Daruulga, guu and White Tara. Studying the Buryat collection of the State Museum of Oriental Art

August 25

The Buryat collection of the State Museum of Oriental Art was predominantly established as a result of annual museum purchasing expeditions to Transbaikalia in 1978-1991. These were the lands, where Buddhism came from Mongolia in the 17th century and Buddhistic art started its expansion among the Buryat people.

Nonna Alfonso, the Senior Researcher at the Department of Art of the Near and Middle East, South and Central Asia, selected five items of the Buryat collection of the 19th-early 20th century and narrated, why they are important and interesting.

Guu Amulet Box (19th century)

The State Museum of Oriental Art

Buryat blacksmiths-darkhans have always been famous as skilled jewelers. They perfectly mastered the techniques of casting, forging, chasing, engraving: all kinds of work with metal. The favorite material of the Buryat masters was silver: a pale metal closely associated with the symbolism of white color. They believed that silver has powerful purging and protective functions. This is obviously the reason, why the vast majority of Buryat guu amulets are made of it.

Such a workpiece (being worn both by men and women) indicates that the Buryats are the worshipers adhering to the Buddhist denomination. Icons, miniature sculptures, sacred texts and many other items were enclosed inside these small cases. The front side of the guu was richly decorated with a stamped pattern, complemented by engraving, filigree and grain. The decor consisted mainly of floral and geometric ornaments, Buddhist benevolent symbols and emblems.

In the center of the amulet box from the collection of the State Museum of Oriental Art is the sacred monogram namchuvangdan, which is considered a very strong amulet. There are eight benevolent signs on its sides: on the one hand, an umbrella, a pair of fish, a vessel of inexhaustible treasures, a lotus flower, and on the other hand there is a sea shell, an endless thread of happiness, a victory banner and a disk-chakra (a symbol of the Buddha's teachings). At the bottom there are the images of mountain peaks and sea waves, in the upper part there is a terrible face of a mythical monster kirtimukhi, the guardian, who guards access to the contents of the amulet box.

In the museum you can see reliquary cases of various shapes: in the form of a disk, a cylinder, a lotus petal. These peculiar jewelry, which are amulets, were worn either on the chest, closer to the neck, or on a wide ribbon laying over the right shoulder. The Khorin Buryats often also imposed round amulets decorated with corals on the shoulders of their clothes.

Daruulga Headdress (early 20th century)

The State Museum of Oriental Art

Daruulga is a traditional Buryat female headdress in the form of a kokoshnik. It was made of birch bark, lined with silk. Coral beads were imposed to this lining, sometimes these were beads of semiprecious stones. Usually they were worn with a dressy hat during the warm season, when they were going to a feast. Girls could wear such headdresses without any hat or kerchief. However, a married woman had to cover her hair completely.

To the lower edge of the kokoshnik from the museum collection, four pendants are attached on both sides, forming peculiar bundles or rays. In the bottom, each end was decorated with a small coin, symbolizing prosperity and well-being of the family. In all groups of Buryats, such pendants indicated that the daruulga belonged to a girl of marriageable age.

The base of the daruulga, most often blue, hints the color of the firmament, and the beads attached to it represent the luminaries. Yellow, red and white colors in the Buryat tradition are associated with solar symbols: yellow corresponds to the light of the sun, red - its life-giving power, and white means the beginning of the preludes, the basis of all colors, as well as a universal marker of purity, beauty and righteousness. The central stone symbolizes the sun at the zenith. Whatever color it had, it was always larger than the others.

Icon with the Image of Palden Lhamo (19th century)

The State Museum of Oriental Art

With the spreading Buddhism, icon painters appeared in Buryatia. Buddhist icons are paintings on scrolls. In rituals, they were folded and unfolded many times (the first Buddhist temples in Buryatia were located in nomads tents), so the technique of making such icons is very complex and time-consuming. The most common are iconographic scrolls written on the basis of cotton fabric covered with a soil made of a mixture of glue, chalk and white clay, and painted with mineral or artificial dye.

The image on this icon corresponds to the strict Buddhist iconographic canon. The defender of the Buddhist teaching Palden Lhamo is presented in close-up. She is accompanied by two animal-headed demonesses and four queens of the seasons riding on animals: a mule, a buffalo, a deer and a camel. On top, over the head of Palden Lhamo is Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, science and art. Actually, Palden Lhamo is one of her manifestations, an rageful hypostasis. Why rageful? Because it eliminates evil. Believers appeal to her for help in case of any troubles, as well as before the New Year. Going around her possessions, she collects all the bad things, which occurred during the latest 12 months, so that people could start the year purged of sins and misfortunes.

There are many legends about Palden Lhamo in Tibet. The most popular of them narrate that she was once a wife of the demon king of Sri Lanka and desperately tried to convert him and all his subjects to Buddhism. The queen counted on the support of her son, but the prince was more devoted to his father. Then Lhamo swore to put an end to her husband's outrages and exterminate his family. After killing her son, she saddled the best royal horse and went north to Tibet. Of course, this plot cannot be taken to the letter - it is not about physical violence, but about spiritual struggle. Among Buddhists, Palden Lhamo is considered the patroness and protector of children and their mothers.

On the icon, Palden Lhamo is depicted in clouds of gray smoke. She is riding through a sea of blood on a horse with reins made of snakes, a bag of diseases and fortune-telling bones are strapped to the saddle. Her body is blue, her mouth is grinning, three eyes are glittering fiercely. The head is crowned with a crown of five skulls; a bunch of peacock feathers on it is a sign of its royal origin. In one hand, the goddess holds a skull bowl, and in the other - a mace.

White Tara (19th century)

The State Museum of Oriental Art

Buryatia has never had a highly developed tradition of making large metal sculptures in casting and embossing techniques, to compare with Tibet and Mongolia. Sculptures made of wood, clay and papier-mache were especially popular here. The most outstanding master of wooden sculptural carving was Sanzhi-Tsybik Tsybikov (1877-1934). In the collection of the Museum of Oriental Art there are sculptures made by his students.

Among them there is a rather large (about 50 centimeters high) figure of a White Tara. This deity symbolizes purity and the highest wisdom, and mercy. Buddhists believe she is able to prolong life, help in business and discipleship, remove obstacles on the way to progress towards a spiritual goal.

An interesting fact: Buddhists consider Catherine II to be one of the earthly incarnations of White Tara. The Buryat lamas thus expressed their respect to the Empress for the fact that in 1764 she recognized Buddhism as one of the state religions of Russia.

The sculpture corresponds to all the canonical rules of the image of White Tara: it is a beautiful young woman in royal clothes and jewelry, sitting in the lotus position. The main distinguishing feature of the goddess is seven eyes (three on the face, the rest on the palms and feet), thanks to which she is able to see all beings in the Buddhist universe. The right hand lowered down means the bestowal of mercy. White Tara holds her symbol - a blooming lotus - in her left hand.

Prayer Mill (19th century)

The State Museum of Oriental Art

This is an amazing ritual attribute that was invented by Tibetan Buddhists. There are no analogues of this subject in any religious practice. The main design element is a cylindrical drum on a vertical metal axis. Inside, long paper ribbons with sacred texts are placed tightly rolled up. Buddhists believe that the rotation of the cylinder transmits a blessing to the inhabitants of all spheres of being of the Buddhist cosmos, harmonizes the space, and also multiplies the spiritual merits of the believer on the path to enlightenment.

This 19th-century mill is made of wood and has as many as two cylinders. It was donated to the museum by the Union of Artists of the Buryat Republic in 1980. The mill is mounted on cross supports with four carved vertical posts, the syllables of the Buddhist mantra are written in black letters of the Tibetan alphabet on the red cylinders.

In the museum's collection there are several more drums of different shapes and made of different materials. In Tibet, Mongolia and Nepal, such objects were made typically of metal, and in Buryatia - of wood. They can often be assumed a household item due to the decor in the form of flowers or geometric ornaments.

Source: mos.ru

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