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Lot 1842

The Brahman Universe

Estimated Value:

15.000 € - 25.000 €


36.000 €


India, Himachal Prasdesh, ca. 18th c.
360 x 57 cm
This very rare and fine painting shows the Brahmanical ("Hindu") universe. The disc-shaped middle world is depicted in the centre, consisting of seven continents. At the centre of this world is a circular land mass surrounded by six concentric continents and oceans. Rising from the centre of the middle world is the mythical world mountain, designated by an inscription as the "Kailash Mountains", whose height is given as 900 million yojana. The summit of the mountain is covered by the palaces of the gods, whose names are mentioned in inscriptions. At the edge of the circular disc world are the eight elephants of the world regions (Sanskrit: aṣṭadiggaja), which in Hindu cosmology carry the middle world as guardians of the cardinal points. Below the middle world, the seven hells are arranged one above the other. The palaces of the princes of hell and their inhabitants are depicted on seven oval medallions. The corresponding inscriptions name the hells and indicate the size ratio. Below the hells is the many-headed world serpent (Sanskrit: śeṣa or ananta), followed by the mythical animals boar (Sanskrit: varāha) and tortoise (Sanskrit: kūrma), which according to tradition once saved the world from destruction by demons. The boar and the tortoise are considered manifestations of the god Viṣṇu, and the world serpent is part of the Viṣṇuite creation story, which is why the scroll probably belongs to a Viṣṇuite context. Below the turtle is a bird (swan or goose, Sanskrit: haṃsa), which symbolises the creation of the world as the beast of burden of the creator god Brahmā. Above the world mountain, the planets are depicted, supplemented by the 27 lunar stations (Sanskrit: nakṣatra) of Indian astrology, which are listed in abbreviated form on a golden flower surface of a lotus. Above the stars, celestial planes with the palaces of the gods are depicted.
From an important private collection in northern Germany, collected mainly in India from the early 1950s until the 1980s - Publ. Ajit Mookerjee and Madhu Khanna, 'The Tantric Way', Thames and Hudson, London, 1977, p. 81