Gouache on Cotton Canvas
36 x 49 cm
Collection of Pradeep Shakya
The 108 Lokeśvara is an important aspect of Newar Buddhism, which developed in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Lokeśvara is the Bodhisattva of compassion, and the 108 forms are considered to represent different aspects of this quality. The Lokeśvara are also Bodhisattva who vowed to liberate sentient beings from all kinds of suffering. Their Praṇidhāna (vow/determination) was so selfless that they sacrificed their own attainment of enlightenment to say in real for the sake of liberating the beings. It is the Bodhisattva vow to commit to putting the welfare of others before one’s own and to work for the liberation of all beings from suffering. It is considered to be the highest level of spiritual aspiration. Hence, the 108 Lokeśvaras are also known as Karuṇāmaya, or the deity having immense and unconditional compassion.
The Ārya Avalokiteśvara occupies a significant position within the group of 108 Lokeśvara, being regarded as the foremost among them. The Avalokiteśvara is a prominent Bodhisattva depicted in Buddhist literary works, including the Saddharmapuṇḍarikā, Gunakāranḍavyūha Sutra, and Sukhavativyūha Sūtra. This literary work portrays Avalokiteśvara as perpetually involved in enhancing the well-being of sentient beings. He undertook a descent into the realm known as Avicī hell with the purpose of alleviating the afflictions experienced by the sentient beings residing within that domain. He performed this action driven by his sense of empathy and set them free. The Lokeśvara imparted the teachings of Buddha to the individuals, resulting in the cultivation of Bodhicitta inside each of them, which facilitated their ability to transcend the torment experienced in the realm of hell.
The artist adeptly captures the symbolism of Ārya Avalokiteśvara in his picture. The deity is shown as being of a white complexion and is predominantly portrayed in either seated or standing postures. He is additionally famous for his association with the Padma, a symbol represented by a lotus flower. Shrestha’s portrayal predominantly aligns with the artistic characteristics of Paubhā and Thangka, with an appealing background of scenic landscapes and a vivid color palette in the foreground. The painting is accompanied by a skillfully executed border frame, which showcases the depiction of water dragons, with Garuḍa positioned above and elephants positioned below.