Jambhala is shown here in intimate union with his consort. The depiction of sexual imagery has immense significance in Buddhist art. Male and female elements are nothing but symbols of the countless pairs of opposites (e.g. love and hate; good and evil etc.) which one experiences in mundane existence. Sexual imagery can also be understood as a metaphor for enlightenment, with its qualities of satisfaction, bliss, unity and completion.
He is shown corpulent and covered with jewels. His right foot is pendant and supported by a lotus flower on which is a conch shell.
A Thangka is a painted banner which is hung in a monastery or a family altar and carried by lamas in ceremonial processions. In Tibetan the word 'than' means flat and the suffix 'ka' stands for painting. The Thangka is thus a kind of painting done on flat surface but which can be rolled up when not required for display.
Thangkas with a black background like this one form a special category of contemplative paintings. They are a highly mystical and esoteric type, usually reserved for advanced practise. Black is the color of hate, transmuted by the alchemy of wisdom into the ultimate-reality-perfection wisdom. The dark connotes death, which enlightenment converts into the Body of Truth. It is used for terrific ritual actions, the radical conquest of evil in all its forms-conquest not by annihilating, but by turning even evil into good. Thus, in the black paintings (Tib. Nagtang) the black ground casts forth deities in luminous visions of translucent color.
This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.
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