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Padmapani and Vajrapani – The Iconic Paintings of Ajanta Caves

Padmapani and Vajrapani

Padmapani and Vajrapani: The Iconic Paintings of Ajanta Caves

Padmapani and Vajrapani are two prominent bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism, particularly within the context of Tibetan Buddhism and the broader Buddhist traditions. They are often depicted in Buddhist art and are associated with compassion and spiritual power. Here’s an overview of each:

  1. Padmapani:
    • Meaning of the Name: Padmapani translates to “Holder of the Lotus” or “Lotus in Hand” in Sanskrit. The lotus is a symbol of purity and enlightenment in Buddhism.
    • Attributes: Padmapani is often depicted as a bodhisattva with a lotus flower in one hand and sometimes a scripture in the other. The lotus signifies purity, compassion, and enlightenment.
    • Symbolism: Padmapani is associated with compassion, and the lotus symbolizes the growth of enlightenment from the mud of worldly existence. The bodhisattva’s compassionate gesture reflects the aspiration to help all beings attain enlightenment.
  2. Vajrapani:
    • Meaning of the Name: Vajrapani translates to “Vajra in Hand” or “Thunderbolt in Hand” in Sanskrit. The vajra is a symbolic ritual object representing the nature of reality.
    • Attributes: Vajrapani is often depicted holding a vajra in one hand, representing the indestructible and diamond-like nature of enlightenment. In some depictions, he may also carry a lasso or noose to bind negative forces.
    • Symbolism: Vajrapani is associated with spiritual power, strength, and the ability to overcome obstacles. The vajra he holds is a symbol of the unyielding and invincible nature of enlightenment. Vajrapani’s role is to protect and guide practitioners on the path to enlightenment.

Padmapani and Vajrapani – The Iconic Paintings of Ajanta Caves

Both Padmapani and Vajrapani are considered bodhisattvas, beings who have attained enlightenment but choose to remain in the cycle of birth and death to help all sentient beings achieve liberation. They are part of the pantheon of bodhisattvas and deities in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.

In Tibetan Buddhism, images and representations of Padmapani and Vajrapani can be found in thangkas (religious paintings), sculptures, and other forms of religious art. Devotees often turn to these bodhisattvas for inspiration and guidance on their spiritual journey.

Vajrapāṇi (Sanskrit; Pali: Vajirapāṇi, meaning “Vajra in [his] hand”) is one of the earliest-appearing bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. He is the protector and guide of Gautama Buddha, and he rose to symbolize the Buddha’s power.

Vajrapāni is extensively represented in Buddhist iconography as one of the earliest three protective deities, or bodhisattvas, surrounding the Buddha.

Padmapani and Vajrapani – The Iconic Paintings of Ajanta Caves

Each of them symbolizes one of the Buddha’s virtues: Manjushri manifests all the Buddhas’ wisdom, Avalokiteśvara manifests all the Buddhas’ immense compassion, and Vajrapāni protects Buddha and manifests all the Buddhas’ power as well as the power of all five tathāgatas (Buddhahood of the rank of Buddha).

Vajrapāni is one of the earliest Dharmapalas of Mahayana Buddhism and also appears as a deity in the Pali Canon of the Theravada school. He is worshiped in the Shaolin Monastery, in Tibetan Buddhism, and in Pure Land Buddhism (where he is known as Mahasthamaprapta and forms a triad with Amitābha and Avalokiteśvara).

Manifestations of Vajrapāni can also be found in many Buddhist temples in China, Taiwan, and Japan as Dharma protectors guarding monasteries and temple gates. Vajrapāni is also associated with Acala, where he is serenaded as the holder of the vajra.

Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra

Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra have been on our journey bucket list ceaselessly, but we didn’t have the ability to make time. However, endurance brings good issues, they are saying. We last visited Ajanta and Ellora Caves earlier this year. Our expertise was overwhelming, and months after the go-to, we nonetheless pinch ourselves to test if our tour was actual.

There may be a lot to soak up right here, and some extra visits might maybe do justice to our understanding of the magic referred to as Ajanta.  But we considered recording a choice of experiences from Ajanta in brief items.  To this end, that is the primary post in our collection of posts about Ajanta Caves.

The primary world heritage site in India is the Ajanta Caves. Ajanta Caves, a world heritage website, made it to the UNESCO listing in 1983, together with Agra Fort. It’s estimated that the primary part of the Ajanta caves was constructed during the period of Satvahana rule from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE.

The second part was constructed many centuries later, from the 4th to the 5th centuries CE. Ajanta contains a collection of caves that depict, through attractive work, tales of Jataka, or the pre-birth of Buddha, and likewise tales of Buddha’s lives. Among the caves, which do not need work but have detailed carvings primarily based on the lifetime of Buddha with a central stupa for worship,.

Cave 1: Ajanta

Cave 1 of Ajanta was constructed within the second part of the excavation, below the patronage of King Harisena of the Vakataka dynasty. It’s maybe referred to as Cave No. 1, not due to antiquity; however, as a result, it’s the first cave {that a} customer comes through once they enter the Ajanta complex. Cave 1 is a big gallery-like house in a cave that was, as per researchers, to function as a temple to Lord Buddha and a meditation corridor for monks.

Actually, the surface portico has elaborate carvings of monks in meditation, dancing women, and animals. However, it doesn’t fairly put together you for the splendor inside that was created with very primary instruments about 2000 years ago.

As soon as we entered the cave, we were briefly blinded by the intense darkness. Shortly, our eyes adjusted; however, we puzzled how artists might have created this exquisitely detailed work eons ago, in nearly no mild.

The darkness has been a boon for this cave. Given the dearth of daylight, the work has been minimally uncovered, and that could possibly be the explanation why the work is largely preserved right here even after, please forgive the repetition, 2000 years!

Padmapani and Vajrapani – The Iconic Paintings of Ajanta Caves

The themes of the work in this cave are tales of Jataka and depictions of Buddha’s prior lives when he was in quest of enlightenment as a Bodhisattva. Our information had an accredited torch, and he confirmed the work on the partitions and the ceilings. He stopped longer to explain tales related to the extra-necessary work. The work had been shiny but soothing.

The proportions had been simply excellent. The facial features of probably the most insignificant character had additionally been meticulously examined. The smile, the frown, the sorrow, the fear—the little faces had all of it. The attention for particulars didn’t cease there.

The flowery clothes and ornaments had been appropriate to the final fold of the loincloth or pearl drop in rings, necklaces, belts, and anklets. The footwear largely resembled our modern-day sandals. The ceilings had also been richly painted. Nevertheless, the ceiling work doesn’t carry tales; however, there are pictures of animals, flowers, or geometric patterns.

By the way, the iconic Ajanta works Padmapani and Vajrapani glorify the partitions of Cave 1 of Ajanta. There are {photographs} prints of Padmapani and Vajrapani hanging on the wall at the residence, and we had been very excited to see these in actuality. We waited with bated breath to be guided to those tasks, praying all of the while that the actual work didn’t disappoint.

Who’s Padmapani?

Padmapani is a Bodhisattva, or somebody who’s on the trail of enlightenment or turning into a Buddha.  He’s the epitome of compassion and is a well-liked character in Buddhist iconography. In Indian illustrations, he holds the padma, or lotus flower, thus being referred to as Padmapani, or “one who holds a lotus in his hand.”. The Sanskrit phrase “pani” means hand.

Who’s Vajrapani?

Vajrapani is a Bodhisattva who is thought to be the protector.  He holds a thunderbolt, or Vajra, in his proper hand and is thus referred to as Vajrapani, or “one who holds the thunder in his hand.”

Padmapani, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and Vajrapani, the Bodhisattva of Safety, are regularly discovered flanking statues and pictures of the Buddha.

Padmapani and Vajrapani in Ajanta Cave 1 work

On the far end of Cave 1 is a room, like a sanctum sanctorum, which is a small compartment. A peaceable statue of Lord Buddha in his sitting place, arms in Dharmachakra Mudra, symbolizing his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, just about illuminates the entire cave from right here. Painted on two sides of this chamber are two huge-sized figures that seamlessly draw consideration.

On the left wall is the portrayal of Padmapani. Not solely us but additionally most guests we noticed robotically stopped for a while in the entrance of this picture, considerably transfixed. For us, this was a dream come true. We wished to devour as much as we might with our eyes.

The very first thing that we noticed was the lotus-shaped, half-closed eyes. Trying downwards, the eyes had been stuffed with compassion and oozed a sure detachment, however the wealthy garb and jewels he was in. The proper physique had very lengthy arms, as is the mark of a terrific man in Indian non-secular iconography. Close to his chest, he was holding a lotus flower in his proper hand.

Padmapani and Vajrapani – The Iconic Paintings of Ajanta Caves

Each merchandise of clothes and niknaks, comparable to the frilly crown, belt, and loincloth, oozed sure, in the hunt for a greater expression, divine glamour. But what stays with us is his misplaced look. Amidst all this glory, Padmapani had pathos in his expression, as if he were there amid all these riches, but…misplaced in a thought house of his own. His quest will not be over, and he has not discovered the solutions.

On the appropriate wall is the portrayal of Vajrapani. The Vajrapani portrayal is in excellent bodily proportion. The facial options, just like the eyes, chiseled nostrils, and full lips, depict a way of energy and regal confidence that befits the protector. Vajrapani, too, is clad in royal garments and jewels.

His elaborate crown deserves a particular point. The element portrays a posh honeycomb type of design, not leaving out strands of pearls and chains within the crown that would encourage any trendy designer. You simply can’t miss that. The talent of the artists crammed us with awe and gave us goosebumps on many occasions throughout the day.

These work types had magnetic energy. Whereas cave 1 was our first stop in Ajanta, at day finish, we walked again the entire distance to cave 1 for a last look at Padmapani and Vajrapani.

Easy methods to attain Ajanta Caves from Delhi

Ajanta and Ellora are extraordinarily nicely related to the remainder of India. We flew from Delhi to Aurangabad, the closest metropolis and airport. Ajanta is 100 km from Aurangabad. The highway between Ajanta and Aurangabad is under restoration, so it took us about 3 hours by automobile to cover 100 km.

Aurangabad additionally has a busy railway station, and plenty of trains stop right here. Ajanta might be covered by a highway from Mumbai or Pune. Given the convenience of reaching Ajanta and Ellora, we went on to question why we waited so long to few years for visiting this marvel.


Ajanta Caves are closed on Mondays. Ellora Caves are closed on Tuesdays. Do plan your journey accordingly.

Closing ideas

It has been some months, and the journey now appears surreal. The eyes of Padmapani nonetheless comply with us. They’re stuffed with compassion and kindness. But they have a certain sensual attraction. Padmapani and Vajrapani stand in attractive apparel. But in their eyes and physique language, there’s a sense of detachment from their environment. These works depict a sure co-existence of materialism, sensuality, and spirituality, which, solely after we noticed Padmapani and Vajrapani’s work in Ajanta, appears doable.

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Padmapani and Vajrapani Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra

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