Newari Goddess Vajrayogini (Brocadeless Thangka)

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Haloed by raging fires of enlightened consciousness, Vajrayogini- the embodiment of the powers of Vajrayana Buddhism and Tantra, and the guiding light of yogis on the path of wisdom appears in a vigorous posture and a striking form. In Newari Hinduism, Vajrayogini who is a Kirati (an ethnic group in Nepal) shaman female is the expansion of the Hindu goddess Parvati and Kali who guards the Valley and its people from all harm. The Vajrayogini here stands in a variation of the dynamic Aradhaparanyakasana- a dancing posture where her right leg is sharply raised in the air. Enlivened by the red color of the Vajrayogini, this Newari Thangka becomes a potent device for the sadhaka or initiate. 

(Masterpiece from The Collection of Rajendra Raj Bajracharya)

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Item Code: PAA829
Dimensions 18.90 inch Height X 14.20 inch Width
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100% Made in India
100% Made in India
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An ornate golden aureole forms a background for the Vajrayogini whose otherworldly being, emanates a pure fire that seems to be an extension of her being. In an artistic contrast to Vajarayogini’s blazing skin color, the rich blue of the aureole serves its purpose of highlighting the glory of the dancing Yogini. Her open tresses fly in an upward direction mirroring her intense energies and are encircled by yellow-shaded fires. The detailing on the Yogini’s ethereal ornamentation in this Newari Vajrayogini Thangka can be observed in her five-pronged Newari crown with delicate flowers on each prong and a row of five skulls clutching onto the elegant pearl strings of the crown, a paradoxical and meaningful union of the macabre with beauty. Vajrayogini in this brocadeless Thangka has been visualized as a youthful female with three eyes and tranquil expressions on her face. Golden and pearl ornaments embellish her torso and waist, to which hangs a tiger skin skirt. A flowing green brocaded scarf flutters around the dancing Vajrayogini hinting at the dynamism of the ambiance exquisitely. A long garland of skulls, Mundamala swings framing the red-hued body of Vajrayogini whose skull beads are defined with superb details. Underneath the Vajrayogini’s left foot lies a helpless human figure, representing the enemies of dharma (world order) who are trampled by the energies of the Yogini. A multicolor lotus blossoming from the pristine waters that flow in the foreground of the painting serves as the platform on which the spiritual performance of the red Vajrayogini ensues. The rightward tilt of her head, hair, and flames create a perfect sense of movement in this Newari brocadeless Vajrayogini Thangka.

Dancing in Tantra is the expression of achieving the zenith of supreme wisdom, it is the surrendering of the physical body to the energies of the divine, which course through it, causing a spurt of bliss in the heart of the Yogi. The flare of divine action that the dancing Vajrayogini embodies is accompanied by Shiva, the manifestation of the supreme male element in the form of a Shiva Lingam in the foreground of this Newari Thangka, near a burning human, remain, situated on whose funerary fires, the Vajrayogini whose dwelling place is the cremation ground travels the horizon, where she is known as the Akashayogini- she who voyages in the sky (Akash).

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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