Stupas in Orissa (Study)

by Meenakshi Chauley | 2013 | 109,845 words

This study examines the Stupas and Votive Stupas in Odisha or Orissa (Eastern India).—In this thesis an attempt has been made to trace the historicity of Buddhism in Odisha on the basis of the architectural development of the Stupa architecture. Archaeological evidence obtained from excavated sites dates such structures as early as third-second cen...

Buddha Images


In the Buddhist world it is believed that earth is composed of five skandhas (cosmic elements): rupa (form), vedana (sensation), samjna (name), sanskara (conformation) and vijanana (consciousness). These cosmic forces are confronted in Vajrayana as five Dhyani-B uddhas. In due course of time the Dhyani-B uddhas were considered as the gods responsible for diversified creation and thus Vajrayana took a polytheistic form, which was completely opposite to the concept which considers sunya as the one, Indivisible and Ultimate Reality and formulated the concept of the kulas or families of the five Dhyani-B uddhas from whom all other deities emanated.

Guhyasamaja Tantra the Buddhist text speaks of the origin of Dhyani-B uddhas, they are each given a mantra, a colour, a consort, a direction and a guardian of the gate. The Guhuasamaja Tantra describes about an enormous assembly of gods, Tathagatas, Bodhisattavas, saktis and various other divine beings. In the Assembly Lord Bodhicittavajra was requested by the Tathagatas to define the Tathagatamandala (magic circle of Dhyani-B uddhas); the Lord sat on a Samadhi (meditation) known as Jnanapradipa (lamp of knowledge), and his whole form started echoing with the sacred sound of VAJRADHRK which is the mantra of the Dvesa family. Soon the sounds transformed themselves into the shape of Aksobhya in bhumisparsha mudra.

In another Samadhi the sacred sound of JINAJIK echoed, the mantra of Moha family. The sounds compacted themselves into the form of Vairochana in dharmachakra mudra and was placed on the east of the Lord.

In the third Samadhi the sacred sound RATNDHRK echoes, the mantra of the Chintamani family. And soon sound compress in the form of Ratnaketu in varad mudra and is placed on the south of the Lord.

In the fourth Samadhi the sacred sound of AROLIK resonant, the mantra of the Vajraraga family. And the sound compacted themselves in the form of Amitabha in dhyana mudra and is placed on the west of the Lord.

In the fifth Samadhi the sacred sound of PRAJNADHRK resonant, the mantra of Samaya family. The sound compresses in the shape of Amoghasiddhi in abhaya mudra and is placed on the north of the Lord.

In the similar manner the female counter-parts of the Five Tathagatas are named and are placed in their appropriate positions.

The emanated deities of these Dhyani-B uddhas, hold the miniature figure of their respective Dhyani-B uddha on their crown and are placed in the same direction as is assigned to their sires.

The names, colours and the symbols of the five Dhyani-B uddhas are Vairochana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi and Aksobhya, their colours are white, yellow, red, green and blue and they exhibit their hands in dhramachakra (teaching), varad (boon), dhyana (meditation), abhaya (protection) and bhumisparsha (earth-touching) posture respectively.

The Dhyani-B uddhas are always depicted seated on a full blown lotus in prayankasana posture with both the soles of the feet turned upwards and most of the time the hand that rests on the lap holds a bowl on it. Generally the Dhyani-B uddhas are represented on the cardinal direction of the stupa and Vairochana is the deity of the inner shrine, thus generally he is unrepresented. Occasionally he is given a place between Ratnasambhava in the south and Aksobhya in the east. Independent shrines are also dedicated to Dhyani-B uddhas.

Bejewelled Buddha in dharmachakra-mudra

Vairochana is considered as the oldest and the first Dhyani-Buddha by the Nepalese Buddhists and he is regarded as the master of the whole temple therefore most of the time he is not depicted outside the stupa. When Vairochana is represented in human form he is white in colour and his two hands are held against the chest with the tips of the thumb and forefinger of each hand together in dharmachakra Mudra (Plate-XXXIV). A pair of Dragon is his vahana and his recognition symbol is a chakra.

Buddha in bhumisparsha-mudra

Aksobhaya is considered as the second Dhyani-Buddha by the Nepalese Buddhists, his description is available in Tantric literature. When he is depicted in the stupa he is facing the east. His left hand rests on the lap while the right hand rests on the knee with the palm drawn inwardly and the fingers touching the ground (Plate-XXXVI). His vahana is a pair of elephants and his identification symbol is the vajra.

Buddha in varad-mudra

Ratnasambhava is the third Dhyani-Buddha according to the Nepalese Buddhists. He is depicted in yellow colour and faces the south. His right hand displays varada mudra (Plate-CII) and his left hand rests on the lap. His vahana is a pair of lions and the recognition symbol is the jewel.

Buddha in dhyan-mudra

Amitabha is said to reside in the Sukhavati heaven in serene meditation, he is of red colour originating from the red syllable Hrih. When he is represented on a stupa he faces the west and according to Nepalese Buddhist Amitabha is the fourth Dhyani-Buddha. Both of his palms are placed one above the other on the lap forming dhyana Mudra (Plate-LXXXII). His vahana is a pair of peacocks and recognition symbol is the lotus.

Buddha in abhaya-mudra

Amoghasiddhi is the fifth Dhyani-Buddha according to the Nepalese Buddhists. His left hand rests on the lap and the right is in abhaya mudra (protection) (Plate-CVI). He is represented in green colour and faces the north. A pair of Garudas is his vahana and his recognition symbol is the double conventional thunderbolt.

Bodhisattva Manjusri

He occupies the highest position in the Buddhist pantheon. He is considered to be the God who showers transcendental wisdom, who confers knowledge, intelligence, retentive memory, etc. on his worshippers. Manjusri came to be recognized as a Bodhisattva rather early in the history of Mahayana (Plate-CXX). He is known to have enjoyed a great popularity among the Buddhist of all persuasions in all Buddhist countries from third century CE. where for the first time his name occurs in the Aryamanjusrimulakalpa.

Detailed information about Manjusri is found in Svayambhu-purana, describing the glories of the Svayambhuksetra in Nepal. Here he is depicted in the form of flame of fire. According to this Purana Manjusri lived in China on mount Pancasirsa (the hill of five peaks). He was a great saint with many followers including Dharmakara the king of Nepal. Manjusri built a temple over the flame of fire, built a vihara still known as the Manjupattana and reside in the nearby hillock. It is not clearly know when he shifted to Nepal from China, but by third century CE he was a wellknown Bodhisattava in most of the Asian Countries.

The manifestations of Manjusri in India are purely Indian or are influenced by the Indian tradition. The Buddhists believed in associating their gods and goddesses to the families of the five Dhyani-Buddhas. Sometimes in the Sadhanas he is considered as an offspring of Amitabha in red colour and sometimes of Aksobhay with the blue colour. There are forty-one Sadhanas in Sadhanamala devoted to Manjusri.


Another form has a ‘yellow’ color and is seated in lalitasana on a lion over a lion throne with two hands in dharmachakra mudra (Plate-CXXIII) and with a blue lily stalk passing by his left arm. The lion is absent in the images found in Orissa. The Lily is to be decked with rays of Visvakrin mantra, possibly a figurative way of suggesting a sacred text. He is decked with ornaments.


Manjughosha he is yellow, seated in lalitasana on lion throne (simhasana) two hands in vayakhyana (dharmachakra) mudra with an utpala (lily) held in it. Akshobhya is shown on his crest. He is decked in jewelled crown and is heavily ornamented. Accordingly to Sadhana number 52 he is kanakagaura-vasna meaning yellow of a light shade. He is seated on a lion (simhasana) with two hands in vyakhyana-mudra with an utpala in it. Akshobhya is shown on his crest. He is decked in all ornaments, Manjughosha has close resemblance with Manjuvara with the difference that the utpala does not bear a book on it and Manjughosha is depicted with utpala only on his left, but Manjuvara may have it on the either sides bearing a book.

Stupas with Arapachana

This form of Manjusri, though described to be ‘more used’, seems to have been rarely represented in Indian art. Sadhanamala describes the form of Manjusri. Arapchana is also known as Sadyonubhava-Arapchana or Sadyonubhava-Manjusri, he is magnificent like the full moon, has a smiling face, adorned with princely ornaments and sits on a visva-padma in vajraparyankasana. With his right arm he holds a sword which is depicted raised above his head and left with a manuscript held near chest (Plate-CXLI). The sword symbolizes the weapon which cuts off the cloud of ignorance and the manuscript, the text of the Prajnaparomita i.e. the book of transcendental wisdom.

Arapchana is popular in Tibet and China. In Tibet his sword in the right hand is replaced by the bell in the hand of a unique image (Bhattacharyya 1958:121).

Bodhisattava Avalokitesvara

Avalokitesvara is the most popular god in the Buddhist pantheon. He is the second Bodhisattva to be mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures, Manjusri being the first. He is said to have originated from Dhyani-Buddha Amitabha and his sakti, Pandara and is to be the ruling divinity during the present kalpa (bhadrakalpa) i.e. from the end of Buddhas time to the coming of Maiterya. He is believed to have created the fourth world, which is the actual universe, and he is therefore our creator. It is why he is called Lokesvara or Lokanatha, both meaning the lord of the universe (Plate-CXIV CXVII).

As Avalokitesvara is associated with a mountain, has led some scholars to interpret the name Avalokitesvara as the ‘lord’ who from his high moral position and principles, looks upon all created beings whom he has vowed that till they attain the transcendental wisdom. Maitri and compassion (karuna) were the means by which he tries to achieve this end. One of the passages in Karandavyuha shows him in the form of all gods of all religions, even in the form of father and mother to impart knowledge of Dharma.

Shadaksari Lokesvara

In one of the passage in Sadhnamala (p.27) it is said that “The worshipper should think himself as Shadhaksari Lokesvara who is adorned with ornaments, white in colour and four armed, carrying the lotus in the left arm and the rosary in the right. The principle hands are in anjali mudra. To his right is Manidhara with the same colour and same posture sitting on a double petalled lotus. To the left is Shadaksari Mahavidhya in the similar manner seated on another lotus” (Plate-CLXXV).

In one of the stanza of the Sadhana; the mantra assigned to this form of Avalokitesvara is “Om Manipadme Hum” which confines of six syllables consecrating in the form of Shadaksari Mahavidhya.

Jata-mukata Lokesavra

He is four-armed and four-faced and has an effigy of dhyani-Buddha Amitabha on his crown. The two right hands shows the rosary and the varada pose, while the two left hold the lotus and the water pot (Plate-CXVII).

Bodhisattva Vajrapani

He seems to be an adoption of Sakra (Indra) of Hindu mythology. In the Gandhara art, in the context of the representation of the Buddhist myths and legends, there frequently appears the figure of a person with thunderbolt (vajra). Vajra is the characteristic ayudha of Sakra of Hindu mythology and this personage in the Buddhist context come to be known as Vajrapani, a name also associated with Sakra.

In the Buddhist pantheon Vajrapani came to be regarded as the Bodhisattva of DhyaniBuddha Aksobhaya, the progenitor of the Vajra family accordingly to the Kaula School. He is generally shown in a triad with two other gods though also represented independently. In some images Buddha is seen to be accompanied by Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani. The triad of Manjusri, Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani is also not unknown.

Accordingly to Sadhnamala 18 he is one of the 8 Bodhisattvas in the mandals of Lokanatha. He is white in colour with a vajra in one hand and the other in varad pose. He is to have Vajra on lotus in left hand and chamara (yak tail flywhisk) in right (Plate-CXXXIV).

Bodhisattva Maitreya

In the Buddhist pantheon Maitreya has a dual personality. He is considered to be the future Buddha to come for the establishment of the last truth in all their purity (Plate-CXXIX). In the mean time he is supposed to be residing in the Tushita-heaven as a Bodhisattva and Sakyamuni Gautama is believed to have visited him there and appointed him as his successor. In Buddhist art he has been represented in his two-fold existence as the Buddha to be and as a Bodhisattva.

He is being consulted by Buddhist Arhants for clarifications of various religious matters. Asanga, who was one of the earliest teachers to graft the philosophy of tantra on Mahayana, is also supposed to have visited Maitreya in Tushita-heaven and to have been initiated by him in the mystic doctrine of the tantra. Certain sects hence believed Maitreya to be the founder of the founder of the Tantric from of Buddhism

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