Buddhist practice and Buddhist art have been inseparable in the Himalayas ever since Buddhism arrived to the region in the eighth century. But for the casual observer it can be difficult to make sense of the complex iconography. Not to worry—Himalayan art scholar Jeff Watt is here to help. In this “Himalayan Buddhist Art 101” series, Jeff is making sense of this rich artistic tradition by presenting weekly images from the Himalayan Art Resources archives and explaining their roles in the Buddhist tradition.
This week Jeff explains the significance of purba, a ritual implement and corresponding deity.
Himalayan Art 101: Purba
There exist a number of variant iconographic forms of the deity Dorje Purba. One very popular meditation practice focusing on the early teacher Padmasambhava depicts him in a wrathful form with one face, two arms, and the lower half of the body in the shape of a purba. Thus, in addition to being an important Nyingma meditational deity, Purba is also expressed in the lower body form of many other deities.
Learn more about purba from Himalayan Art Resources here. See the buffalo headed purba in high-resolution here. And the Vajrakīla mandala retinue figure here. For Guru Drapur, click here. And to see more deities with a “Kīla” lower body, click here.