Newari Goddess Bhadrakali (Brocadeless Thangka)

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The sovereign ruler and protector of the western cardinal point in Newari culture, goddess Bhadrakali in this brocadeless Newari Thangka in her almighty eight-armed (Ashta-bhuja) form is a riveting divine vision for the devotee and a nightmare for the forces of evil. Against the background of a pleasing blue sky whose expansiveness is only a shred of the vastness of Mahakali, stands the dark-skinned Devi in a striking “birthing posture”, making this Bhadrakali Thangka a Tantrokta (prescribed by Tantra) representation of the great Hindu mother goddess. 

(Masterpiece from The Collection of Rajendra Raj Bajracharya)

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Item Code: PAA831
Dimensions 17.70 inch Height X 13.40 inch Width
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The Bhadrakali Thangka is outlined by auspicious turmeric and saffron hues and depicts Maa Kali amidst the lush greenery of Nepal’s high raising mountains. Devi’s platform is made from a combination of Utpala (blue lily, associated with night) and Padma (red lotus linked with morning) underlining her sway over every aspect of Kaala or time. Beneath her extended feet, Devi tramples two male figures that represent the enemies of Dharma (righteousness). In her hands that make a chakra (discus) like formation parallel to the fiery aureole, Bhadrakali carries Khadaga (sword), damru (drum), Khatvanga (a sharp-edged weapon and symbol of Shiva), Dhaala (shield), Trishula (trident), severed head, a skull cup filled with blood and the “Bindu Mudra”, which is made during ritually sprinkling blood on the deity in a Tantric ritual.

Maa’s enthralling visage has three wide eyes and an ethereal expression which is magnified by her flaming tresses adorned with a sword and skull-studded gold crown. Intricately designed gold ornaments cover Bhadrakali’s celestial form complemented by a brocaded green scarf, a skirt of tiger hide, and a garland of severed heads. Devi’s body in this Newari Thangka appears emaciated with her bones highlighted by a darker tone of blue on her legs, arms, and face, a characteristic that makes the goodness enemies shudder with incomprehensible fear. The squatting posture of Maa Bhadrakali is an iconographical feature of mother-goddess images in Hindu tradition which symbolizes the moment of childbirth and is considered a propitious fertility motif in a Tantra ritual.

As the secondary members in this Bhadrakali Newari Thangka are two lion-faced images, a dancing Jogi, a skeleton, and a jackal. The lion-faced goddess can be identified as Dakini Simhamukha or Sintong (Wisdom Dakini) who represents the transformation of human anger and passion into enlightened wisdom. Owing to her ferocious form and potent energies, the Dakini is worshipped as an extension of Bhadrakali herself. The miniature figures of the Tantric initiate (Jogi), skeleton, and jackal around the burning pyre recreate the environment of Shamshaan (cremation ground) which is where Shamshan-Nivasini Maa Kali dwells. Though secondary in the composition of this Newari Bhadrakali Thangka painting, these figures bring an appreciable dynamism and mysticism to it. Encased within a fine wooden frame, this Bhadrakali Thangka will carry with it the motherly prowess of the dark-skinned goddess to your space and will guide you towards the celestial light which only Maa Kali can bestow.

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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