Newari Padma Nrityanath Lokeshvara (Brocadeless Thangka)

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 Nritya or dance in the East is synonymous with acts of cosmic creation and destruction. The world with all its beauty owes its origin and annihilation to the lyrical movement of the divine energy. In this visually enchanting Newari brocadeless Thangka, the artist has visualized the most revered Bodhisattva in Nepal Buddhism- Padmapani (Padma-lotus, Paani- hand, one who carries the lotus) Lokeshvara (one who gazes on the creation) immersed in the dance of celestial creation. Lush foliage which symbolizes the beginning of natural life is painted in vibrant shades around the dancing Lokeshvara, giving his dynamic posture a fitting aureole. Lokeshvara in Newari culture is seen as an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, who is also known as Nataraja or Nrityeshvara (Lord of Dance) and is exalted by the Newars as Nasadyah (the Lord of Dance and music). Combining the imagery of Shiva as the cosmic dancer with that of Padmapani Lokeshvara who is the manifestation of compassion- “Karunamaya”, this Nrityanatha Padmapani Lokeshvara Thangka is a devoted celebration of the kindness that moves and dances in each aspect of the universe, making an Enlightened Life possible for the troubled souls.

(From The Collection of Rajendra Raj Bajracharya)

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Item Code: PAA814
Dimensions 21.70 inch Height X 15.40 inch Width
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The Newari Nrityanatha Padmapani Lokeshvara Thangka is bordered by deep red and black which is also used in the background of its enlivened central image, helping the observer to focus solely on the vigor that exudes from the figure of Avalokiteshvara. Padmapani is presented in a heavenly eight-armed form, with six of his hands carrying exquisite pink lotuses which in the Buddhist faith are symbolic of the enlightened state of mind. His primary left hand is in the Gajahasta mudra (hand mimicking the trunk of an elephant), a hand gesture shared by Nrityanath with Nataraja Shiva, while one of his right hands extends upwards conveying an elegant movement with its positioning. Lokeshvara is wearing the distinctive Nepali five-pronged gold crown on his head, heavy round earrings, a series of pearl and jeweled necklaces, armbands, bracelets, and anklets. His gold necklace studded with fine gems and the elaborately patterned front piece of his girdle sway magnificently to his left and right respectively, enriching the Thangka with a mesmeric sense of motion. Increasing the exuberance of this Newari Padma Nrityanatha Lokeshvara, the artist has offered a rich silken violent-orange scarf to the Bodhisattva that forms hypnotic upward curls on his side and brocaded yellow dhoti (lower body garment) complemented by a royal blue waist cloth that suits the stature of Padmapani. His legs are positioned in the Ardhaparanyaka posture, with his right leg raised in the air and his left leg carrying the weight of his enthrallingly mobile body.

Padmapani is placed on a Padma (lotus) that grows from the cosmic waters from where all life forms emerge at the dawn of creation. The lotus with its stem located in the waters and its body separated from it underlines the ability of Lokeshvara to rise above the murkiness of the human realm and yet be forever situated in it to help those who need him. Ethereally calm, the face of Nrityanatha appears to be untouched by the spiritedness (marked by the red halo) that surrounds him. He is situated amid action, he is the source of all action but just like the lotus flower, Padmapani Lokeshvara stands majestically detached from the world and worldliness.

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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