Himalayan Art Resources item no. 13440
The design of a stupa, such as the current work, is based upon the three-dimensional mandala. The square stupa base is adorned with a single row of lotus petals. Above the double-step, on each face of the stupa is a niche with a corresponding repoussé image depicting the Guardians of the Four Directions—Dhritarashtra (East), Vaishravana (North), Virupaksha (West) and Virudhaka (South). The Four Guardians protect the four torana or gates of the outer level of the stupa as mandala. Each guardian is flanked by adorsed snow lions and filigree motifs, below a further single row of lotus petals. A further step is elegantly inlaid with semi-precious stones.
Rising from a further single row of lotus petals are four steps which represent the Four Immeasurables, adorned with a Lantsa inscription, likely a Buddhist invocation. A silver garbhaya or dome edged with lotus petals rests atop the four steps. This womb-shaped dome represents the original shape of reliquary mounds, later stylised to resemble an upside-down alms bowl. The ungilt garbhaya is delicately ornamented with a row of freshwater pearls and gilt-copper beading. Within the main face of the garbhaya is a gilt copper niche adorned with inlaid stone, revealing a copper repoussé protector deity with traces of gilding and red polychromy. The harmika or square railing marks the outer boundary of the garbhaya, further adorned with inlaid stone and a row of lotus petals, out of which arise the tiered spire representing the thirteen steps of enlightened consciousness of the Buddha. The parasol or chattra is depicted with undulating rows of copper beads, and surmounted by a crescent moon, sun and lotus bud.
Compare the stupa form and Lantsa inscription with an eighteenth century thangka depicting a Vijaya Stupa, see Gerd-Wolfgang Essen, et al., Die Gotter des Himalaya: Buddhistische Kunst Tibets, Munich, 1989, pp. 46-47, cat. no. I-17.
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