Visvantara Legends in paintings

By Min Bahadur shakya Nagarjuna Institute of Exact methods

Introduction: Jataka: definition Legends and Message of the Jataka Wall paintings at Ajanta and Nepali paintings on Vishvantara legends Further paintings on Vishvantara Conclusion

The Vishvantara legend is one of the most popular and

famous stories in the Buddhist world. It is extant in our canonical Pali Jataka. The story is also available in the Aryashura's Jatakamala, Avadanakalpalata, Cariyapitaka, Bodhisattvadanamala and so forth.
The story was told by Lord Buddha while dwelling in

Nyagrodharama, near Kapilavastu about a shower of rain.

Jataka definition
Definition of Jataka: The Jataka is generally defined as previous birth stories

of Buddha Shakyamuni. There are several birth stories, the collection of which is called the Jatakamala. It can also be called Bodhisattva avadanamala for the Bodhisattvavadana is nearly synonymous with Jataka. Indeed the Jatakas are nothing but Avadanas the hero of which is the Bodhisattva.

Legends of Vishvantara
In the story the Bodhisattva was born as prince

Vishvantara. He appeared to be a child prodigy. From his early childhood Visvantara's passion for charity was so intense that the earth trembled when he pledged to make a gift at the young age. Vishvantara’s gifts of son Jalini kumara and daughter Krishnajina was without parallel in literary history of religions. Through his act of generosity, it is said that there were no beggars in his country

Antiquity of legend
Vishvanatara Jataka in Buddhist Sanskrit and Pali

literature The Jataka stories are at least as old as the compilation of the Buddhist canon at the council of Vesali, about 377 BC. Perhaps one of the most famous and most popular of all these legends in the whole of the Buddhist world is Vishvantara Jataka. The Vessantara Jataka is also available in the following Sanskrit Buddhist texts

Source of the legend
Pali Jataka - No.547 Arya Shura's Jatakamala - No.9 Ksemendra's Avadanakalpalata - No.23 Bodhisattvadanamala Cariyapitaka - 1.9

Wall paintings at Ajanta
Vishvantara in Paintings:

  A wall paintings on Vishvantara Jataka, can be found in Cave 17, Anjanta, 5tH century, Gupta Period  

Illustrated Manuscript Paintings

Vishvantara giving charity

Modern Paintings on Vishvantara
In Nepal we find various kinds of paintings to depict the

content of dharma. They are: 2. Illustrated Manuscript Paintings 3. Paubha Paintings 4. Scroll Paintings 5. Illustration of dharma thru modern paintings 6. Miniature paintings












The Vishvantara Jataka as one of Aryasura's 34

collections of Jataka stories, has a deep impact in the livelihood of Nepalese commoners specially among the Newar Buddhists. As every Buddhist Newars irrespective whether they understand Buddhist Philosophy or not have an ageold customary of reading out the story in family gatherings during special occasions. Specially the eldermost in the family does this job. This is a virtuous sacrament induced into the young generation by the elders.

Among the Jatakas, Vishvantara is the name almost

every newars know. They seem to be greatly influenced by the charity of Vishvantara that's why they can maintain the tradition of charity even to date like in Pancadana and Samyak dana. The ordinary Nepalese people inclined in Buddhist dharma spontaneously associate Vishvantara to any charity they make. Such is an influence of Vishvantara Jataka. Such is the popularity of Vishvantara Jataka.

Besides story telling, paintings on Vishvantara Jataka

are also displayed in various Baha and Bahis in the month of Gunla which are actually vivid and awe inspiring. All these things are intended to instill the mind of charity in the heart of Nepalese by helping them get rid of self-cherishing attitude.

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