Asian Art Museum | Education

The best of Asian art at the tip of your fingers for use in the classroom or at home.
Close

Sign up

In My Resources you can save the content you like all in one place. Get started by creating an account.

Create a new account

Svayambhu Stupa, approx. 1700–1800

Svayambhu Stupa, approx. 1700–1800

Svayambhu Stupa, approx. 1700–1800. Nepal. Gilded Copper. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60B212.

Tibetan Lamas Reconsecrate Stupas, 2011

On October 3, 2001, monks Geshe Ngawang Dakpa of the Tse Chen Ling Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies, assisted by Tenzin Lama, Dr. Robert Clark, perform a reconsecration ceremony. During the actual ceremony the figure was inverted and several dozen rolled sutras (Buddhist scriptures) were packed inside. Conservator, Donna Strahan, astutely observes the process. 

Materials for Reconsecration of Stupa

Note from the Conservator (November 26, 2001): On October 3, 2001, as one of the Closing Week activities, this object was reconsecrated.  Geshe Ngawang Dakpa of the Tse Chen Ling Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies, assisted by Tenzin Lama, Dr. Robert Clark, and several others, performed the reconsecration ceremony.  In preparation, Geshe Ngawang Dakpa and Dr. Clark visited the conservation lab to look at the saved contents and prepare a list of objects and materials needed for the ceremony.  During the actual ceremony the figure was inverted and several dozen rolled sutras (Buddhist scriptures) were packed inside.  According to Dr. Clark, the sutras were arranged in a specific order, each being placed in that part of the figure to which it relates.  The dried juniper leaves function primarily as a packing material to take up any excess space and prevent the other contents from shifting.  (These had been dried overnight in a home oven at 150 degrees F, but were not as dry as the lama would have liked.)  These contents were packed in very firmly, then the grains, gemstones and other objects, packed in individual polyethylene zip-lock type bags, were added.

Objects Found in Stupa

Note from the Conservator (November 26, 2001): On October 3, 2001, as one of the Closing Week activities, this object was reconsecrated.  Geshe Ngawang Dakpa of the Tse Chen Ling Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies, assisted by Tenzin Lama, Dr. Robert Clark, and several others, performed the reconsecration ceremony.  In preparation, Geshe Ngawang Dakpa and Dr. Clark visited the conservation lab to look at the saved contents and prepare a list of objects and materials needed for the ceremony.  During the actual ceremony the figure was inverted and several dozen rolled sutras (Buddhist scriptures) were packed inside.  According to Dr. Clark, the sutras were arranged in a specific order, each being placed in that part of the figure to which it relates.  The dried juniper leaves function primarily as a packing material to take up any excess space and prevent the other contents from shifting.  (These had been dried overnight in a home oven at 150 degrees F, but were not as dry as the lama would have liked.)  These contents were packed in very firmly, then the grains, gemstones and other objects, packed in individual polyethylene zip-lock type bags, were added.

 

The stupa is an important symbol of Buddhism, for it represents the mind of the Buddha. Originating in India as mounds for marking sacred sites or containing religious relics, stupas come in different sizes and are made of various materials. This sculpture replicates the Great Stupa on top of Svayambhu Hill in Kathmandu Valley, the foremost religious center of the Newar Buddhist community. Legend has it that a long time ago, when the Kathmandu Valley was submerged in a lake, the buddha Vipashvin planted a lotus seed there. The seed grew into a thousand-petal lotus, and the beam of light emerging from it became the self-originated Primordial Buddha. The light beam, which had five colors-the essence of the Five Transcendent Buddhas-later was encased within the Great Stupa.

This votive stupa therefore represents the Primordial Buddha; it also represents the cosmic Mount Meru, the axis of the universe. The guardian kings of the four directions are depicted inside the niches on the square base. The mound of the stupa rests on the thousand-petal lotus, and inscribed on it are the all-seeing eyes of the Primordial Buddha. The mound also contains the shrines and symbols of four of the Five Transcendent Buddhas: Akshobhya (vajra, or thunderbolt) on the east, Ratnasambhava (jewel) on the south, Amitabha (lotus) on the west, and Amoghasiddhi (sword) on the north. The fifth buddha, Vairochana, is not shown, but is understood to occupy the top center position.

This stupa was reconsecrated in 2001, and the interior was filled with prayers, coins, barley, sesame, and various semiprecious stones. 

You Might Also Like

Related Blog Post