The Indian Buddhist Iconography

by Benoytosh Bhattachacharyya | 1958 | ISBN-10: 8173053138 | ISBN-13: 9788173053139

This page contains an iconography image of Nilakantha and represents figure 116 of the book Indian Buddhist Iconography, based on extracts of the Sadhanamala English translation. These plates and illustrations represent either photographs of sculptures or line-drawing reproductions of paintings or other representations of Buddhist artwork.

Figure 116 - Nīlakaṇṭha

Figure 116: Nīlakaṇṭha

One Sādhana only is devoted to the worship of this [Nīlakaṇṭha] form of Lokeśvara, which is almost identical with that of Amitābha, his sire, whose image he bears on his head. Indeed, this mark of descent and the sacred thread he wears, constitute the only points of difference between them. Amitābha being a Dhyāni Buddha, has no father. Nīlakaṇṭha, according to the Sādhana, is accompanied by two serpents.

Apparently, the conception of this god has been modelled on the Hindu deity Siva, who is said to have saved the world from destruction by swallowing the poison that issued from the mouth of Vāsukī, the lord of serpents, while the gods and demons were churning the ocean together. The poison, could it have entered Śiva’s stomach, would surely have destroyed him, but it remained in his throat, and as the colour of the poison is said to be blue, there is a blue spot in the white throat of the god. That is the reason why the name Nīlakaṇṭha (Blue-throat) has been given to Śiva. As this particular form of Lokeśvara has also the same name, it may well be that its origin was the Hindu god Śiva Nīlakaṇṭha.

A confusion is likely to arise in the identification of the images of Nīlakaṇṭha and Vajrarāga, a variety of Mañjuśrī, if their respective sires are not represented. The only point of distinction in that case would be the total absence of ornaments and rich garments in the case of Nīlakaṇṭha. If the image bears princely ornaments and is richly clad, it must be identified as that of Mañjuśrī.

In the temple of Bodhnath in Nepal, a coloured image of this god is found, but here he is alone, without the serpents. The other image, (Fig. 116) hails from the monastery at Sarnath. In this sculpture two tiny figures carrying bowls are seen instead of two serpents.

One statuette of this deity occurs in the Chinese collection.

Colour: yellow;
Āsana: vajraparyaṅka;
Mudrā: samādhi;
Symbol: bowl of jewels;
Companions: two serpents on either side;