo masks. The large standing central image of Panjarnata carved in sandalwood was a gift of the elder Drolma Podrang Dungse Rinpoche.

Manjushri Cave, Sakya Town

The Manjushri Cave is located on the North side of Sakya slightly West of the large patch of white earth (sakya). The cave was made famous by Sachen Kunga Nyingpo when he was twelve years old and had entered into a strict six month retreat on the practice of Arapachana Manjushri. Early on there were obstacles but they were removed using the practice of Nila Achala, wrathful, blue in colour, in a kneeling posture. Towards the end of the retreat Arya Manjushri appeared to the young Kunga Nyingpo and spoke the four lines of the Separation of the Four Attachments (see below).

"With attachment to this life - there is no Dharma practitioner;
Attachment to samsara - no renunciation;
Attachment to self-purpose - no Enlightenment Thought;
If grasping arises - there is no view

The image on the left is a 2007 photograph of the cave entrance and the shrine inside. A building has also been constructed around the cave to help preserve it from the elements. Almost all of the buildings on the North side of the river are reconstructions from the 1980s to the present.

The Stupa of Bari Lotsawa

This Ushnishavijaya Stupa which is believed to have survived the destruction of the North Monastery was discovered under the rubble of the roof and walls. It is the stupa in which the mortal remains of Bari Lotsawa were placed after his death and considered one of the four precious and sacred sights of Sakya Town.

Sakya Monastery & Town

The Sakya Monastery & Town Page on the Himalayan Art Resources website has been updated with 600 images from the SRG Archive. Not all of the images have been divided into their subject or location themes. This will happen over the next couple of weeks. The Manjushri Cave has been added. This is the location where Sachen Kunga Nyingpo had direct communication with Arya Manjushri during a six month retreat. The Ushnishavijaya Stupa has been added. This is the final resting place for the body of Bari Lotsawa Dharma Drag. Both of these sacred sights are located in the same building on the North side of Sakya to the left of the white patch of earth. The protector chapel of Lhakang Chenmo, the main South Monastery, has also been added.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kau Drag Dzong

Kau Drag Dzong is the most famous retreat center of Sakya. It is located just south of the Lhakang Chenmo temple and up a steep river gorge half way to the village of Kau - famous for its hot water and healing springs. Kau Drag Dzong was the hermitage of Lama Nam Ka'upa the student of Nyen Lotsawa. Sachen Kunga Nyingpo studied at this location with Lama Nam Kau'pa. These teachers are all well known for the practices of Chaturmukha Mahakala and the creation of the public, or generic, form of Chaturmukha as Brahmanarupa Mahakala. (See the Kau Drag Dzong page on the Himalayan Art Resources website).