Author: Lokesh Chandra
Publisher: Aditya Prakashan
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8177420631
The Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography is an endeavour of half a century to identify, classify, describe and delineate the bewildering variation in Buddhist icons. It spans the last twenty centuries, and it is a comparative study of unprecedented geographic variations, besides the ever-evolving visualizations of great masters who introduced extraordinary plurality of divine forms in the dharanis and sadhanas.
The multiple forms of a theonym arise in varying contexts. For example, Hevajra of the Hevajra-tantra holds crania in his hands, while the Hevajra of the Samputa-tantra has weapons. Both are subdivided into four each on the planes of kaya, vak, citta and hrdaya, with two, four, eight and sixteen arms. The Dictionary classifies several such types of a deity and places each in its theogonic structure, specifies the earliest date of its occurrence(e.g. Amoghapasa appears in Chinese in AD 587), the earliest image, the direction in which it is place in the specific quarter of the mandala, its classification, colour, crown or hairdo, ferocious or serene appearance, number of eyes and heads, hair standing up and/or flaming, number of arms and attributes held in them, consort, lord of the family (kulesa), and so on. The esoteric name, symbolic form (samaya), bija (hierogram), mantra, mudra and mandala are given in this Dictionary for the first time and on an extensive scale. The Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu and other names are given under the main entry, as well as cross-referenced in their own alphabetic order.
The Dictionary details the characteristic attributes, chronology and symbolism of over twelve thousand main and minor deities. It reflects the extraordinary cultural, literary, aesthetic and spiritual achievements of several nations of Asia over two millennia.
It will help to identify the masterpieces along with the profusion of masters and divine beings around them. The last few decades have seen an exuberant flourishing of the study and popularization of the patrimony of Buddhist art for its aesthetic magnificence. This Dictionary will add a dimension of precision and depth of perception to the visual tradition of paintings and sculptures.
Beyond intellection, surrounded by the transfinites of images that are a home to pensive reflections, this volume is again a whirlwind of forms that weave the threads of our inner being, in the constant yonder-faring of Buddhist iconography.
Vajravarahi is shown in two intersecting triangles that represent the basic sricakra. She is the vanquisher of enemies, as her invocations indicate: ajite, aparajite unconquered, vijaye victorious, trasani marani prabhedani parajaye you terrify, kill, tear to pieces, and conquer. She reminds of the Varaha incarnation of Visnu. The demon king Hiranyaksa dragged the earth to the bottom of the ocean and threatened to take heaven by storm. The terrified gods appealed to Visnu who assumed the form of Varaha, slew the demon king, and raised up the earth. See my article Vajravarahi as the protectress of Khotan (to be published in the journal Kala-Kalpa). She is the consort of Hevajra as well as of Cakrasamvara whose rites were employed by emperor Kublai Khan for his campaigns against South China and SE Asia. Deities and their rites have been powerful imperatives of sacred and secular concerns of humanity. Subjugation of dark inner forces, as well as the vanquishment of enemies, both have been structured in the sanctified universes of the Divine.