A few things from Kathmandu, for the walls of my blog. These are all from the government-sponsored Amrita Craft Collection, south of the Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel.
First the thangka (wiki). It has an inconspicuous position next to the huge window in my study overlooking the street and looks over my shoulder when I am blogging. It’s not very large, maybe 8 X 12 inches. While the Wheel of Life is a very traditional subject — it was featured in Kipling’s Kim — I had to search a while to find one.
In the center of the wheel is a rooster (representing greed), a snake (hatred), and a pig (ignorance) that fuel the miseries of life. The next small ring illustrates the dark path, with monsters, leading to bad rebirths, and the white path, with saints, leading to good rebirths. The next ring shows six worlds where the gods live. The outer ring is the Twelve Interdependent Causes. Above the rim, the Monster of Impermanence holds the wheel and symbolizes the transitory nature of earthly phenomenon. For more detail, here is an interactive picture of the wheel you can mouse over for explanations.
The next batik I have always believed was Krishna with the moon on his head, holding a trident, and dancing on demons to destroy them. These are all attributes of Shiva though, so maybe it’s Shiva after all. When I saw it, I had a visceral reaction to it, and passed it over. Then I realized I must have it just because of the visceral reaction.
Finally, Saraswati, consort of Brahma and patroness of scholars. She rides a white swan and holds a stringed instrument called the veena. Down the hillside behind Swayambhunath temple in the Katmandu valley, there is an important shrine to Saraswati next to a small stupa on a hill. Scholars come here at exam time, and schoolchildren during Basant Panchami, the Festival of Knowledge.