LEGENDS OF LOKESHVARA
LEGENDS OF LOKESHVARA
This particular scroll depicts the story of Red Machhendranatha popularly known as Bunga or the Lokeshvara in Nepal. According to the inscription on the scroll, it was donated by Shri Kashiraj Bharo of Byam Vihara, in the year 737 N.S.= 1617 CE on the occasion of the Rathayatra ceremony of Lokeshvara, the popular deity of Nepal. This festival of Rathayatra, celebrated in the month of April or early May, is attended by almost everybody with equal zeal and faith.
During the reign of King Narendradeva of Bhaktapur (740–777 CE), as the story relates, the valley of Kathmandu was experiencing the worst famine causing heavy loss of life for a period of over 12 years.
Gorakhanatha, with the intention of punishing the people for not giving him due respect and also with the thought that knowing people’s misery and sorrow, Machhendranatha, his Guru would appear in person, had imprisoned the valley’s rain-giving snake. Bandhudatta, the learned priest of the king started to fetch Lord Machhendranatha, youngest son of demon Shashi who ruled Assam. Because of the powerful recitation of the mantras, Machhendranatha transformed into a large black bee and flew into the golden ceremonial vase of Bandhudatta.
On the way back, they stopped near the river Nakhu, two miles south of Patan, to rest, where Gorakhanatha, who was residing on the top of the hillock, came to pay homage to his Guru, releasing the rain-giving gods. People rejoiced as it rained heavily. The sacred vessel was enshrined and a beautiful temple was then constructed in Patan. A mammoth festival was held in which the image of Macchendranatha was carried in a chariot around the streets of Patan. In keeping with the time-honoured tradition, the same practice is followed even today.
In the painting, the story runs from left to right. In the upper register, the king’s consultation with the spiritual guide Bandhudatta and the trial with the demons to bring Macchendranatha is shown. The second register depicts a hillock where Gorakhanatha used to reside, and the scenes related to the rescue of the rain-giving snake gods and the consecration of Machhendranatha in the temple. The third panel details the actual Rathayatra festival when Lokeshvara after being given a bath and performing other rituals, is placed inside the massive chariot. The donor is shown performing yajna in the presence of Vajracharya.
The scroll is a typical example of continuous narration. At some places, scenes are bifurcated with simple lines, architectural panels, or vegetations, and at others, various episodes run without putting any rigid partition, but by only suggesting it with the position of figures standing or sitting back to back. Each episode is set against the backdrop of a screen, decorated with floral and creeper designs. This is an early stylistic trait derived from the monastic style of painting. Draughtsmanship is bold but effective. The painting is done mainly in red, ochre and blue colours.
Dated N.S. 737 = 1617 CE
252.8 x 66.2 cms.