A Nepalese Manuscript and Potalaka

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 8 13:56:43 UTC 1998

There are interesting and important Potalaka material
in Buddhist tradition all around.

1) In Tibet: Po ta la'i lam yig, contained in
the bsTan'gyur, was written by Spyan ras gzigs dban
p'yug, supposed to be Avalokitezvara himself.
(G. Tucci, 1958, Minor Buddhist texts, Part 2, Rome)
This travel account to Potala must be studied.
Then, TArAnAtha (b. 1575) narrates the travel
of 'Saantivarman to Potala. After all this, of course,
Potala palace, Dalai Lama's home, is built.

2) M.-T. de Mallmann, Introduction a l'etude
d'Avalokitezvara, 1967 shows a Pala era
Avalokitezvara. First published by Stella Kramrisch.
(You know her at Penn.). This image contains
inscription: zrI potalake lokanAtha. It is
in Indian museum, Calcutta. This avalokita
is seated in a mountain grotto, just as
GaNDavyUha and Xuanzang describe Potalaka
in the Malaya mountain. Flora and fauna
in a rain forest mountain.

3) Sung dynasty Guanyins in wood, bronze, etc.,
also follow the same pattern. Just like
GaNDavyUha and Xuanzang describe Potalaka
in the Malaya mountain. There are amazing
parallels between Avalokitezvara found
in NakapaTTinam, Tamil Parvati bronzes,
Sri Lankan Avalokitezvaras and Sung
dynasty Guanyins. All seated in
rAjalIlAsana posture. What is unique
in Sung wooden sculptures is that Guanyin
is placed in a grotto of a mount (Potalaka)
full of vegetation and wildlife.

More later,
N. Ganesan

S. Palaniappan writes:

In the book "Expansion of Indo-Aryan Culture During Pallava Rule"
January 1965) B. Ch. Chhabra presents his thesis about the pivotal role
by the Pallava influence in South-East Asia. This is based on his
work at the State University of Leyden, Holland in 1934.

In this he says, "A Nepalese manuscript, containing miniature paintings
famous Buddhist sanctuaries and deities worshipped in India and abroad,
mentions  temples raised to Avalokitezvara in KaTAha and zrivijayapura.
the manuscript is much later, the sanctuaries depicted in the miniatures
have existed in the 6th and 7th centuries. The same manuscript mentions
sanctuary at the mount Potalaka, which is mentioned by Hieun Tsiang,
Since this Chinese pilgrim travelled in India in the first half of the
century, it shows that the Buddhist shrines mentioned in the Nepalese
manuscript may have been in existence a considerable time anterior to
the date
of the manuscript in question.

What is characteristic of this colonial Brahmanism and Buddhism is that
present a blending which is unknown in India. ziva and Buddha are often
represented as identical. maJjuzrI, for example, in the Kelurak
inscription is
praised in these terms: ayaM sa vajradhRk zrI-mAn brahmA viSNur
Moreover, avalokitezvara seems to occupy the same place in Buddhism as
agastyain Brahmanism. The latter appears as an attendant to ziva in the
manner as avalokitezvara to Zakyamuni. Then  again they are worshipped
separately as saviours of the world..." (p.80-1)

Apparently, the Nepalese manuscript is cited by A. Foucher  in Etude sur
l'iconogr. Bouddhique, Paris, 1900.

It will be interesting to find out what that Nepalese mansucript says

S. Palaniappan

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