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Ushnishavijaya with Myriad Stupas, dated 1533

Nepal, 1533-1533
Opaque watercolor on cotton
20-3/8 x 16-7/8 in. (51.8 x 42.9 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Doris Wiener
© Norton Simon Museum

Not on view

It is rare to find inscriptions on religious works of art, which makes the very specific details of this painting’s commission all the more interesting. The inscription at the bottom of the painting states that it was sponsored by the scholar-priest Mayikundi and others on Sunday in the dark half of the month of Sravana (July–August) in the year 1533.

The painting depicts the Buddhist goddess of wisdom and longevity, Ushnishavijaya, whose name refers to the Buddha’s supernatural cranial protuberance (ushnisha). The goddess is depicted in the central stupa (reliquary), which is surrounded by “one hundred thousand” smaller stupas. Part of the goddess’s worship in Nepal includes the dedication of stupas. Depicted above Ushnishavijaya are the five transcendental Buddhas, with Vairochana, her parental Buddha, at the center. Beneath the goddess is a consecration scene in which a group of men, on the right, and women, on the left, flank an image of Avalokiteshvara.

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