Vasundhara thangka is handpainted in Kathmandu Nepal. Vasudhara means “stream of gems” in Sanskrit. Vasundhara is the Buddhist bodhisattva of wealth, prosperity, and abundance.
Vasudhara is depicted at the center of the thangka. She is popular in many Buddhist countries and is a subject in Buddhist legends and art. Originally an Indian bodhisattva, her popularity has spread to southern Buddhist countries.
Her popularity, however, peaks in Nepal where she has a strong following among the Buddhist Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and is thus a central figure in Newar Buddhism.
She is named Shiskar Apa in Lahul and Spiti. She is related to Hindu great goddess Lakshmi, and her Sanskrit name Vasundhara indicates she is the source of the eight “bountiful Vasus.”
Therefore, according to the epic Mahabharat, she is the bounty that is the waters of the river Ganges—the goddess, Ganga whose origin is the snows of the Himalayas.
Iconography of Vasundhara
Vasudhara or Vasundhara, the ‘treasure holder’, is a popular Newar goddess of fertility and prosperity, and a consort of the wealth-god Jambhala.
She sits in the posture of ‘royal ease’ on a moon disc and a pink lotus, with her left leg drawn up and her extended right foot resting (similar posture to Green Tara – showing her willingness to “come down from her lotus throne” to help those who call upon her) upon a white conch shell (symbolizing having conquered/having perfect control of speech) and a golden treasure-vase (wealth/prosperity).
She is beautiful and attractive, as youthful as a sixteen-year-old, and her golden body scintillates with radiant light. Her three beautiful and smiling faces are colored red (right – red being the color of controlling), golden (center, golden being the color of increasing), and red (left), representing perfect compassion, wisdom understanding, awareness and insight into the past, present and future, she is adorned with the five divine silks and the eight jeweled ornaments.
Her first right-hand makes the gesture of generosity, while her other two right hands hold the ‘Three Jewels’ of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, – symbolizing the necessity of maintaining the commitments of refuge to the three jewels, and a golden rosary, symbolizing continuous practice and self-examination, vital to enlightenment.
With her three left hands, she holds a small treasure-vase, for long life and initiation, an ear of grain, for abundant harvests and earthly benefits, and a sacred text to grant wisdom. In her hands, Vasudhara holds a variety of objects attributed to her. Most representations show her holding a sheaf of corn in her left hand, symbolizing an abundant harvest.
She may also be holding a gem or small treasure, a symbol of wealth. Representations with more arms, such as the six-armed Nepali representation, also depict her holding a full vase and the Book of Wisdom. With her free hands, Vasudhara performs mudras. A commonly seen mudra in paintings and figurines featuring Vasudhara is the varada mudra, also known as the charity mudra, which symbolizes the “pouring forth of divine blessings.”
In her 2 armed one faced form, she has a golden body, representing the earth element, Ratnasambhava in her crown, sometimes 2 eyes or 3 eyes, if with 3 eyes – representing perfect awareness, understanding, compassion, wisdom and insight into the past, present and future.
Her 2 hands holding a sheaf or corn for agricultural prosperity and to “sew the seeds” of enlightenment, and either a single wish-fulfilling jewel or a bowl of wish-fulfilling jewels for wealth and wish fulfillment. Vasudhara is the subject of numerous bronzes and paintings. She is predominantly the central figure of bronze sculptures or painted mandalas. She may also, however, appear alongside her consort, Vaiśravaṇa(Jambhala) the Buddhist God of Riches.
Mantra of Vasundhara
Her short mantra is Om Vasudhare svaha.