Mandala of Yamantaka-Vajrabhairava
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Silk tapestry (kesi)
Overall: 96 5/8 x 82 5/16 in. (245.5 x 209 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1992
Not on view
Central Asian tapestry-weaving techniques and Indo-Himalayan imagery are here combined to stunning effect in this spectacular mandala, which was most likely used during an initiation ceremony at court. The donors at the bottom left are identified by Tibetan inscriptions as two of Khubilai Khan's great-grandsons: Tugh Temür, who reigned twice as emperor between 1328 and 1332, and his brother Khoshila, who reigned briefly in 1329. Their respective spouses are shown at the far right. This combination of individuals helps date the work to the period between 1330 and 1332.
The tapestry belongs to an Indo-Himalayan tradition of palace-architecture mandalas in which the principal deity, in this case Yamantaka-Vajrabhairava, stands in a circle within a square with gateways at the four cardinal directions and further enclosed by three additional rings. Yamantaka, shown with the head of a bull, conquers Yama, the Lord of Death, and by extension transcends death entirely. Like all terrifying protectors, Yamantaka takes many manifestations, a reflection of his enormous power. In this manifestation, he also embodies the powers of Vajrabhairava, who has the ability to spur destruction and thereby renewal.
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