Author: Lokesh Chandra
Publisher: Aditya Prakashan
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8177420410
The Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography is an endeavour of half a century to identify, classify, describe and delineated the bewildering variation in Buddhist icons. It spans the last twenty centuries, and it is a comparative study of unprecedented geographic variations, besides the ever-evolving visualizations of great masters who introduced extraordinary plurality of divine forms in the dharanis and sadhanas.
The multiple forms of a theonym araise in varying contexts. For example, Hevajra of the Hevajra-tantra holds crania in his hands, while the Hevajra of the Samputa-tantra has weapons. Both are subdivided into four each on the planes of Kaya, vak, citta and hrdaya, with two, four, eight and sixteen arms. The Dictionary classifies several such types of a deity and places each in its theogonic structure, specifies the earliest date of its occurrence (e. g. Amoghapasa appears in Chinese in AD 587), the earliest image, the direction in which it is placed in the specific quarter of the mandala, its classification, colour, crown or hairdo, ferocious or serene appearance, number of eyes and heads, hair standing up and / or flaming, number of arms and attributes held in them, consort, lord of the family (kulesa), and so on. The esoteric name, symbolic form (samaya), bija (hierogram), mantra, mudra and mandala are given in this Dictionary for the first time and on an extensive scale. The Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu and other names are given under the main entry, as well as cross-referenced in their own alphabetic order.
The Dictionary details the characteristic attributes, chronology and symbolism of over twelve thousand main and minor deities. It reflects the extraordinary cultural, literary, aesthetic and spiritual achievements of several nations of Asia over two millennia.
It will help to identify the masterpieces along with the profusion of masters and divine beings around them. The last few decades have seen an exuberant flourishing of the study and popularisation of the patrimony of Buddhist art for its aesthetic magnificence. This Dictionary will add a dimension of precision and depth of perception to the visual tradition of paintings and sculptures.
The third volume of the Dictionary of Buddhist iconography covers entries beginning with the letter C and the first half of the letter D up to Dhupa. Important deities, like Cakrasamvara and Cakravartin, in their multiple denotations show the complex evolution of Buddhist theogony and the social, ritual and philosophical factors that conditioned their interiorization.
Several theonyms have been standardized, for example: the Twelve Yaksa Generals of Bhaisajyaguru could be definitively named on the basis of the Gilgit manuscripts of the Bhaisajyaguru-sutra. One of these Yaksa-mahasenapati is Shotora in Japanese pronunciation, reconstructed as Saudra or Catura by Tajima (1959:323). Two Gilgit manuscripts (nos.31, 34) have the form Caundhura and manuscript no.10 has Codhura, both linked to the NIA word Chaudhuri in the sense of a headman.
Categories of deities have been related to their textual sources. For instance, the Thirtyfive Buddhas of Confession can be taken back to the Sutra on the Meditation of Akasagarbha Bodhisattva, which was translated into Chinese in AD 424 - 441 by Dharmamitra who hailed from Kabul.
Dhrtarastra, the Lokapala of the East, has a varied iconography in different traditions. This Dictionary enables us to correlate variations in iconographic attributes to texts or pantheons and to provide a new framework to comprehend the philosophical, ritual, social, political, and other patterns inherent in Buddhist theogony.
Literature Cited (supplementary list)
Dictionary (Cayan Acala-Dhupa)