India Design Motifs The Lotus, Part Six


May 24, 2011 — CANADA (SUN) — A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

In our last segment we mentioned the geometric aspects of padmasana, the lotus pedestal upon which Sri Chakram yantra is situated. We'll now begin a comparative look at how the padmasana is represented in Vaisnava, Buddhist, Jain and Balinese Vedic art.

In yesterday's segment, four unique representations of padmasana were shown, and each was unique in its design. In the Ravi Varma painting, Laksmi Devi stands upon a somewhat realistic lotus, fully open. Sri Chakram is mounted on a double-petalled padmasana, both rows of sharply pointed petals in the downward position. Next to it is the balipitha, which features a single row of downward pointing petals, but this time the petals are very long and rounded at the end.

In the Radha-Krsna Carana image, we see the Lotus Feet of Their Lordships in a traditional Vaisnava styled padmasana, being a wide base with a double row of fairly narrow petals. Less typical is the boldly defined center surface representing the fruit seeds.

In the image below, another classic Vaisnava motif, we see Lord Narayana and Laksmi Devi seated upon a somewhat similar padmasana. In this example, which is very typical of North Indian paintings, the lotus petal tips are somewhat rounded, tinged with pink, and the double row of petals is layered one atop the other. By comparison, the Radha-Krsna Carana image has the bottom row of petals spread flat.

Sri Sri Laksmi-Narayana on Padmasana
Kangra, c. 1840

In the images below we see three more examples, this time of Buddhist padmasanas. All three are double-petal motifs, and each is uniquely different from the examples mentioned above.

Padmasana of Amida Nyorai Buddha, Japan

The first is a famous padamasana of the Amida Nyorai Buddha, the principle image in the Buddhist Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in. This piece is considered to be one of the National Treasures of Japan. It is dated to 1053 A.D., made of wood with gold leaf.

Somewhat similar to the configuration of the Radha-Krsna Carana padmasana, the double rows of petals on this padmasana are opposing, but the motif is not as 'flat' as the Vaisnava image. Instead, the bottom petals point more sharply downward, creating a striking double-cone effect. The petals are beautifully colored, and ornately figured on the bottom row.

In the following two examples of Buddhist padmasanas, on the left is a double row of petals, nested together with very rounded upward tips. On the right is what is known as the classic "double petal" motif in Buddhist sculpture. In this case, the opposing petals are pointing straighter, up and down, giving a broader waist to the double-cone shape. The waist is further defined by a beaded row.

While these examples are from Buddhist statuary, they are certainly not design motifs found only in Buddhist temple art. Many pieces of Vaisnava statuary, from deities and murtis to more casual art pieces, are found seated upon similar configurations of the lotus padmasana.

Buddha Padamasanas

In our next segment, we'll look at some of the Jain and Balinese Vedic motifs of padmasana.


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