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Sitatapatra (gold on black)

Sitatapatra (gold on black)

The Victorious White Parasol

  • Artist : Chewang Dorje
  • Produced : 1998
  • Type : Giclee Print
  • Category : Gold on Black (small)
  • Original Painting Size : 15.8 x 23.6 inches. (401 x 599 mm)
  • Original Medium : Gouache and gold on cotton

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Format Image SizePaper Size Price Availability  
A5+ Mounted 4.8 x 7.3 in.
(124 x 185 mm)
7 x 10 in.
(178 x 255 mm)
A4 Size 7.1 x 10.6 in.
(180 x 269 mm)
8.3 x 11.7 in.
(210 x 297 mm)
A4 Mounted 7.1 x 10.6 in.
(180 x 269 mm)
11 x 14 in.
(297 x 420 mm)
A3+ Size 11.7 x 17.5 in.
(297 x 445 mm)
13 x 19 in.
(329 x 483 mm)

Sitatapatra (gold on black) :

Sitatapatra (Tib. Dukar: gDugs-dkar), meaning the "White Parasol" lady, is one of the most complex deities in the entire Vajrayana Buddhist pantheon, with a thousand heads, a thousand arms, a thousand feet, a multitude of beings that she crushes underfoot, and millions of eyes. Tradition relates that she originally emanated from the ushnisha or 'crown protuberance' on Shakyamuni Buddha's head, in his response to the need for all beings to be protected from the most malevolent forces. Thus Ushnisha-Sitatapatra, the "Crown Protuberance White Parasol Lady", arose in order to subdue all arrogant demons, to conquer all evil forces, afflictions, malefic influences and diseases, and to counteract the mantras of sorcerers and the curses of black magicians. In Buddhism the white parasol is a symbol of royalty and protection, with status being accorded to the number of parasols carried in a secular or religious procession. These numbers were usually three, five, seven, nine or eleven, with thirteen parasols being accorded to an enlightened Buddha, a chakravartin or 'universal monarch', and to the number of parasol-wheels that crown Buddhist stupas.

Sitatapatra is youthful, beautiful, radiant and white in colour, with a thousand heads, a thousand arms, a thousand feet, and millions of eyes that gaze out from all parts of her body. She stands in alidha posture above the golden sun disc of a multicolored lotus, with her left legs bent and her right legs extended. On either side of her two principal feet are her 499 other feet that appear as repeated outlines of her main feet, with the rows of her toes extending outward, and the rows of her heels extending inward. With her thousand feet she crushes the thousand fears and demons that she tramples underfoot, which here extend outwards in human and animal forms across her sun disc, with mythical creatures and the elements of nature appearing at their centre.

She wears the eight golden ornaments of: earrings; jeweled tiaras; long, medium and short necklaces; and bracelets, armlets and anklets. Her garments are fashioned from richly embroidered silks, and consist of an upper bodice and sash, a long pleated skirt with an apron above, a silk belt, and a long scarf that billows around her upper and lower body. To emphasize her protective nature or function she is described as having either a thousand million, or ten-million and one hundred thousand eyes that appear on every part of her body in a variety of gazes. Some are glancing to the side, some are wide open, while others are bow-shaped, gaze forward in wonder, dart like lightning, are piercing, compassionate, smiling, enchanting, mesmerizing or frightening. And from every pore and hair of her skin emanate fiery rays of wisdom light, which manifests around her divine form as her blazing aura.

Her thousand heads are divided into five groups of two hundred that are arranged in a circular mandala formation: with her blue faces at the centre (top); her white faces in the east (front); her yellow faces in the south (right); her red faces in the west (outer right and left); and her green faces in the north (left). Each group has a different expression: the white faces are attractive, strong and joyful; the yellow faces are terrifying, wild and jocular; the red faces are abusive, glorious and frightening; the green faces are compassionate and peaceful; and the blue faces are wrathful and awe-inspiring. Each face has three eyes and is adorned with a five-jewel tiara and crowned by a blazing vajra. In this particular gold-on-black composition she has three principal faces (blue, white, red), with ten progressively diminishing crowned white faces stacked above her main face. Descriptively manifesting above her thousand stacked heads are said to be: 'seven crowns, seven million perfect buddhas, and seven white parasols'.

Sitatapatra has two principal arms, and nine hundred and ninety-eight major and minor branch-hands, which are traditionally arranged into six radiating rings or circles on both sides of her body. Forty-eight major branch-hands appear in the first or inner circle, with a hundred and ninety smaller branch-hands appearing in each of the five outer circles.

With her first right hand she holds a golden mirror-like wheel or dharmachakra at the level of her heart. Then the lower four of her major-branch right hands each holds a golden wheel, with ninety-five of her minor branch-hands holding similar wheels below. Her next five major branch-hands hold golden vajras, with ninety-five of her branch-hands holding vajras below. The third group of her hundred major and minor branch-hands hold lotuses; the fourth group of a hundred hold jewels; and the uppermost fifth group hold a hundred crossed-vajras.

With her first left hand she holds the golden shaft of her great white parasol and an arrow in front of her heart. Then the lower four of her major-branch left hands each holds an arrow, with ninety-five of her minor branch-hands holding arrows below. Her next five major branch-hands hold bows, with ninety-five of her minor branch-hands holding bows below. The third group of her hundred major and minor branch-hands hold swords. The fourth group of a hundred hold rope-nooses; and the uppermost fifth group of a hundred hold vajra-marked iron hooks.

In the lower landscape appear white cranes, hares and tigers, and a stack of precious multicolored jewels with various offerings arranged behind behind them. These offerings include the eight auspicious substances, a lute, and the symbolic insignia of a chakravartin or 'universal monarch'.

© text by Robert Beer