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- Textile tangka
- Length: 22.50 inch
- Width: 20.25 inch
- Acquired: Likir Monastery in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India
- Koelz number: K542
Mandala of Samvara. A mandala is a representation of the universe reduced to an essentially geometric pattern. At the same time it defines a consecrated and protected area that the devotee may seek in his desire to become one with universal consciousness. The circles surrounding the mandala itself usually follow a fairly standardized iconography; the figures outside the circles can vary widely. In this tangka, three circles are depicted: the outer circle represents the eight graveyards, each complete with its own reliquary monument, gods, worshipers, dismembered bodies and two naga figures. The next inner circle is the circle of fire in five colors of scrollwork. The inner band of the circle is of lotus petals. The order represents the eight forms of consciousness, the burning away of ignorance, and spiritual rebirth.
The interior of the circle contains what may be simplistically described as the floor plan of a palace or temple having four entrances, one at each of the cardinal points.
The central figure is that of Samvara (with 12 arms, 2 legs, and 4 heads) in sexual union (yab yum) with his consort Vajravahari. He stands on the prostrate forms of Bhairava and Kalarati, his two principal arms crossed behind Vajravahari, with hands holding the vajra and bell. A fierce emanation of the Buddha Akshobhya, he is blue.
In the closest circle around Samvara are four dakinis at the four cardinal points and four vases at intermediate points. Representatives of the individual’s craving for enlightenment, these four dakinis are mentioned in Sanskrit texts as accompanying Samvara. The remaining three circles each contain eight yab yum figures. These circles represent three planes; reading inward, the first would be the circle of form, the second the circle of speech, and the third the circle of mind.
The four gates of the mandala are guarded by four animal-faced goddesses, probably Hayasya (horse-faced), Simhasya (lion-faced), Svanasya (dog-faced), and Surarasya (sow-faced), the four female directional guardians.
Outside the mandala are six groups of figures: a band across the top, a band across the bottom, and a grouping in each of the four corners. The band across the top contains four red-capped monks and fourteen Tantric adepts (siddhas). Some of the adepts are repeated in the eight cemeteries. The band across the bottom contains several protective deities (Vaishrama, Mahakala, Lhamo, Yama), six yab yum-pairs, and six adepts.
The corners each have a tree form with a large central section holding one of the four additional versions of Samvara. Branching from either side of each tree are seven roundels, six containing figures and the seventh a plant. The trees above the mandala have four monks or disciples on either side.