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Elements of Newar Buddhist Art : Circle of Bliss

This article is a critical study of the Nepalese art and iconography discussed in the Circle of Bliss, Buddhist Meditational Art, an exhibition catalogue, by John Huntington and Dina Bangdel with the contribution of graduate students of Ohio State University, Columbus and some other scholars. [1] Huntington and Bangdel’s articles [2] published in Orientations as the prelude to the exhibition also will be discussed here briefly. The materials are collected and presented in the catalogue and other related works with a great effort to surpass previous scholars in excellence and achievement. This endeavor deserves admiration. In fact the catalogue is one of the rare examples in the study of South Asian art history where we find a teacher sharing his new research and ideas with his students. Greatly encouraged by the teacher’s generosity, the students, in turn, feed him back with further investigations. Despite such admirable endeavor the work is open to criticism for three different reasons. First, the catalogue is characterized by misleading information that emanated from defective methodology. Second, it is riddled with the easily detectable mistakes which resulted from the lack of careful observation, and insufficient knowledge of variety of subjects such as epigraphy, language and culture, so essential for vara and the study of Newar Buddhist art. Third, the cult of Cakrasam Vajravarahi is treated there without giving any attention to already published important historical sources closely related to the cult. A few examples may suffice.

Several Buddhist texts repeatedly describe that prince Siddhartha was born in the Lumbini grove from the side of the queen mother Maya as she grasped a branch of a tree. According to the Nidanakatha soon after such supernatural birth the newborn baby received an atmospheric shower bath. Often a peculiar phrase is used to describe the event, utum gahapesum "[the gods] caused [the baby] to receive the season." This phrase helps us to connect the concept of the nativity scene with pre-Buddhist belief associated with the birth of a cosmic child, and with a latent aspect of Newar Buddhist tradition, which celebrates the birthday of Bodhisattvas as the ha month. A?t?prelude of the rainy season during the bright half of the Jyes significant Nepalese sculpture in the catalogue depicts the scene almost exactly as described in the text. On the right, Maya is shown clutching the branch of a tree. On the left, immediately above Siddhartha, two cloud gods holding global water jars are depicted flying in the middle of the stylized cloud. Many years ago when Kramrisch published this image very first time she correctly identified the cloud gods as devaputras [4] because in early Buddhist texts such atmospheric deities are often described as avalahaka devaputras?vars “rain clouds, the sons of the gods” ( ika?Anguttaranikayat 2.2.37 ). In later Buddhist texts the cloud gods are identified as Nanda and Upananda devaputras or nagas, the serpents. The lotus flowers flowing down from the jars held by the gods symbolize the shower.

The authors of the very first entry in the catalogue, which treats of this sculpture, do not seem to be familiar with such textual reference to cloud gods or to their significance. Thus they identify the male divinities of the cloud as apsaras. This is indeed a big problem. If the authors cannot distinguish female apsaras from the flat chested male divinities, I wonder how it would be possible to handle the other complexities of art historical study. In the same entry, they argue that the sculpture should be dated to the 5th to 6th century instead of the previously accepted 9th century. The main point of their argument is based on the stylistic similarity of the lotus shown in the nativity sculpture as a pedestal on which the newborn Siddhartha is standing and the same flower held by i. Since the latter can be dated ca. 550 the authors the Gana Baha Padmapan express their opinion that the nativity sculpture also belongs to about the fifth or sixth century. But stylistic study is not that simple. The lotus employed for a pedestal and the lotus held by divinities should not be treated i with the lotus as the same. Compare the lotus pedestal of Gana Baha Padmapan he holds. The difference is huge. The pedestal is treated here rudimentarily, rendering only the pericarp of the lotus decorated with vertical linear pattern around its edge, whereas the lotus held by the god is rendered much more elaborately and naturalistically. This means the sixth century Nepalese artist was familiar with the naturalistic treatment of the lotus but it was not used for a pedestal of a Buddhist deity at that time. Such usage compares with that of the beads and flame motif. It appeared for the first time u’s shield in the in 467 A. D. when it was used for the flaming edge of Vis u image. But this motif became part of the famous Tilaganga Vis nimbus only after the seventh century. Thus it becomes clear that the fifth century date for the nativity sculpture is not based on a logical explanation. The languorous, elongated body of Maya and her diaphanous sari differ widely from the dwarfish proportion, stiffness, and rudimentary treatment of the sari in the Tilaganga relief but bears some similarities with those features seen in the twelfth or thirteenth century bracket figures from Uku Baha. The abstract space between the crossed legs of Maya and the Uku Baha bracket figures is almost identical. The pleated middle section of the sari in both examples cascades down from the waist and goes over the left leg in similar fashion before it terminates into the flower bud like end. Thus the 9th century date given by Stella Kramrisch in her seminal 1964 catalogue remains unchanged.

The main problem in dating the work of art logically is apparently associated with a lack of ability to distinguish history from legend. In the introductory essay of the catalogue Bangdel writes: Although the Licchavi kings were primarily Hindu, inscriptions refer to Buddhist monasteries founded by royal patronage and grants, such as Mana Vihara built by King Manadeva, Raja Vihara by Amsuvarma, the Syengu Baha at Svayambhu Mahachaitya by Vrishadeva, and Gum Vihara, also a royal foundation but without attribution to a specific king. In support of her argument she footnotes Daniel Wright’s History of Nepal. Although I have been working on Licchavi inscriptions meticulously for many decades I have not seen any Licchavai inscription that refers to Syengu adeva's contribution. The information that we get from Daniel’s Baha as Vr Wright’s work is not based on the analytical study of inscriptions. Despite the fact that the tittle of his work is History of Nepal it is not a history book but a collection of legends, fabulous stories and some historical materials of the medieval period. Information derived from such materiel can not be accepted as factual without verifying contemporaneous sources. Therefore citation of such work as inscriptional evidence clearly indicates an underlying problem, the confusion between history and legend. As we see shortly, the lack of historiography is indeed the main problem in the development of the methodology employed throughout the work.

Although the authors of the catalogue show more interest in iconography than stylistic study neither Huntington nor Bangdel seem to know some basic elements of Tantric Buddhist iconography. Throughout the catalogue the authors explain the technical term dharmodaya, as “a pair of interlocking triangles.” This explanation is erroneous. Several esoteric Buddhist texts including the Vimalaprabha, commentary to Kalacakra, testify that dharmodaya is an inverted triangle symbolizing the female principle. Abhayakaragupta, the well-known author of the pannayogavali?Nis, explains that “in terms of macrocosm (bahya) the triangular dharmodaya is no other than the endless sky, in terms of inward (adhyatmana".) significance she is Prajn Moreover, Sadhanamala no. 97 clearly states that “Dharmodaya is akin to sky, and appears like the vowel e [Brahmi script] because it has a wide upper section and narrow pointed lower section.” Since this vulvate triangle resembles the vowel e in Brahmi script it was also known as ekara “the letter e.” The interlocking double triangles motif was actually known to the Buddhist as evam or kara?evam, signifying nondual unity of female the principle e and the male principle vam, a syllabic letter in ancient Indian scripts which was visualized as an upright triangle. Although such a hexagonal double triangle is known to Hindus as a?kon?at?s, Buddhists preferred to call it evam. Buddhist texts often begins with the word evam as in the mantra like phrase evam? maya srutam “thus I have heard.” The representation of interlocking double triangles is based on the esoteric interpretation of this phrase.

The correct identity of dharmodaya may appear to be a trifling matter or an effort at faultfinding. But a careful study of this symbol is actually very important for understanding the characteristics of Newar Buddhism. Newar Buddhists of Kathmandu identified this inverted triangle with an aboriginal female divinity of a waterhole or waterholes. We know this from several sources including the observation of her unique shrine and its symbolic representations in stone relief.

One of this divinity’s shrines is located in Hmasinga, currently known to Nepali speaking people as Phulbari near Balaju, the other one in Mrigasthali, east of famous Pasupati temple. Both these shrines are actually underground, fresh-water springs covered by a repousse lotus. The Hmasinga shrine is considered to be center of the primordial lake of the Kathmandu valley and according to Buddhist Newars the rainbow like variegated light representing Jyotirupa Svayambhu emerged from it. Some Buddhist Newars believe that the real Hmasinga is located on the northern slope of Svayambhu hill. The word Hmasinga literally means “the depression located in the place called Hmasin.” A nineteenth century colophon of a Newari manuscript in the collection of Babukaji Vajracharya at Ombahal Kathmandu identifies this hole with the Buddhist goddess Khaganana “Bird Faced,” who is also known as Guhyesvari. The Newar Buddhist scholars are of the opinion that the minor deity with the same name, Khaganana, mentioned in the Sadhanamala no. 218, and varodayatantraSam 7. 19 are identical with this Buddhist goddess. This view may be correct because in Umapati’s Vajravarahisadhana Khaganana is described as the goddess of the Himalaya. However, due to her association with the waterhole and Svayambhu she is not a minor deity in Nepal.

The significance of the waterholes in the valley can be understood properly only if we give an attention to the fact that the main source of water is believed to be rain and the mother sky itself is considered to be a big hole, mahabila. Newars originally believed that the sky is mother, which sharply contrasts with Indo-European concept of father sky. [15] Rainmaking rituals are performed around these waterholes during droughts and some of these water sources are named after the Akasaganga, the milky-way which is viewed as celestial water in both Sanskrit literature and Newar tradition. The a?Svayambhupuran prescribes worshiping the waterholes (i?jalotpannarandhran) on the full moon day a month, when the copious monsoon rain is expected.? of Sravan The waterholes are believed to be the reminiscent of the primordial lake of the Kathmandu valley. Both Hindus and Buddhists agree that the main deity of the waterholes is Guhyesvari, and worship her as their tutelary lineage deities, variously called adevata?t?is, kuladevata or degudya. However, the Newar Buddhist tradition of the valley prefers to identify her with the dharmodaya triangle. This is evidenced by a brief statement found in the a?Svayambhupuran, where the symbolic representation of this goddess is described as a yoni like dharmodaya (a trailokye ca?jata … dharmodayasvarupen?a sam?yonyakaren prakhyapita). [18] Such vulvial symbols are often represented in stone relief. An seventeenth century inscription found at the western section of the Cilamco stupa in Kiritpur tells us that such stone relief was known to the Buddhist community of the valley not exactly as dharmodaya but as dharmadhatu shrine. This is understandable because in esoteric Buddhist literature the word dharmadhatu is synonymous with dharmodaya. For instance, ika?Hevajratantra T explains that “dharmodaya is dharmadhatu because the worldly phenomenon or the noble dharma [directly] rises from here.”

Such dharmadhatu shrines are very different from the dharmadhatu alas?d?man which are round and laid flat on plinth-like high structures. The dharmadhatu shrines, on the other hand, are vertical stone slabs a or kirtimukha motif flanked by two?with pointed arch adorned with the Garud makaras. Locally these shrines are also known as a?toran, “a gate” not only because the shrines appear like the gates of Newar palaces and temples but also because the inverted triangle symbolizes both the vulva and a celestial gate. The author of the varodayatantra?Sam 2.25 clearly states that dharmodaya is both a yoni and a gate (am?dharmodaya-yoni-dvaran). This concept goes back to the early Vedic period. The Atharvaveda 10.2.31, 10.8.43 for instance, describes the human body with nine apertures as an unconquerable city (ayodhya) with nine gates.

Although the gate like Dharmadhatu shrines are seen all over the valley, one finds them also on the valley’s great stupas including Svayambhu stupa, Tukan Bahal stupa in Kathmandu and Pulan Syangu stupa at the western slope of Svayambhu hill. The famous Dhando stupa of Chabhil is also surrounded by multiple dharmadhatu shrines of this type. Earlier versions of the shrines are well illustrated in a drawing published in Hodgson's article [20] almost two centuries ago. In a sense the great stupas of the valley are not only the abode of the five Tathagatas but also the shrine of the aboriginal mother goddess of waterholes represented by the dharmodaya/dharmadhatu symbol. This is not surprising because the Svayambhu himself emanated from this deity’s waterhole.

There is an explanation for why this goddess of the dharmodaya/dharmdhatu is known as Khaganana, "Bird Faced." The atantra?an?amaharos?d?Can and its commentary by Kumaracandra inform us that in esoteric Buddhist literature the word khagamukha “the face or the bill of a bird” means female genitalia. [21] Since the term khagamukha is synonymous with khaganana in Sanskrit, it become abundantly clear that the mother goddess was known as “Bird faced” because of her association with yoni.

The yoni symbol is represented in South Asian art in many different ways. It is true that in some example the yoni is depicted almost like the bill of a bird. To my knowledge, such example is not available in Nepal. But in this country the yoni symbol is depicted almost always within a a?toran. According to Newar legend the bird depicted on top of the a?toran or dharmadhatu shrine is not exactly Garuda of Sanskrit literature but a mythical bird Chepu who controls celestial and terrestrial water that appear in the form of male and female serpents. The authors of the Tantric Buddhist texts also deny the identity of the bird with Garuda. Thus they use a technical word a?kramasirs "he head of the succession" as a synonym for the apex of the a?toran. In a description of the elaborate a?toran of a ala?d?man ikrama, refers to this bird?d?painting, the author of the Pin as a i?in?a paks?kramasirs "female bird perched at the apex of a [a?toran]." Although ikrama was written perhaps in Nepal, this?d?we do not know exactly where the Pin particular reference to female gender of the bird is apparently the initial step toward the Nepalese interpretation of the bird-faced female deity in association with a?toran and dhormodaya.

Art historically, however, the bird on the a?toran is the metamorphosis of the ancient kirtimukha motif symbolizing four atmospheric directions and center. In my previous work, I have explained that although the legend of Chepu or female bird is not directly related to such artistic development, its symbolic association with atmospheric phenomenon has remained intact in the valley even in the late seventeenth century. The entire shrine with the kirtimukha or the bird motif on the apex of a?toran is part of the iconography of the tutelary lineage deities worshiped by Newars before and after monsoonal rain. Hindu tutelary deities are also represented in similar shrines. In those cases the shrines are not designated as dharmodaya or dharmadhatu but simply a a?toran. Thus we have good reason to believe that not only the symbolic identity of the yoni with the celestial gate, but also the popularity of the analogy between the yoni and the bird seems to be the main reasons that the Buddhists in Nepal prefer to represent the symbol of yoni/dharmodaya within the a?toran.

At the Southeast corner of Svayambhu stupa there is an eighteenth century shrine decorated with the Newar style a?toran, the dharmodaya/dharmadhatu, with the Chepu bird on top, but with two round openings instead of an inverted triangle as expected. That it is simply a different version of the typical shrine is borne out by a seventeenth century painting in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art (1973.69). As Bangdel has noticed, it depicts a similar shrine, which seems to be that of adevata mentioned in the inscription at the bottom of the painting. It?t? the is is highly possible that this tutelary deity is Khaganana, an identity that depends upon the family tradition of the donors mentioned in the inscription. It is interesting to observe that such a a?toran shrine closely resembles Tibetan gau, a portable shrine, which in turn is the cognate of the empty niches of the early monolithic caityas. The opening of the gau is known to the Tibetans as sgo-khuin “doored space,” undoubtedly because the shrine is no other than a a?toran. tananda, who helped Brain Houghton?The nineteenth century Nepali Pundit Amr Hodgson to study Newar Buddhism, was familiar with the a?toran shrine attached to the Svayambhu stupa. He describes it briefly in his unpublished work grahakosa?Dharmasam and expresses his view that the shrine may rejusri, Vairocana or Vajradhatvisvari. Since he could present Man not identify it exactly, he concluded that this empty shrine actually represents sunyata. More recently in 1978, when the famous Buddhist Pundit Hemaraja Shakya wrote his book on Svayambhu stupa in Newari language he identified the shrine as Vajradhatvisvari. [25] This tananda’s work but without referring to other?identification is based on Amr possibilities mentioned in the source. Since then local informants and tourist guides, with great enthusiasm, have been explaining the significance of the shrine to visitors. Depending on such information, Huntington found no problem identifying the shrine as Vajradhatvisvari, which helped him to show her aparamita and the relation between the Svayambhu?identity with Prajn stupa and Vairocana sadhana of Guhyasamaja. [26] The authors of the catalogue discuss the shrine repeatedly and have published its photographs in two different occasions. But they did not make any attempt to read the short inscription given at the bottom of the shrine, which can be translated as follows:

“In the year of 872 (A. D. 1752) on the fifth day of the bright half of the ha month [this] divine Dharmadhatu … is commissioned by the donor?ad?As Gyanapati.”

Clearly this is a dharmadhatu shrine, a typical feature on the stupas of the valley. Here one can argue that both dharmadhatu and Vajradhatvisvari symbolize sunyata; therefore the shrine actually belongs to Vajradhatvisvari, whose significance in turn is based on the fact that she is no other than Vajravarahi. Such traditional approach, which is based on synthesis instead of analysis, is not helpful because it prevents us from detecting the amalgamation of pre-Buddhist religious elements into the esoteric Buddhist pantheon. In fact identification of two divinities bearing different names always indicates a new layer of development.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was a similar dharmadhatu shrine at the northeastern corner of the Svayambhu stupa acaitya painting, dated 1809, in the?as testified by the Laks Avery Brundage collection at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (B61 D10+) where one is clearly represented. As we know from the a?Svayambhupuran originally this northeast corner of the stupa was characterized by a celestial hole (vivara). Apparently a main purpose of Gyanapati’s commission of a dharmadhatu in this southeast corner was to create symmetricality. Compare Hodgson’s drawing of Chabahil stupa. It is also important to note that the second representation of Svayambhu stupa in the lower section of the obhya’s temple.?acaitya painting shows two Dharmdhatu shrines flanking Aks?Laks Thus the round hole at the bottom of Gyanapati’s dharmadhatu shrine apparently echoes the original hole at the northeast corner. Furthermore the stylized lotus petals around the hole in the dharmadhatu shrine immediately recalls the typical shrine of goddess Khaganana at Hmasinga. In the a?Svayambhupuran [28] this goddess of a fresh water spring, is described as jalaskandha “a mass of water” and in the same text the primordial lake Kalihrada of the Kathmandu valley is designated as dharmadhatu. [29] Clearly in Newar Buddhism the word dharmdhatu symbolizes not only sunyata but also water. The hidden logicality behind this association of sunyata with water is based on the view that sunyata is the sky, which is the main source of life giving water both celestial and terrestrial. The sky is, however, a big hole, a gate, a yoni symbolizing the great mother goddess, Khaganana. Unfortunately, the authors of the catalogue did not even try to understand the acaitya?significance of Khaganana, mentioned in the inscription of the laks painting, and simply identify her as Guhyesvari / Vajravarahi.

The catalogue is indeed a detail study. The introductory essays and the entries are written so elaborately that quite often they exhibit redundancies such as the valley is a ala?d?man. Thus, the short articles, published in Orientations before the exhibition, are the better examples of their methodological approach than the catalogue itself. For instance, in his article Huntington writes:

In its present iconographic iteration, for which, as mentioned, there is direct physical evidence of having been in existence since the sixth century, the [Svayambhu] Mahachaitya is a polyvalent symbol of considerable complexity.

According to this statement Svayambhu stupa has multiple symbolism and the present iconography of the stupa is the iteration of an early version that goes back at least to the sixth century A.D. Nowhere in this work Huntington suggests that earlier symbolism of the stupa might be different from later interpretations. He believes that the deities of the shrines around the stupa are arranged in accordance with the ikrama?d?Pin sadhana of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. He writes:

… it can be seen that the Vairocana shrine is just to the South of Akshobhya’s. In this meditation, the practitioner visualizes himself at the east as Akshobhya in non-dual state with Sparshavajri/Mamaki. In the completion stage, the practitioner as Akshobhya/Sparshavajri is in the centre of the ala?d?man and looks to the east to realize that Vairochana is present in no-dual state with Saptalochana, who is represented in the northeast shrine. Thus, for part of the meditation, Vairochana is actually on the east and his shrine is appropriately physically located there on the Mahachaitya.

This is indeed a fascinating statement, but also a perfect example of his defective methodology. Admittedly one can study art historical materials as they are understood by a group of people in particular period of time and space. Such synchronic study may be valuable but it should not be accepted either as complete or accurate. In fact due to the lack of historiographic analysis such study is often dangerously misleading. This is the main reason that Huntington’s methodology is open to criticism.

His argument that the iconography of the stupa is in perfect harmony ikrama Sadhana of the?d?with the Pin Guhyasamajatantra is mainly based on the location of the Vairocana shrine at the eastern section of the Svayambhu Stupa. But this shrine did not exist there before 1713. The a?Svayambhupuran , most of which was written around the time of King obhya ,?amalla's rule (ca. 1428-1482), refers to only four Buddhas: Aks?Yaks Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi at four directions of the stupa. Since Vairocana was considered to be in the middle of the stupa his shrine was not represented then outside the dome of the stupa. According to contemporaneous diaries known to the Newars as thyasaphu the earliest image of Vairocana at eastern section of the stupa mi, who was?is the contribution of the queen mother Bhuvanalaks active during the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Almost exactly a hundred years later, the Newar Buddhists of Kathmandu replaced the original contribution of the queen with much bigger statue of the god when they renovated the stupa in 1816. However, the image of Vairocana that we see today is of even more recent date. According to the pedestal inscription, the image was erected only in 1918. Although most of these materials were at least partially published in Nepalese publications many decades ago, Huntington does not seem to have taken much time to study them. This was grievous omission. It led him on faulty grounds to adduce a startling new theory proclaiming that the iconography of the stupa, presumed static since at least the sixth century, is based on the meditational practice prescribed in the Guhyasamaja. As the historical materials amply illustrate this cannot be substantiated. Similarly, his view that the image of Saptalocana Tara to the obhya represents both Mamaki and Saptalocana is unacceptable.?left of Aks In 1918 when Svayambhu stupa went through a massive renovation the Buddhist priests of Kathmandu rearranged the images of the Taras, clearly because there was a discrepancy in the scheme of the five Taras’ association with the five Tahagatas, apparently which was not settled even in the twentieth century. Without examining these historical documents one cannot jump to the conclusion that the image at the northeastern shrine of the caitya stands for both Mamaki and Saptalocana alternately.

Trained in this inadequate methodology, Bangdel begins her own investigation and claims to explore the origin of Buddhist divinities of Kathmandu valley. Unfortunately, however, her study of Nepalese materials is also characterized by the weakness in understanding the difference between original and secondary development. For instance, explaining the significance of Vasudhara or Vasundhara she writes:

For the Newar Buddhist lay practitioner, the great esoteric deity, Vajravarahi/Vajrayogini, is remote and aloof in the extreme, yet powerful beyond the wildest imagination. It is through her exoteric manifestations that the full force of her wisdom and power come to fruition for the laity. In Newar Buddhism, one of the preeminent exoteric manifestations of Vajravarahi is Vasundhara, one of the most beloved of the Buddhist goddesses.

According to this statement the significance of Vasundhara or Vasudhara is based on the fact that she is the exoteric manifestation of Vajravarahi. This reasoning does not differ much from the traditional explanation of the Newar Buddhist priests of Kathmandu. Bangdel simply accepts it without giving much attention to the fact that Vasudhara’s pre-Buddhist association with agrarian prosperity can be detected easily with a careful observation of her iconographical features. The main attribute of the goddess is jaridhanyaman, a Sanskrit compound word for “sheaf of rice paddy”. Although Bangdel translates it sometime as “sheaf of grain” and other time as “sheaf of wheat” we know for sure that in classical and Buddhist Sanskrit dhanya means rice paddy (Nepali dhan). Here it is important to note that in Nepal rice is harvested in the beginning of autumn, wheat in the winter. Thus Vasudhara is worshiped annually on the first day of autumnal rice harvest known to the Newar farmers and Buddhists as Gatila. During the Gatila ritual, her image is placed on top of a heap of rice and an offering of rice paddy to her is considered mandatory. Clearly Vasudhara is a deity presiding over fresh paddy. This is why she is conceived as yellow, and holds a sheaf of rice paddy as her main attribute. Illustrated Newari manuscripts in the National Archives in Nepal (A. 151; A. 153) dealing with auspicious and inauspicious sights often represent a heap of rice as very auspicious and identify it as Vasudhara, so labeled immediately below the representation. Once we are familiar with such original significance of the goddess it becomes obvious that her affiliation with Vajravarahi is secondary development. Such analysis is completely absent in the catalogue despite the fact that authors claim to investigate the origin of the valley’s Buddhist divinities “before the introduction of either Hinduism or Buddhism to the valley.”

The lack of proper knowledge of Sanskrit is also a monumental problem for Bangdel. This is evident in many places e.g. in a following example. In her frequently quoted work as a main source for the catalogue, Bangdel describes a "rejoicing [in sexual embrace] wijughos Manth Vajrasattva." This embarrassingly erroneous translation, which is given twice in her work within few pages in the same chapter, resulted from the misspelling and misunderstanding of following Sanskrit sentence—iha bhagavan ?anasvabhavah suvisuddhadharmadhatujn?ah?jughos mahavairocanatma man ?svabhavajrasattvena mudritah, which actually means "Here Bhagavan a stands for Mahavairocana and symbolizes pure?jughos Man ana dharmdhatujn; [his crown] is marked by [the image] of Vajrasattva a) himself." The correct?jughos who bears similarity [in complexion] with (Man reading of this text is found in Bhattacharya’s edition of the pannayogavali?Nis. But Bangdel did not understand the meaning of the technical iconographical terms svabha “bearing similarity (with his or her own color)” and mudritah “marked, (a headgear marked by the image of a superior? deity). Thus she changed svabha into svabha and mudritah into? muditah to obtain desired translation.? Although space does not allow me to write in detail, this is not an isolated example of the desired translation but a trend throughout their works. The Newari inscription found in Jivarama’s sketchbook, for instance, does not contain any word or words to prove that “Jivarama personally wrote this [inscription].”

Lack of the knowledge of Newari language and culture is yet another big problem of the authors. Huntington is a specialist of Tibetan art. His study of Newar Buddhist art is his new interest. In fact he began to investigate Newar art intensively only after Dina Bangdel, a daughter of Nepali art historian Lain Simh Bangdel, began to work with him. But Dina could not help him much because her knowledge of Newari language and culture was limited as well. Thus she argues that the appearance of Tibetan goddess Palden Lhamo in a Los Angeles painting is helpful to pinpoint the provenance of the painting as Tibetan. But she is not familiar with the i, the?d?fact that according to Buddhist Newars Chvasakamini, or Ugracan dreadful goddess who resides at chvasa is Palden Lhamo. Chvasa is a place originally distant from the Newar residential area where trash and debris are deposited and where are ritually thrown the clothes and other belonging of a dead person, as well as newly born children’s umbilical cords. She causes and cures pediatric diseases. An examination of Newari paintings reveals that she is popular in them as well as in Tibetan paintings. Likewise, Bangdel does not seem to be familiar with the fact that the Newari name Syengu or Singu is derived from sa-hmengu a compound word from classical Newari. As we know from the Newari translation of Amarakosa, a celebrated Sanskrit thesaurus, it literally means “a cow-tail.” Therefore in the a?Svayambhupuran this compound word is synonymously used for Gopuccha, the Sanskrit name for the Cow-tail Hill of Svayambhu. When the hilltops were nga “Cow’s Horn.” Unaware of?visualized as horns it is also designated as Gosr the different meaning of these Newari and Sanskrit words, Bangdel combines both Sanskrit and Newari terms and creates a new word for the cow-tail hill Gosingu. And Huntington simply accepts it.

Before we conclude this review article, it will be prudent to examine briefly vara and Huntington and Bangdel’s major study regarding the cult of Cakrasam Vajravarahi in Kathmandu. Prior to them, several scholars contributed on this subject. David Gellner, for instance, treated the subject in detail showing the vara's relation between Cakrasam ala?d?man and the ritual of hapuja?pit "the worship of power places" in the valley which was visualized by the practitioners as the ala?d?man of deities. Gellner correctly pointed out that the three pilgrimage circles were interpreted as standing for the circles (cakra) of the ala,?d?man body, speech, and thought (kaya, vak, citta). Huntington and Bangdel incorporated this view in their work as their main theme. Apparently, well-known Tibetologist Robert Thurman is not familiar with the works on Newar Buddhism. Thus, in the foreword he highly praises the authors for “their discovery of a thriving practice still alive among the Newars of Nepal”.

Vara plays an important role in modern It is true that the cult of Cakrasam Newar Buddhism. This is not however the reiteration of great antiquity. The early phase of Tantric Newar Buddhism of the valley was devoid of vara’s cult and remained so until it overlapped with the second phase, Cakrasam vara and Vajravarahi. In order to which was dominated by the cult of Cakrasam study epigraphic and textual evidence related with this development we need to be familiar with an important architectural element of the Newar Buddhist monastery. This architectural element is locally known as agamchem. The word agam apparently derives from the Sanskrit word agama "learning," and the second word chem is Newari and literally means an edifice. The significance of this edifice is based on the fact that esoteric rituals are performed in the second floor of this edifice. But its ground floor contains an exoteric shrine of Buddha Sakyamuni or one of the five Tathagatas, who are known to the Newars as kvapadya, a generic term used for all these Buddhist divinities when they are housed in that particular shrine. The etymology of "kvapadya" is not clear but the well accepted Sanskritized version of this word is hapala?t?kos , which literally means "protector of a room". In this exoteric shrine the Buddhist priests and devotees perform regular devotional puja. My own observation indicates that most of the time the kvapadya obhya and the main tantric deities of the?is Aks esoteric shrine in the second floor of agamchem often correlate with the iconographic identity of the kvapadya enshrined in the first floor.

Earliest reference to such edifice with double shrines is found in a copper plate inscription dated 1388. This important inscription, which is in situ on the wall of the agamchem of Hnaikam Bahi in Kathmandu, tells us that during the reign of Sthitimalla (ca. 1382-1395) a Buddhist devotee consecrated a hapala Buddha?t?multistoried shrine as well as an image of kos (kvapadyaya?) in a pre-existing Buddhist monastery known as Kirtipun Mahavihara. According to same inscription the upper story of this newly built shrine housed an image of Heruka Yamalaka “Heruka in pair”. Very vara because another Buddhist?likely this Heruka, is no other than Cakrasam inscription (dated 1511) found in Visvakarma Vihara in Kathmandu refers to the establishment of new shrine of Heruka who is described there as the incarnation obhya.?(avatara) of Aks Indeed obhya. For this reason the headgear of?vara is Aks the family head of Cakrasam obhya's image. It is true that the?vara bears Aks?the early images of Cakrasam epithetic name Heruka is also used for Hevajra. But this god is not the member obhya's family. Note also the fact that the date of the earliest?of Aks epigraphic reference to Heruka coincides with the growth of the popularity of vara and Vajravarahi in Nepalese art. Artistic representations of Cakrasamvara.

Despite such popularity of these divinities, Newar Buddhist monasteries, Cakrasamvara which followed earlier convention, remained without a shrine for Cakrasam and Vajravarahi even in later time. An inscription dated 1593 in situ near the entrance of Otubaha in Kathmandu informs us that the construction of Buddhist monasteries of the valley and the consecrations of the images in the monasteries closely followed the rules and rituals prescribed in Kuladatta's graha?Kriyasam. This important text is a manual of the Buddhist rituals for constructing and consecrating monasteries, stupas, and images. According to Gustav Roth, this work “belongs to the category of of Buddhist Kriya-tantras of the eighth and ninth centuries AD” The text begins with a salutation to Vajrasattva, who is treated there as the main vara nor suggests tantric deity. This text, however, neither refers to Cakrasam that it is compulsory to have a shrine of the deity in a Buddhist monastery. When we study this textual evidence and compare it with the information found in the Otubaha inscription (dated 1593) and the earliest reference to Heruka Yamalaka’s shrine in Hnaikam Bahi inscription (dated 1388) it become abundantly vara developed in?clear that for a period of time the cult of Cakrasam graha became obsolete mainly because?overlapping mode. Eventually, the Kriyasam this early manual could not fulfill Newar Buddhists’ growing interest in the vara and Vajravarahi. As a result this text was gradually cult of Cakrasam a's?replaced by Jagaddarpan Kriyasamuccaya , another manual of Buddhist rituals of later time written after the twelfth century. The main tantric deity vara and Vajravarahi. At the beginning of the work, this text is Cakrasam author salutes them as the most prominent divinities. The significance of this manual for our study, however, derives from the fact that much of the contemporary Newar tantric tradition including the rituals associated with vara and Vajravarahi is mainly based on this manual instead of Cakrasam Kuladatta's graha?Kriyasam. Although a comparative analysis of these two manuals awaits a longer study, even a brief observation like this clearly vara and Vajravarahi is the new element?indicates that the cult of Cakrasam that dissects early and later approaches of Tantric Buddhism of Nepal. The authors of the catalogue, once again, did not make any attempt to study such historical development of the cult in Nepal although all these epigraphic documents were published many years ago.

Finally it should be pointed out that there is plenty of evidence to show that in the milieu of the ongoing interaction between the Hinduism and Buddhism, Budddhist intellectuals including the author of the a?Svayambhupuran did not have any reason to show hesitation in assimilating Shaivite elements into Buddhism. Even sivalingas are considered in the purana as Vitaraga or Vaitaraga Bodhisattvas. The list has given in an unpublished manuscript called?of Shaivite pit ha-puja-vidhi?ala-pit?d?Nepala-man (4. 214, reel no. b. 189.16) in the collection of National Archive of Nepal do not differ much from the three has described in the?circles of Buddhist pit a?Svayambhupuran. vara and?Furthermore, it is difficult to deny the similarity between Sam araja as exemplified by various attributes. They have in common such as?Nat crescent moon, elephant’s hide, dance posture, khatvanga, and Brahmasiras. Unfortunately, however, in the methodology of the authors of the catalogue cross-religious analysis is almost completely missing. Moreover, any information suggesting Buddhist divinity’s association with Hindu deity is a in?avoided sometime removing the name of a Shaivite deity such as Virupaks translation although the god is clearly mentioned in the inscription. [48] Such unscholarly approach apparently stemmed from almost devotion-like over emphasis on the cult of vara and Cakrasam Vajravarahi.


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