Mandala of the Sun God Surya
dated 1379 (?)
Tangka, gouache on cotton
Image: 32 5/8 × 21 1/2 in. (82.9 × 54.6 cm)
Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation and Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2012
Not on view
This superb mandala is devoted to the solar deity Surya and bears a date most likely read as 1379, making it one of only two known Nepalese paintings of the fourteenth century. It carries the name of both the principal donor and the artist—the latter an extremely rare occurrence in Himalayan art—and declares that it was painted when the donor performed a ceremony so that he might be forgiven for negative karma. This ritual is depicted in the bottom register, with the donor, Bhisnudeveshvara, at center. His family is also present. To the left, a Vajracharya priest performs a fire sacrifice.In the mandala above, Surya rides his chariot wearing so-called northern dress (Scythian, west Asian)—armor, tunic, and boots. He holds lotuses in his raised hands. He is attended by Pratuyusa (early morning) and Usa (sunrise or dawn), who face outward and shoot arrows of light to dispel darkness. Facing inward, his consorts Rajni (night) and Caya (shadow) moderate the “heat” of the Sun God. The mandala is ringed by the eight planetary deities and together with Surya constitute the navagraha, so important for Newar devotional practices. Altogether 108 deities are shown, an auspicious number in both Buddhist and Hindu contexts.