See it in the Museum
Room 1: India and Nepal
Orientation 3
Wall object 13

ABP 049

 Code: ABP 049

  Country: Tibet


  Date: 1250 - 1350

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 67 x 87

  Materials: Glue distemper on cotton

The deity Prajnaparamita: "Perfection of Wisdom"

The four-armed goddess, identified as Prajnaparamita is seated in the diamond attitude (vajraparyankasana).The principal right hand holds a diamond scepter (vajra), while the principal left hand rests on her lap. The uplifted right hand holds a rosary (akshasutra) and the left hand the manuscript (pushtaka) of the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra, the "Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines". The deity Prajnaparamita is the personification of this sacred manuscript. The "Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines" was probably written around 100 BC and is one of the earliest Mahayana sutras. More material was gradually compiled over the next two centuries.
Prajnaparamita is attended by several Bodhisattvas. The white Bodhisattva on her right- hand side represents Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, and the yellow Bodhisattva on her left is Manjushri. The eight Bodhisattvas on the upper register are not identified. At the bottom from left to right are depicted: Achala brandishing his sword; Sadaksari-Lokeshvara; Buddha ShakyamuniShyama-Tara (the "green Tara"); and a Monk.
This very early and important Thangka was allegedly discovered in the greater area of the Yellow River in North-Eastern Tibet (Qinghai). It is one of the known paintings of the Kokonor culture of Tibet. Stylistically, it shows a distinct influence of the later Pala tradition, something which is also visible in some of the paintings discovered at Khara-Khoto, a former Tangut frontier outpost of the Xia kingdom which lasted until the Mongolian campaign of 1226-1227. 
This image does not match any of the descriptions of the four-armed forms of Prajnaparamita in the Sadhanamala (SM 156), the Nispannayogavali (NSP 21), or the even Dharmakosha Samgraha (DKS, fol. 28A, 34B, 37A-37B, 85A). But, there actually exist two references to Prajnaparamita holding a vajra emblem. One is illustrated in the Mongolian Kagyür (CBIT 46) displaying the gesture of “setting in motion the Wheel of the law” (dharmacakra pravartana-mudra) with the principal pair of hands. The other one is illustrated in the Astasahasrika Pantheon (CBIT 1083) displaying the meditation gesture (dhyana-mudra) with the principal pair of hands.

"Prajnaparamita" also refers to a literary genre in Mahayana Buddhism that deals with the theme of the perfection of wisdom. The term "Paramita" further designates one of the qualities of the Boddhisattvas.