Tantric Buddha Vairochana

Tantric Buddha Vairochana

c. 1150-1200

Opaque watercolor, gold, and ink on cloth

Overall: 111 x 73 cm (43 11/16 x 28 3/4 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1989.104



Tantric Buddhas are distinguished from historical Buddhas by their crown and jewelry and their association with a vajra, which this figure grasps in his fingers. His hands are held in a symbolic hand gesture called mudra, indicating that he conveys the meaning of the tantric teachings. The unusual depiction of a monk in a crown may be identified as Phagmodrupa, founder of an influential Buddhist order for whom this painting was made.

One of the earliest surviving tangkas-Himalayan devotional paintings on cloth-this exceptionally rare work exemplifies the Tibetan artists’ adaptation and fusion of northern Indian and Central Asian artistic styles. Attendant bodhisattvas-beings one step away from full enlightenment-flank the central figure, and a row of lineage masters whose tantric teachings flowed from one generation to the next sit on multicolored lotus pedestals along the top row. At the bottom, guardians and tantric protectors flank a central image of a white, eleven-headed Bodhisattva of Compassion.

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