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Celebration of peace and harmony

Archana Mishra, Jan 21, 2013, DHNS:

Cultural Congregation

During the 10th-11th century, the world was blessed with a great saint and philosopher. Though he has been almost forgotten in India,  the man still remains an outstanding personality in countries where Buddhism prevails. He is, Atisa Dipankara Srijnana, the spiritual father of the Dalai Lama. 

To celebrate the life of this Buddhist saint, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts recently conducted a conference and exhibition. It threw light on the journey of Atisa in redefining Buddhism through his teachings in different countries.

The three-day event was an attempt towards building a cultural bridge between India and China. It was contribution of documentation from remote areas by several scholars, archeologists, explorers and spiritual leaders to bring alive the legacy of Atisa in India.


The exhibition portrayed the trans-cultural renaissance through photo documentation from Bangladesh – Atisa’s birth place; Indian monasteries where he studied and was indoctrinated; Indonesia, where Atisa went on a perilous journey to study under the world renowned teacher Dharmakriti; Vikramshila University, where  he had a lengthy career as a Rector/abbot; Nepal, the route that  he took to go to Tibet and the monasteries and temples in Western and Central Tibet ( China) where he stayed.

Besides highlighting Atisa’s extraordinary contribution in popularising the message of Buddhism in foreign lands, the exhibition brought into light the colourful rituals of Buddhism like making Sand Mandala and butter sculptures that are practiced in monasteries by lamas.

Sand mandala, at a first glance seem like rangoli but when seen carefully, the difference is visible. Colourful and vibrant, the sand mandalas are made from coloured sands particles. It has complex intricate geometric patterns that define different aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. Lamas from Palpong Sherabling, who made these sand mandala called ‘Akshobhaya’ in three days, informed about this difficult art form and their significance.

“We draw an outline of the mandala on wooden platform. Thereafter, coloured sands is laid inside different designs like conch shells, lotus. For this intricate work, we pour the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-purs. A metal rod is run on the surface of chak-pur so that the vibration causes the sand to flow like a liquid,” says lama Karmat Shering.

Apprising about mandala’s significance, he says, “Sand mandalas are made on different occasions. It is a ritual to bring peace and to protect ourselves from bad desires and intentions.” Similarly, butter sculptures, made from vegetable ghee and flour, are  an offering to Atisa.

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