Achala, Destroyer of Ignorance, with Consort
Tangka, gouache on cotton
Image: 34 1/8 × 25 7/8 in. (86.7 × 65.7 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2012
Not on view
With its dazzling colors, dynamic figures, and imposing scale, this tangka, a visualization of the Chandamaharoshana tantra—the meditational text devoted to Achala—is among the most powerful examples of Nepalese religious art known. Achala (literally, “immovable”) is a wrathful manifestation of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and, in Nepalese Buddhism, a manifestation of Chakrasamvara. He is popularly associated with magic, healing, and protection from disease. Crowned, jeweled, and grasping a sword, Achala cuts through the veil of ignorance. His left hand, holding a vajra-tipped noose to catch the ignorant, gestures in admonition. He is locked in sexual embrace with his consort Dveshavajri. The pair visually expresses the bliss of enlightenment that can be achieved by the combination of the right knowledge (prajna, female) and the right method (upaya, male). Framing the couple, the enflamed field of knowledge contains manifestations of Achala and of Dveshavajri (colored in correspondence to the directions outlined in the tantra). Surrounding the flaming mandorla, mahasiddhas alternate with the eight auspicious symbols (mangala). Four large deities from the Highest Yoga Tantra occupy the corners of the central field, and the upper and lower registers contain various esoteric deities engaged in sexual embrace. In the lower left corner is a monk in Tibetan-style garments conducting ritual initiations, and to the lower right are the donor and his family.