The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism

The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism

The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism

The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism

Excerpt

Tibetan iconography is a most interesting subject from the standpoint of both religion and art. The few books which have been written on the subject are for the learned scholar who has knowledge of Buddhism and its symbolism. For the student the identification of the images is very difficult, since the Tibetan religious works which have been translated and which usually contain accurate descriptions of the deities are not accessible to the general public. The only sources of information are the museums and books such as those by Pander, Grünwedel and Waddell, which are not easy to obtain. The purpose of this book is to give the student interested in Tibetan iconography a general idea of the development of Buddhism into Lamaism, and to make easier the identification of the various deities of the Tibetan pantheon. The Sanskrit terminology, which is the customary medium for the description of Buddhist deities and symbols, has been used throughout, except in those instances where the deities or ritual objects are indigenous or purely local and only the Tibetan names are known.

In the charts which follow, the object is to give a descriptive outline of the principal Gods of the Tibetan pantheon, those which are commonly encountered in sculpture and in painting. There are probably many inconsistencies, for some deities have many forms and variations, depending on the specific purposes for which they are invoked.

By making these charts, it is hoped that identification has been simplified considerably for the student and that he will be sufficiently interested to continue his studies and researches in this fascinating and comparatively unexplored subject.

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