Newari Flying Goddess Saraswati Seated on Swan (Brocadeless Thangka)

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 Against an intermingling of dark and light clouds, mounted on her mystical bird- Hamsa (swan), this form of goddess Saraswati is a handpicked gem from the treasure of Newar Thangka art that originated out of the union of the great Hindu tradition and the master class of Newari artists. Goddess Saraswati in Newari culture is the patron deity of arts, music, and learning, worshipped by seekers of knowledge on the festival of Basant Panchami. Celebrated across Nepal as the mother goddess who bestows boons of divine learning and spiritual fecundity in life, goddess Saraswati finds a befitting visual description in this Newari Thangka. 

(From The Collection of Rajendra Raj Bajracharya)

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Item Code: PAA815
Dimensions 15.40 inch Height X 11.40 inch Width
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100% Made in India
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The backdrop of the goddess Saraswati Thangka is formed by curling clouds- a classical feature of Thangka paintings, and snow-capped mountains. In the center of this transcendent imagery is goddess Saraswati, seated regally on her Hamsa whose flawless grace is a fitting adjective to define the elegance of the divine mother. With its gigantic wings fluttering and making its way through the misty clouds, the Hamsa carries the stalk of a lotus flower in its beak, which acts as a footrest for goddess Saraswati. It is in the image of Devi Saraswati, that the eternal magic of Newari Thangka can be truly appreciated.

A hint of pink shade is used in the form of the goddess Saraswati by the artist to bring fleshiness to her image. The goddess is depicted in her four-armed form, wearing a peach dhoti (lower body garment) and a green scarf that flies behind her, adding vitality to the Thangka. The ornamentation of the goddess is all gold- her majestic crown, hooped earrings, two necklaces, wristbands and armbands, and an ornate waistband wrapping around the lithesome neck of the swan, adorned by the Eight auspicious symbols or “Ashtamangala” of the Buddhist tradition. The five-pronged crown of Saraswati is embellished with lotuses- symbolic of pure wisdom. The jewels studded in the ornamentation in this goddess Saraswati Newari Thangka are beautifully presented with muted tints of colors and white to create a transparent and sparkly effect. A bright yellow aura behind goddess Saraswati’s face perfectly contrasts with the blue sky and brings out the serenity of the goddess strikingly.

In her arms, goddess Saraswati holds the holy Vedas, a lute, and a rosary curving to form the sign of infinity- symbolizing the infinite wisdom of goddess Saraswati. The same element is repeated in the neck of the lute, shaped like the beak of a peacock, in which the bird holds a rosary. Devi Saraswati’s palms and soles of her feet are painted with a pink hue to convey a realistic presentation of her human form. High-raising hair knot, elongated earlobes, meditative eyes, and three lines on the neck- these features in the goddess Saraswati Newari painting speak of the impact of Buddhist artistic tradition on the Nepali artists. With a moving stillness on her face, this delightful representation of goddess Saraswati fills the mind with creative action and metaphysical tranquility.

How are Thangkas made?

A Thangka is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist painting that usually depicts a Buddhist Deity (Buddha or Bodhisattva), a scene, or a mandala. These paintings are considered important paraphernalia in Buddhist rituals. They are used to teach the life of the Buddha, various lamas, and Bodhisattvas to the monastic students, and are also useful in visualizing the deity while meditating. One of the most important subjects of thangkas is the Bhavacakra (the wheel of life) which depicts the Art of Enlightenment. It is believed that Thangka paintings were developed over the centuries from the murals, of which only a few can be seen in the Ajanta caves in India and the Mogao caves in Gansu Province, Tibet.

Thangkas are painted on cotton or silk applique and are usually small in size. The artist of these paintings is highly trained and has a proper understanding of Buddhist philosophy, knowledge, and background to create a realistic and bona fide painting.
The process of making a thangka begins with stitching a loosely woven cotton fabric onto a wooden frame. Traditionally, the canvas was prepared by coating it with gesso, chalk, and base pigment. Image
After this, the outline of the form of the deity is sketched with a pencil or charcoal onto the canvas using iconographic grids. The drawing process is followed in accordance with strict guidelines laid out in Buddhist scriptures. The systematic grid helps the artist to make a geometrical and professional painting. When the drawing of the figures is finalized and adjusted, it is then outlined with black ink. Image
Earlier, a special paint of different colors was made by mixing powdered forms of organic (vegetable) and mineral pigments in a water-soluble adhesive. Nowadays, artists use acrylic paints instead. The colors are now applied to the sketch using the wet and dry brush techniques. One of the characteristic features of a thangka is the use of vibrant colors such as red, blue, black, green, yellow, etc. Image
In the final step, pure gold is coated over some parts of the thangka to increase its beauty. Due to this beautification, thangkas are much more expensive and also stand out from other ordinary paintings. Image
Thangka paintings are generally kept unrolled when not on display on the wall. They also come with a frame, a silken cover in front, and a textile backing to protect the painting from getting damaged. Because Thangkas are delicate in nature, they are recommended to be kept in places with no excess moisture and where there is not much exposure to sunlight. This makes them last a long time without their colors fading away. Painting a thangka is an elaborate and complex process and requires excellent skills. A skilled artist can take up to 6 months to complete a detailed thangka painting. In earlier times, thangka painters were lamas that spent many years on Buddhist studies before they painted.
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