This brilliant piece of art, a brass statue with forty-inch height, anodised as glowing copper, represents Vairochana Buddha, one of the Buddha's lately evolved forms. The earliest example of Vairochana Buddha in arts is estimated to come from the seventh century in the form of a book-cover, now in Pritzker Collection. The book-cover image is in meditating posture, but later there evolved other forms of Vairochana Buddha; hence, the meditating Vairochana Buddha form is sometimes addressed also as Pritzker Vairochana Buddha.
Vairochana Buddha represents one of the directional Buddhas of the Vajrayana pentad. Initially, the Buddha was conceived to have three forms : Sambhogakaya, that is, the body of bliss the regally adorned resplendent body claiming Buddha's spiritual majesty; Dharmakaya, that is, invisible, formless 'dharma' body; and, Nirmanakaya, that is, the mortal body of a monk. Subsequently, Vajrayana came out with a concept of five transcendental and directional Buddhas, who came to be known as the Vajrayana pentad. Vairochana Buddha was the centre amongst this pentad.
The Vajrayana form of Vairochana Buddha was more or less a new version of Sambhogakaya form of the Buddha's initial imagery. In the beginning, Vairochana Buddha form was not much popular; but after there emerged the text 'Mahavairochana Sutra', in around 780 A. D., and was translated in Tibetan, the popularity of Vairochana Buddha, both amongst devotees as also in artistic representations, was tremendously increased. In Tibetan, the relevant term was translated as 'the Buddha parè', which meant 'regal Buddha', and this practically gave birth to an emperor-like embellished form of Vairochana Buddha. Later, this form traveled from hills down to plains and at Kurkihar-type Buddhist centres, there emerged a similar form of Buddha, usually named the crowned Buddha. The form gained as much popularity in the entire Indian subcontinent. Those who advocated for a Buddha-form with crown, argued that Buddha was the supreme of all kings. He was Chakravartin, a term denoting the conqueror of all, though in the Buddha's case it was the conqueror of all sin and desire.
There is reflected unique majesty and a monarch's grandeur in the figure's iconography, emotional disposition, costume, ornaments, and even in the seat. Though the statue comprises only the deity's image and the 'pitha' he is seated on, it as much defines the total ambience. The holy image is installed on a two-fold triangular 'pitha', though with its corners moulded its angularity has been diluted, and it harmoniously aligns with the sitting posture of the deity. Technically, the 'pitha' is a lotus seat, but not comprising a lotus, or two; it has, instead, multitudinous lotuses piling for reaching the contemplated height. The Buddha is seated in 'padmasana', and in the yogi's posture his both palms lie on his lap, almost fully buried into the folds of his 'dhoti'. The lotus marks, which define the palms and feet of Boddhisattvas, are missing here; obviously, because, as Vairochana Buddha, he had attained the stage beyond such auspicious things. They were for them who had to still attain that status.
The image has been conceived with a broad forehead and as broad a face. The bow-like curving eyebrows align with the contours of the nose and create a pleasant geometry. The nose is sharp but not very prominent. The chignon is knotted with a floral band, and the conventional 'urna' has transformed into a regular 'tilaka'. One of the most beautiful features of the image is its sumptuous costume the 'dhoti', 'khata' and sash. As if cascading from above, the pleats of the 'dhoti' have collected on the seat in front of the image, besides on deity's legs. The 'khata' is simply wrapped around the left shoulder, chest and belly, but the sash adorns the neck, shoulders and arms and also flanks on both sides creating unique beauty for eyes.
The image has on its head an ostentatiously bejewelled crown divided into five leaves, the central one being the larger. It has no emblem atop. Other ornaments 'kundalas', necklace, garland, bangles, armlets, bracelets, anklets, and girdle, are as lavish and richly conceived. The 'kundalas' are designed as earrings with the hollow centre; the necklace is broad-patterned, designed with the Shrimukha emblem on its central part; and, garland and girdle are delicately modelled. However, these are armlets and bracelets, which of all ornaments are the most beautiful.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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