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Vishnu Enlightens Mankind

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 6:39 AM 0 comments

Vishnu as Mayamoha, the teacher who deluded demons into giving up the Vedas Pahari painting Demons Corrupt Vedas


In Kali-yuga, the final quarter of the world-cycle, the asuras stole the Vedas and used their mystical secrets to become powerful beings. Mantras and yagnas were subverted for material gain, their spiritual aims disregarded.

The sapta rishis, ancient keepers of wisdom, went to Vishnu and complained "Nobody understands the Vedas anymore. Corrupted by the demons, they fail to direct man towards the divine. Save the texts before ignorance heralds the day of doom."

Mayamoha Deludes Asuras


Vishnu went to the kingdom of demons taking the form of a wily sage called Mayamoha, the deluder, with Garuda accompanying him as a monk.

Clean shaven, dressed in clothes of bark, with a begging bowl in hand, Mayamoha sat amongst the asuras denouncing the Vedas. "Don't waste your time with these high philosophies and complex rituals. They are nothing but superstitions. You don't need them to be powerful."

With clever arguments Mayamoha convinced the demons to abandon the Vedic way. They stopped chanting mantras and performing yagnas. They threw the holy texts out of their land and became heretics. The rishis recovered the Vedas and began restoring them to their former glory.

The Divine Teacher


Nara-Narayana, the twin incarnations of Vishnu  Temple carving Meanwhile, on earth, the distortion of the Vedas by the demons had caused confusion mankind had lost touch with the divine. Life lacked direction. There was suffering everywhere.

To fight this ignorance with knowledge, Vishnu descended upon earth as the enlightened teacher. Incarnating as Nara and Narayana, Kapila, Narada, Vyasa, Datta, Rishabha and Buddha, the lord taught man the true nature of the cosmos. He explained the mysteries of life and showed many ways to attain salvation.

Those who lived by his words found themselves in the paradise of Vaikuntha, attuned to the blissful rhythms of the cosmos. The rest, like demons, suffered the pangs of existence.

Tapas of Nara-Narayana


On the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, at Badrika, Nara-Narayana, two inseparable sages, performed terrible austerities, tapas. Nobody knew what they sought.

"Maybe they seek power," said the demon-king, Dambhodabhava. He sent hundreds of soldiers to attack them. The sages refused to tight. Instead, they hurled blades of grass which turned into fiery missiles killing everyone who dared disturb their serenity.

Kapila, the seer, who laid down the foundations of Indian mysticism Pahari miniature painting
The god-king Indra sent hundreds of nymphs to seduce them. The sages remained unmoved. "We can create them ourselves." So saying Nara and Narayana rubbed their thighs and brought forth a voluptuous nymph called Urvashi, more alluring than all of Indra's apsaras put together.

"What do you want?" asked the gods and demons, unable to fathom the reason for their tapas.

"We seek the ultimate goal of existence realization and union with the divine spirit. Power and pleasure are merely temporal delights that will wither away someday," said Nara-Narayana.

Kapila and Jnana-yoga


Kardama renounced worldly life soon after his son Kapila , was horn. A time came when Kapila decided to follow in his father's footsteps.


'Why did I lose my husband? Why am I losing my son?" wondered Devahuti, Kapila's mother, unable to come to terms with the separation.

Said Kapila, "Nothing is permanent in the material world. All that you see, smell, hear, touch or taste are material things, products of prakriti. They are transitory pleasures here one moment, gone the next. If you want something permanent, you must look beyond the material reality and get in touch with the spiritual reality of the cosmos, the immutable purusha."

Narada, the great devotee; South Indian bronze idol Kapila went on to explain the structure of the world. He enumerated the two principles which govern life eternal nil and transitory substance.

This Santkhya philosophy became the corner-stone of nysticism and the foundation of intellectual introspection - Jnana-yoga.

Narada and Bhakti-yoga


Even after performing a hundred thousand yagnas, King Prachinabarhis was not happy. "What have I done wrong? why am I not content? Why do I experience no bliss?" he wondered.

The sage Narada, lute in hand, came forward to solve the king's problem. "With your rituals you are trying to control the world around you and make it work in your 'our. But let me show you what you have really achieved."

Narada pointed to a vast field covered with the carcasses cattle sacrificed in his many rituals.

“Your rites and rituals will never influence the workings he world. But for killing these innocent beasts you will e to someday pay a terrible price."

Narada continued, "The desire to manipulate events in one's favour is unproductive because Vishnu, the supreme being, loves all creatures equally he does not discriminate or favour anyone. Accept his divine intentions humbly live life accordingly. Look at every event good or as the lord's gift, prasada, an opportunity to discover the divine. Only then will you realise his benign and live a life of joy."

Vyasa dictating the Mahabharata epic to Ganesha
Thos did Narada direct the king Prachinabarhis to the path of devotion called bhakti-yoga that leads straight to heart of Vishnu.

Veda Vyasa and Karma-yoga


The sage Parashara fell in love with a fisherwoman called Satyavati as she ferried him across the river Ganga. She gave birth to his son Krishna-Dwaipayana, so called because of his dark complexion and because he was born on an island in the middle of the river.

Satyavati's son painstakingly compiled the Vedas, which had been lost to the world, with Ganesha, the lord of wisdom, serving as his scribe. His work made him famous in the three worlds as Veda Vyasa compiler of the books of knowledge.

Krishna-Dwaipayana also wrote down the Adi Purana and the Itihasa, the book of myths and legends, through which he propogated the doctrine of duty, karma-yoga.

Said he, "Man must act according to dharma because dharma ensures harmony between the self and the world around. Actions motivated by desire unravel the cosmic fabric they also generate emotions that trap one within the material world. Nishkama karma, selfless action focussed on duty not reward, enables one to attain salvation without having to renounce the world."

The followers of Vyasa became the first bards who revealed truth through tales of gods, king and sages.

Dattatreya, the Mystic


Anasuya, the wife of sage Atri, was renowned for her virtue. To test her, Vishnu arrived at her doorstep disguised as a sage and asked her to feed him unclothed. Anasuya, bound by the rules of hospitality, agreed to the strange request. But such was the power of her chastity that when she brought the food, Vishnu turned into an infant whom Anasuya fed as a mother, her virtue uncompromised. When Vishnu recovered his original form, he blessed Anasuya, "You will bear a son who will be the embodiment of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva."

Thus was born Datta, the son of Anasuya. He was also known as Dattatreya after his father,
Dattatreya, the mendicant-teacher; 64 Modern calendar art
the sage Atri.

Datta observed Nature carefully the elements, the sun and the moon, birds and animals, men and women and gained an insight into the nature of the world. Inspired, he went on to compose the Avadhuta Gita the song of the recluse that explains the doctrine of detachment, vairagya.

Through various occult sciences like Tantra and mystical disciplines like Yoga, Dattatreya taught mankind the means to yoke oneself to the way of the cosmos. His students called him the fountainhead of all knowledge, the supreme teacher, Adinatha.

He wandered around the world as a mendicant with his cow, Bhoodevi herself, and four dogs, embodiments of the Vedas. Said Dattatreya, "You can either remain ignorant and abuse Nature or you can learn from her and realise divinity."

Rishabha, the Ford-finder


Meru, wife of the noble king Nabhi of Ayodhya, dreamt of a mighty bull as she gave birth to her son. The prince was therefore named Rishabha bull amongst men.

Rishabha ruled his kingdom wisely, teaching man seventy-two vocational skills and women sixty-four domestic arts.

He had many children. His daughter Brahmi invented the script called Brahmi. His son Bharata was a great king of India; after him the land continued to be known as Bharata-varsha, the kingdom of Bharata.

Rishabha, the jina or conqueror of bodily passions who built a bridge out of the wheel of existence, is described as an incarnation of Vishnu in some texts but this is not accepted by followers of the Jain faith Stone idol on the walls of a Jain temple
When he had fulfilled his duties as a householder and king, Rishabha renounced worldly life. He crowned Bharata as his successor and went into the wilderness to live a life of austere contemplation.

Seated on Mount Kailasa, Rishabha reiterated the Jain philosophy, one of the oldest doctrines of liberation that enables man to break the fetters of karma and transcend samsara. Rishabha thus created a bridge out of the wheel of existence and became tirthankara the ford-finder.

Buddha, the Enlightened One


Gautama, the Sakya prince of Kapilavastu, grew up surrounded by royal comforts adored by his loving mother. When he came of age, he married the beautiful princess Yashodhara. Within the walls of his palace there was nothing but joy.

But one day, as he rode through the city, he became aware of the suffering that plagues the life of every man poverty, old age, disease and death.

He witnessed innocent animals and birds being mercilessly slaughtered by priests in elaborate ceremonies in the hope of relieving sorrow and ushering in joy.

Sakyamuni Gautama Buddha who found the answer to human suffering was considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu by some Vaishnavas though Buddhists refute this claim Stone carving
In his compassion, Gautama decided to find the reason behind suffering. "Once I know what makes man unhappy, I will find a way to make him happy."

He renounced his wife and child, his wealth and crown and lived a life of a mendicant in the forest, fasting, meditating, talking to wise men, seeking a solution to the misery of man.

He sat under a pipal tree and refused to get up until he had found the answer. In time he did. He realised desire was the root of all pain.

As Buddha, the enlightened one, Gautama concluded that to be free of desire one had to alter one's attitude towards the world and seek answers within oneself, through contemplation and restraint. He propogated a disciplined way of life based on compassion known as Buddhism the path of the enlightened.

Writer Name: Decdutt Pattanaik
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India and Tibet in Tantric Literature

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:41 PM 0 comments
Hevajra
Once the terminological problem has been pointed out, and some important illustrations have been made, we can now proceed to a survey which presupposes some acquaintance with the Tibetan Sanskrit lexical situation and at the same time provides a transition to the diffuse patterns of the tantric tradition.

In most of the academies in the western world where Tibetan is taught it is handled as a subject ancillary to Buddhist studies, as a sort of fill-in for research in Buddhist Sanskrit texts which have not, or only partially, been preserved in the original language. Tibetan studies, and especially Tibetan linguistics per se without reference to Buddhism or to Buddhist texts are as yet exceedingly rare, and the few scholars who are interested in Tibet, not as a feeder service to Indian and Buddhist studies, but as a culture area in itself, are few and far between. Scholars like Rolf Stein at Paris, Petech at Rome, Hugh Richardson in Britain, and the Seattle group, rightly resent the fact that Tibetan is being treated as nothing but a stopgap for unavailable Sanskrit material.

With the research of Professor G. Tucci at Rome and the Tibetologists at the University of Washington, in Seattle, there is a good chance that this state of affairs will be remedied. In addition to this, the physical presence of Tibetan scholars in India and in other parts of the world, including the United States, Britain, and several European countries, should be conducive to the study of Tibetan culture per se. However, ironically perhaps and certainly understandably, scholars from among the Tibetan immigration in India are themselves not overly keen on divulging secular knowledge about their country. Occidental scholars, orient lists, and cultural anthropologists alike, don't seem to realize or realize with reluctance only that their zeal, their 'scientific' interests, are not necessarily shared by their informants. For the Tibetans at least, it is the Sanskrit-cum-Buddhist tradition which gives them the only lasting satisfaction and all the prestige they think worthwhile. The Tibetan scholars at Seattle, Washington one of them being among the three most learned in the Tibetan emigration—smiled, at first, at the anthropologists' and sociologists' interest in Tibet for its own sake, that is without reference to Buddhism and its scholastic tradition. In the minds of many learned Tibetan scholars or monks, Sanskrit is and remains the phags skad (aryabhasa), the 'Noble Language', and Lama Kunga. Labrang wanted to learn the Nagari alphabet from me in order to be able to transcribe Tibetan Buddhist texts into the original script, or into what he thought was the original script, of the Buddhist tradition.

Milarepa, Tibet’s Great Yogi-Sage and Singing SaintAlthough it is perfectly justifiable for the cultural anthropologist to be interested in a cultural milieu, in a tradition without reference to its literary background, in the case of Tibet he is not likely to get much co operation from his informants, unless they have been confronted with occidental scholars and exposed to western learning for a long time. In this manner the Tibetan attitude is accidental grist for the occidental Buddhologist mill just as Tibetan per se is no object of linguistic study except as a feeder service to the missing Sanskrit originals, to the western Buddhologist, the Tibetan monk scholar feels exactly the same way and hardly regards Tibetan as an important object of study apart from Buddhist interest. It goes without saying that references to India and to Indian mythological or ritualistic matters abound in Tibetan literature. Compared with these references, those to Tibet are negligible, in number and importance, in Inclian texts. The reasons for this scarcity of references to the northern neighbor are sundry first, there has never been much interest in non-Indian regions, throughout the religious and philosophical literature of India after all, India is the most important and the only spiritually significant part of Jambudvipa (i.e. the generic name for the regions adjacent to India in the north, north-east, east, and south-east, with India at the centre the etymology of the word and its exact connotation is not clear). There is a Jaina work called Jambudvipaprajnapti the 'introduction to the knowledge of Jambudvipa' it is the sixth `Upanga' of the eight Canonical Texts of the Jainas Jacobi assigned this work to the third century A.D., which would place it at least two centuries previous to the beginnings of Buddhist proselytization in Tibet. The work enumerates Naipala, Mahacina, and Cinadega the term `Bhota' does not appear in it (vd. ed. Jainagrantharnala, Banaras 1899).

Secondly, Tibet as a geographical referend might well be included or at least, not excluded in the numerous Puranic accounts of India and Jambudvipa the orthodox northern demarcation of India is, of course, the Himalaya, but it is never quite clear what region is precisely denoted by such terms as uttare parvatah, 'the mountains in the North', auttariyah (i.e. -desah, 'the northern regions), both of which occur scores of tunes in Puranic and Epic literature these terms definitely include Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan, but possibly also parts of Tibet. Thus, the Hindu Phetkarini Tantra (ed. Moradabad 1920, p. 5) a late work, probably of the thirteenth century mentions the Goddess Ugratara as auttariyair aradhita 'worshipped by those in the North' this Goddess is not worshipped in Kashmir, nor, to my knowledge, by Nepalese Hindus on the other hand, the sgrol ma (Tara) of various forms is extremely popular in the Tibetan pantheon. B. Bhattacharya thinks she is a purely Buddhist goddess who was subsequently Hinduized (Buddhist Iconography, 77 f). Ugratara in Buddhist tantric literature is synonymous with Mahacinatara (vd. Bhattacharya, ibid.). There is an image of Ugratari in the Vajrayogini Temple at Sanku in Nepal, but Hindu visitors at this shrine call her Samkari, Spouse of Siva, prompted possibly by the similarity of the place name, i.e. Sanku (the Nepalese hardly distinguish the palatal and the dental sibilant). Whenever Hindus worship Tara, she is simply the wife of Siva, as in Bengal, where the male first name Tarapati, Lord of Tara, is extremely frequent. I do not know whether Bhattacharya really meant to say that Tara was a purely Buddhist goddess, albeit Hinduized I believe the Hindu Tara is simply an entirely different deity the name is a common epithet of all the great Hindu goddesses, and we find it in the Sahasranama, in the 'Invocation of the thousand Names', of Lalita (Siya's spouse proper), of Sarasvati, and of Laksmi neither of them bears any relation to a Tibetan or Vajrayana Buddhist goddess.

Sri YantraIn this connection, it must also be said that the division into three krantas or 'circles' of worship, and ritualistic tradition, is common to all Tantric texts, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jaina. Bagchi writes `There is ample evidence to prove that the zone of heterodox Tantras went far beyond the natural limits of India. Some of the Tantras divide the Tantric world into three krantas or regions, Visnukranta, Asvakranta, and Rathakranta. Asvakranta comprises the region from the Vindhya Mountains (in Central India) to Mahacina including Nepal, and Rathakranta from the Vindhya to the great ocean including Cambodia and Java. . .’

This division into three vaguely circumscribed regions is rather typical of what I would call 'religious geography' in India it is sufficiently broad so as to include whatever region was not really accessible to the compilers, or what they knew from pious hearsay. I am not even quite sure if Mahicina ever meant Tibet the late Dr. Raghuvira told me he thought it was Mongolia, and this is what Bagchi appears to have held. Most scholars in India seem to agree that Maliacina and Bhota are synonyms I would, however, suggest that the term should not really be equated with an actual geographical name I think `Mahacina' to Hindu tantric authors suggested the entire region to the north of the Himalayas, Tibet, and at least parts of Mongolia and western China. There is no text in tantric literature which would indicate a serious attempt to demarcate any regions lying outside India; we have a parallel in the most read sacred literature of the Hindus, the Puranas 'Suvarnadvipa', i.e. the 'Golden Continent' is mentioned in all of them, but the referents differ the Bhagavatapurana calls it palebhyo purve sthita, 'located eastward from the Palas, i.e. Bengal', which might mean Burma or perhaps Siam the more recent Skandapurana refers to Suvarnadvipa as agneyesu vistrtah 'stretched out in the south-east', which would point to the usually accepted identification of Suvarnadvipa with Indonesia.

Still largely cloaked in mystery, ancient Tibetan yoga practices are slowly being introduced in the West, but teachers remain cautious about reveaThe third reason for the lack of geographical detail in Indian texts seems to me the unbelievable credulousness of the Indian religious with regard to reports on places of worship outside his own ken this has not changed through the ages. I have heard two Hindu priests at Ernakulam (Kerala) saying that Sakti herself dispenses drugs against gout and other diseases. She, in the form of a virgin, lived in a cave at a shrine in a far off western land called 'Rudradega', i.e. 'Region of Siva’ I found out that this news was inspired by the fame of the Lady of Lourdes in France the history of this modification was easy to trace, and exemplifies the said credulousness the area around Ernakulam has a substantial population of Syrian Christians, and many women of that community have been given the name lourdhammar’  since the beginning of this century. 'Lourdes' sounds very similar to 'Rudra-des' when pronounced by speakers of Malayalam and Tulu most Syrian Christians unfamiliar with occidental languages and spellings would pronounce the last syllable of 'Lourdes' not knowing that it is mute in French.

More possible reasons for the scarcity of topographical reference or for the lack of geographical accuracy in such references can be readily adduced and subsumed in the above three headings. Caste-Hindus lose their caste when they cross the northern mountains just as when they cross the ocean places that cannot be inspected are not described with any claim to precision escorts of Buddhist missionaries who returned from Tibet told wild tales about that inaccessible country, with impunity Tibetans who came to study at Nalanda or Vikramasila might have done the same.

Tantra techniques (Vajrayana)
We can hardly trust Tibetan sources when they tell us about the conquest of large parts of India by Tibetan rulers, with which Taranatha's History is replete; chiefly because no Indian sources whatever corroborates these reports. It is thinkable that Taranatha did not really mean a region beyond Nepal or beyond Bengal when he speaks of 'Central India'. Tibetan warrior chiefs seem to have made inroads into Magadha, Bengal, and perhaps the regions adjacent to Western Napal, i.e. the districts of Almora and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. Nothing comprehensive has yet been written about these Tibetan conquests on Indian Territory there are scattered references in volumes 3, 4, and 5 of the encyclopaedic History and Culture of the Indian People. One of the very few reliable sources of Indian historiography is the famous Rajatarangini by the Kashmiri court scholar Kalhana, who flourished in the twelfth century A.D. In this enthusiastic treatment of King Lalitaditya, who ascended the throne of Kashmir about A.D. 724, Kalhana reports the king was 'eager for conquests and passed his life chiefly on expeditions'. He sent a diplomatic mission to the Chinese Emperor in A.D. 733 to induce him to make common cause against the Tibetans. In his enumeration of countries and kings whom Lalitaditya defeated, Kalhana writes," 'he conquered the Kambojas, the Tukharas, Bhauttas (i.e. Tibetans), Daradas (i.e. the Dardic groups of which the actual Kashmiris are a part), and vanquished a king named Mammuni.'

In the first half of the eighth century, Tibet wielded enormous influence over Nepal. In a grant of the Licchavi King Sivadeva, dated A.D. 714, there is a reference to `Bhotta-Visti' or a corvee payable to Tibet. That Nepal was a vassal to Tibet during this era is not documented by any Indian or Tibetan source, except for this casual reference to the corvee there is only a Chinese source which throws light on this phase.

Tantric God TaraKing Yasovarman of the Central Indian Chandella Dynasty ascended the throne after his father King Haria's death around A.D. 925. An inscription at Khajuraho in Vindhya Pradesh, Central India, mentions that he received an image of the God Visnu from Devapala (i.e. of the Bengali Pala Dynasty which was one of the foremost champions of Buddhism), which had been given to Devapala's father Herambapala by King Sahi who had obtained the image from the King of Bhota (Tibet).

There seems to be no mention of Tibet in any secular Indian document between the two periods referred to above.

That Tibetans may have held portions of Bengal for a short time seems to be supported by the fact that the early Arab travellers Ibn Haukal and Istakhri who wrote in the tenth century, refer to the Bay of Bengal as the 'Tibetan Sea'. As to the exact extent of their actual conquests in India, we have to rely on Tibetan sources, due to the complete lack of Indian materia1.

Zia Barni, an officer at the court of Muhammad-bin-Tughlag, who ascended the throne of Delhi in 1325, wrote a sort of political record of his time in Persian, Ta’rikh-i-Firuz-Shahi, and the famous Arab traveller Ibn Batutah mentions Muhammed-bin-Tughlag's plans to 'capture the mountain of Kara-jal . . . which lies between the territories of Hind and those of China'.

Tantric thangka
A thirteenth-century work in Old Bengali, the Prakrta paingalant, says that 'the King of Kasi fought successfully with the kings of Gaucla, Vanga, Kaling√£, Telangana, Maharastra, Saurastra, Champarana, Nepala, Bhota, Cina, Lahovara (Lahore), Odra, and Malaya.' D. C. Ganguly thinks that the `King of Kasi (i.e. Banaras) is Govindacandra of the Gahadavala Dynasty, of Rajput provenance Govindacandra ruled approximately from A.D. 1114 to 1154. The enumeration of Bhota and Cina as separate, as also the juxtaposition with much less distant and much less important, small regions like Lahore and Champarana, seems to imply that some border regions are meant in this passage also, rather than Tibet or China. If contemporary vernacular usage may be used for analogy, the custom of the Kumaoni-Hindi speaking people in the District of Almora is to refer to the northern neighbor by a sort of directional metonymy `Bhota' for them means the district adjacent to their own in the North, and they would probably think of just two small areas, Garbiang on the Indian and Taghlakot on the Tibetan side of the Indo-Nepalese-Tibetan corner of the Almora District. They do not, however, mean just the area inhabited by the Bhutiyas, a Hindu group with a Tibetan ethnical and a mixed linguistic background (Bhutiya is structurally Tibetan with a very large percentage of Indian words), for the Bhutiyas live in settlements between Kumaon villages, and not beyond Garbiang.

I now proceed to Sanskrit texts, most of which are straight tantric literature. Here our search is bound to yield, at least quantitatively, better results. In tantric literature and practice, the direction of influence is almost entirely a one way affair it seem reasonable to assume that the tantric elements were imported into, ' Tibet along with the Buddhist precepts, though this does not preclude the possibility that certain features of tantric practice could have had some analogues in pre-Buddhist Tibet Hoffmann and Nebesky-Wojkowitz think that the tantric practices among the `Ka' rgywd pa monks are largely of Bon provenance Tucci does not commit himself, to my knowledge. Be that as it may, I do not think there is any portion of the rgyud section of the Tibetan canon which could not be traced to some Indian model so far as practice and doctrine are concerned. From this conjecture it cannot be anything more at this point it in no way follows that there could not have been similar procedures, or even apparently identical items, in pre-Buddhist Bon similar efforts yield independent inventions and parallel procedures in religious and mystical matters in areas that have had no mutual contact of any sort.

I think that the numerous references to Tibetan deities and Tibetan acaras, i.e. ritualistic and meditative methods, have no geographical significance whatever, so far as the authors were concerned I would venture to say that acaras which would seem either very strange or repulsive to the Indian aspirant, were particularly eligible for the epithets 'of Mahacina' or 'of Bhota'. This trend has continuity in modern Hindu scholarship; P. C. Bagchi, B. Bhattacharya in his short prefaces to Vajrayana texts published in the Gaekwad Series, and all the less illustrious pandits known to me, tend to claim rather peremptorily that the left-handed rites, and the deities propitiated by such and other uncanny ritual, are of non-Indian origin.

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About of The Divine World

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 1:37 AM 0 comments
Lord Ganesha
During the period when the pictures in the Green collection were painted, religious themes remained popular with both Hindu and Jain patrons, although no Jain example is included in this selection. In addition to illustrated religious books, series of pictures depicting specific religious themes, such as Vishnu's avatars, were also made for Hindu patrons. Sometimes individual pictures were painted to commemorate a particular religious festival, but others, even though the theme is religious, such as the Holy Family on the March, may not have had any religious use. In still other instances, although the theme of the picture is not necessarily sacred, such as Ragamala or rhetorical works (see introduction to Musical Modes section), the principal characters were often identified with the deities Krishna and Radha.

The most popular religious text to be illustrated appears to have been the Bhagavatapurana, which is represented in the catalogue by several examples.  The word purana, meaning "ancient," signifies a class of encyclopedic sacred literature in Sanskrit which includes mythological, genealogical, moral, ethical, and other material regarded by Hindus as authoritative texts both for religious and social purposes. It is not easy to date the puranas precisely, nor did they have single authors. The purana known as Bhagavata (Pertaining to the lord), a text said to have been compiled no later than the twelfth century somewhere in South India, is dedicated primarily to Vishnu. The section of this text that is especially popular with Vaishnavas (followers of Vishnu) is the tenth book, where Krishna's activities are recounted in great detail. Krishna is an avatar of Vishnu but is also considered by Vaishnavas to be the supreme deity. The accounts of Krishna, both as a heroic child and as a divine lover, provided artists with rich material for illustrations.

Two other sacred books, also written in the Sanskrit language and represented in the catalogue by a few examples, are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Both are essentially Vaishnava texts, although originally both were nonreligious epic sagas. Again there is no certainty as to their dates or authorship. The Mahabharata is said to have been composed by the mythical Vedavyasa and the Ramayana by Valmiki, who is considered to be the first poet in the Sanskrit language. After accretions and interpolations over the centuries both texts probably took their present shape by the early centuries of the common era; they subsequently came to be regarded as the two epics of the Hindus. However, they also attained the status of religious texts (dharmasastra). The divine Krishna is a major figure in the Mahabharata, and Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is believed to be an avatar of Vishnu. Because of their enormous sizes (the Mahabharata is much larger than the Ramayana) rarely was either epic copied and illustrated completely. Stories contained in them also served as subject matter for other literary works, some of which were copied and illustrated.

Lord Ganesha
Some paintings included here did not belong to any religious books but served other devotional purposes. Important pilgrimage sites still produce paintings both for temple functions and for the pilgrims. While large paintings on cloth are an important part of the rituals enacted in the temples, smaller pictures were prepared for pilgrims to take away as sacred souvenirs. One such painting is a distillation of the important festival of annakuta, literally "mountain of food," observed annually at the shrine of the Vallabhacharyas at Nathadwar near Udaipur in Rajasthan. The form of Krishna worshiped there is known as Sri-Nathji, and the statue was the inspiration of the sect's founder, Vallabhacharya the shrine is extremely popular with Vaishnavas of western India. A second picture in the collection that served a similar commemorative purpose depicts another popular festival also associated with Krishna.

Two of the religious pictures in the collection represent Saiva themes, and one depicts the goddess Durga killing a titan. It is not possible to determine whether they belong to series of pictures illustrating texts or arc isolated examples. The Devimahatmya (Glorification of the goddess), the text most revered by those Hindus who believe in the femininity of the Supreme Being and are known as Saktas (from the word sakti, meaning "power" or "energy"), was illustrated both in Rajasthan and the Hill States. It is possible that the illustration showing Durga's battle belongs to such a series, but there is no text to confirm or deny this. The two Pahari pictures of Siva and his family, however, represent themes that were very popular with hill patrons and probably had little if anything to do with any specific texts. Many versions of both themes exist, and they are not only the Saiva counterparts of popular Krishna pictures, such as the Hour of Cowdust, but are also attempts to portray the deities in human terms as well as to provide the mythology with a local flavor.

The greater number of Vaishnava pictures in the Green collection is neither serendipitous nor a matter of choice. Generally, Hindu patrons during the Mughal period preferred pictures depicting Vaishnava rather than Saiva or Sakta themes. The rhetorical and poetic literature in the Hindi language also shows a distinct Vaishnava bias. The mystical love of Krishna and Radha forms a steady refrain in the romantic literature.



1.   Two Illustrations from a Bhagatapurana Series

Scene in Brindavan
The picture showing the procession scene (A) has a brief and fragmentary inscription on the reverse, but it does not help in identifying the subject. The inscription on the front in the middle of the composition reads so nana. On B the letters Rama of Mitharama (known from other leaves of the same manuscript) can be recognized in the upper left. Nana and Mitharama are considered to be the names of previous owners of this Bhagavatapurana series. The inscription at the bottom makes no sense.

A.)   The nonchalance with which the animals, chariots, and figures cross the river by ignoring natural laws clearly indicates the divine nature of the occasion. Since there is no corroborating text, however, it could be an example of the genre of depicting a royal party on the march. There are the usual elephants, chariots, and horsemen as well as a palanquin being borne by four men. As is typical in Indian paintings, the elephants are much better rendered than the horses. Despite the presentation in formal registers, it is a lively scene that conveys the bustle and complexity of a large procession with clarity and naivet√©. The division of the composition by the diagonal placement of the river that meanders like a python adds an illusion of depth to the otherwise flat space. No horizon or sky is indicated, perhaps because of the celestial nature of the subject.

ProcessionB.)   Five adults and four cowherd boys (gopas) are represented in a single row. The focal point is thee woman on the right, who is seen either hugging or protecting one of the boys. His blue Complexion helps to identify him as Krishna and the lady as his foster mother, Devaki. The portly and bearded gentleman behind diem is Vasudeva, Krishna's foster father. It would appear that Krishna has just performed a heroic deed, much to the relief and delight of Devaki and the other members of community. The white boy standing behind Krishna and under a mango tree is Balarama, Krishna's half-brother. Several inure flowering trees symbolize the rural setting. Characteristically, all the figures are depicted on a single ground plane, and a wavy line highlighted in white indicates the sky.

This particular Bhagavatapurana is generally considered to be a major example of sixteenth-century Hindu painting of pre-Mughal India. Although not as polished as some of the other works in this style, it is among the most vivacious and animated. With varied compositions and themes, vivid coloring, and lively narratives, the pictures are characterized by spontaneous charm and vitality.

2.   Liberation of Gajendra


Liberation of Gajendra, Rajasthan Bikaner; C. 1625
The story illustrated here is that of Vishnu rescuing the elephant called Gajendra, which literally means "lord of the elephants." The gist of the tale is recounted twice, once in Sanskrit on the front and again in Hindi on the back. Both texts describe how, without any reason, a crocodile attacked Gajendra while he and some other elephants were sporting in the water. The elephants called out to Vishnu, who swiftly appeared on the scene, even faster than his own avian mount, the Garuda. With his wheel Vishnu dispatched the crocodile to the other shore.

This didactic tale, known as Gajendramoksha, is one of many that were composed to demonstrate how Vishnu is always available to save a devotee who calls him at a time of distress. This particular story appears to have been popular with Hindu patrons, particularly in Rajasthan. It is possible, however, that this rendering was once part of a series of Bikaner pictures depicting various avatars of Vishnu for two other examples, see McInerney, pp. 54-57, nos. 21-22. In all three examples a Sanskrit verse on the front describes the theme, and there is a Hindi verse on the back. Their measurements too are almost the same, as is the mode of representation. The numeral three on the back of this picture would indicate its place in the series. Below the numeral are the words narayina or naradina in bold letters and gajagraha in faint letters. Either reading of the first word could be relevant. Narayina may be a variation of Narayana, a synonym of Vishnu, and Naradina of Nur ad-din, the name of a well-known Bikaner artist. Gajagraha means "devouring elephant."

Interestingly, Vishnu is not represented here with four arms or as riding his Garuda, which he usually does in this episode. The artist obviously followed the accompanying text literally, as the god is said to have appeared on the spot faster than Garuda. However, Garuda was not far behind, for he has arrived in time to see his divine master hurl the wheel at the crocodile. The landscape is a mixture of pictorial realism and fantasy. Curiously, the highly stylized and decorative trees rise directly from the lotus pond. The elephants are rendered naturalistically, but clearly the artist was not familiar with crocodiles.

3.   Krishna Swallows the Forest Fire


Krishna Swallows the Forest Fire, Rajasthan Sirohi; C. 1675-1700The brief inscription in Devanagari letters identifies the scene as Krishna swallowing the forest fire. The picture does not, however, follow the description of the incident in the Bhagavatapurana, in which the miracle takes place in a forest and Krishna saves animals from the conflagration. In this instance the people shown behind the dark hero are the residents of Vraja, including his foster parents and cowherds. This incident is described only in Vira-raghava's (dates unknown) Bhagavata Chandrika, which is a commentary on the Bhagavatapurana.

In the jungle dried up with summer, a great forest conflagration broke out at night and surrounding the Vraja lying fast asleep, it began to scorch them. Touched by the fire, the inhabitants of V raja woke up and in their bewilderment sought resort to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord who had assumed a human form through his Maya.... Perceiving this helplessness and danger of his people (devotees), the Supreme Ruler of the earth, the Infinite Lord of unfathomable powers swallowed up that terrible fire.

The red-and-yellow flames are shaped like leaves. Krishna, distinguished from the others by his complexion, his brow painted with sandlewood paste, and his hair tied in a long and rather stiff single braid, is about to swallow the fire like a juggler. Colorfully dressed, the residents of Vraja watch the miracle in awe. Their emotions are expressed with various gestures. Characteristic of the Sirohi School, the faces of the figures are rather large, with prominent noses. Note-worthy is the fact that only Krishna's eye is open wide; the others are squinting from the glare. The bright yellows and reds of the flames and the pink complexions of the figures are brilliantly set off against a slate gray ground, and there are faint tufts of grass in the foreground. The picture is provided with a wide floral border that adds a decorative touch.

4. Illustration from a Bhagavatapurana Series: Krishna Raises Mount Govardhana


Illustration from a Bhagavatapurana Series: Krishna Raises Mount Govardhana, Madhya Predesh, Malwa; 1700-1725
The text on the back (see Appendix) informs US that Krishna upheld the mountain with the little finger of his left hand for seven days while Indra, the lord of the heavens, sent forth relentless rains. Finally an exhausted Indra was humbled. This episode follows one in which Krishna forbids the residents of Vraja to offer sacrifices to Indra. Indra is the Vedic deity par excellence of the Aryans, and it is believed that these two stories along with a third, in which Krishna loots the celestial Parijata tree from Indra's garden, represent a feud between the Vedic and non-Vedic religious forces at Mathura in the distant past.

The shape of the leaf as well as the division of the composition in two horizontal tiers continue the pre-Mughal tradition of illustrated manuscripts. The lower register is further divided into three sections. In the middle section Krishna stands slightly off center on a box or pedestal as does a deity and effortlessly balances the mountain on the thumb, rather than the little finger, of his left hand. He looks at his foster parents to his right as a child does when seeking parental approbation. The mountain acts as a giant umbrella and protects the residents of Brindavan from Indra's storms. The artist appears to have been particularly concerned with symmetry in delineating the mountain, the pair of confronted peacocks, the foliage, and the falling rain.

5.   Two Illustrations from an Avatar Series (?)


Krishna Desroys AghaThese two folios are probably front a series illustrating stories from the tenth book of the Bhagavatapurana. The Takri inscriptions on the top borders of the rectos identify the incidents as: A, the destruction of Aghasura and 15, the destruction of titan Kesi.

A.)   Krishna was only six years old when he was attacked by Aghasura, the brother of Purana and Bakasura, both of whom had been killed by Krishna. One day Aghasura laid a trap for Krishna and his companion cowherds. Assuming the form of a boa constrictor, Aghasura opened his mouth so wide that the lower part lay along the ground and the upper part was lost in the clouds. He then tricked the cowherds into believing that they were entering a verdant valley and swallowed them. Krishna, however, was not fooled. He entered the mouth and expanded himself so that the serpent could not breath and choked to death. The boys then emerged unscathed from the serpent's body.

It is clear that the artist responsible for this striking composition took a number of liberties and deviated considerably from the textual versions, such as that in the Bhagavatapurana. Although large, the serpent is not of cosmic proportions. He coils himself around a tree and appears to be miraculously suspended in midair. Instead of the boy Krishna, a four-armed figure of Vishnu (of whom Krishna is an avatar) stands triumphant on the serpent's head. Although no combat is depicted, the serpent's belly is streaked-with blood, indicating that it has been split open. Some cows and cowherds are seen dropping front the stomach, others have already emerged and straighten themselves out, and a few are still in the mouth as if awaiting their turn to jump. The artist's interpretation of the story is substantially different not only from written accounts but also from other painted versions.

B.)   This is a fairly straightforward depiction of Krishna's fight with the titan Kesi, who came in the form of a horse. The titan had been sent by Kamsa, the usurper king of Mathura, to destroy the boy Krishna. Instead, Krishna killed Kesi. As in the other picture (A), high drama is played down, and the composition expresses little of the violent struggle described in the known textual versions. Krishna has thrust his left fist into the mouth of the white horse as he strikes the animal with his shepherd's staff. As a matter of fact, except for the offensive of the left hand, Krishna might well be taming a wild horse rather than killing a titan. The only other indications of combat are the streaks of blood on the horse's neck. Rather curious are the cropped depiction of the horse and the placement of both its ears on the far side of the head. Also noteworthy are the relative sizes of the two.

Krishna Destroys Kesi
Stylistically these two pictures are closely related to a series depicting the Twenty-four Avatars of Vishnu iii the Museum Rietberg, Zurich, attributed to the well-known Chamba artist Mahesh, who flourished between about 1730 and 1775, and assigned to the second quarter of the eighteenth century (see Goswamy & Fischer, p. 169, figs. 54-55; p. 178, no. 68). If the two Green pictures are not by Mahesh, they are certainly from the same workshop. Simple and quiet compositions like those here are characteristic of the Zurich Avatar series as well, and the mode of rendering water seen in the foregrounds of the Green pictures seems to be typical of pictures from the Chamba workshop. It is possible that these two paintings do not belong to a Bhagavatapurana series but to a group, like the Avatar series, illustrating some of the heroic feats of Krishna.

A comparison of Krishna Destroys Kesi with a slightly earlier version of the subject from a Mankot workshop (Goswamy & Fischer, p. 114, no. 45; Sec also Pal 1983, pl. P6, for another earlier version) clearly demonstrates the originality of the Chamba artist. Although he has employed the detail of thrusting the left fist into the horse's mouth, he has completely eschewed the dynamic and violent combat emphasized by the earlier artists. This and the Aghasura picture make it clear he was confident enough to give expression to his own interpretation of the themes and of his own powers of imagination.

On the reverse of A is a sketch of the musical mode Bhairavi Ragini. She is personified as a woman seated in a pavilion and extending an arm toward a cow or a calf. An attendant fans her with a flywhisk. The mode Dipak Raga is depicted on the back of B. It is shown as a prince and his mahout riding an elephant, which holds a lamp (dipak) with its trunk. The sketches are probably of about 1750.




Writer Name: Pratapaditya Pal
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