NEW ARTWORK REVIEW: SIX-ARMED MĀRĪCĪ (OZER CHENMA) BY 17TH KARMAPA

Today, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje publicly released his new artwork of the brilliant light goddess Mārīcī (Ozer Chenma) as part of the forthcoming newly composed Thousand-fold Offering Ritual for Mārīcī, which will be performed online tomorrow, 17th February – the final day of the online Kagyu Monlam (2.30 pm IST).

This new artwork above is based on a previous artwork of an eight-armed Mārīcī by the 10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje (1604-1674) (below):

10th Karmapa’s image of Mārīcī, said to have been one of his last artworks and ordered by the 5th Dalai Lama
Six-armed and three-headed Marici artwork by 17th Karmapa

The two images are almost identical in composition and colour, although it is brighter due to its ‘newness’, and there is an additional sheer white upper top to cover her breasts.  Also, the new 17th Karmapa version of Mārīcī has six arms and three heads, unlike the 10th Karmapa’s version, which has eight arms.

In her three right hands (from upper to lower) she holds an arrow, a needle and a vajra. In her three left hands she holds a bow, floral branch from a tree that is ‘beyond suffering’.

Her front facing head is golden, peaceful and gently smiling, her right head is white and wrathful with a hooked nose, and her ‘third head’ is a crown-wearing sow pig (similar to the iconography of Vajravarahi/Dorje Phagmo).

In the 17th Karmapa’s composition, the needle and thread arms are depicted in different positions from other six armed, three headed artworks, see here and here. There is a more child-like innocence and delightful atmosphere to the 17th Karmapa’s work, with smaller piglets, next to the mother Sow now more clearly visible.  This playful quality is different from other recent artworks by the 17th Karmapa, many of which have a more serious (and complex) Chinese artistic style.

10th Karmapa’s eight-armed, three-headed composition and the 5th Dalai Lama
10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje – statue said to have been created by the 10th Karmapa

As I wrote about here before recently, this image of Mārīcī was one of the last images (or statues depending on what source you read) created by the 10th Karmapa. He is said to have created it after he was ordered by the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso to go to Drag [it is not clear why he was ordered such], before he fell ill and passed away there:

“In 1672 the Karmapa, now aged sixty-nine, finally left Gyeltang, where he had spent much of the past twenty-four years, from 1648 to 1672, and returned to U-Tsang. It is not known how his return was negotiated, since in the Ganden Podrang (dga ldan pho brang) the Dalai Lama’s government in Lhasa, continued its policy of harassment of Karma Kagyu monks and lamas, a policy that continued into the early eighteenth century. His main reason for returning was presumably to arrange the installment of Norbu Zangpo at Tsurpu. He left in a large entourage that included his wife, sons, and daughters.

After one year of travel, on the third day of the third lunar month of the year 1673 the Karmapa reached Lhasa, where he had an audience with the Fifth Dalai Lama, the first in forty years. Their conversation was said to be relaxed, covering topics such as the Karmapa’s recent journey. The Karmapa, already seventy years old at this point (the Dalai Lama was fifty-seven), had difficulties understanding and answering the Dalai Lama’s questions, since he was rather deaf and therefore asked Tsang Khenchen to answer on his behalf.

Toward the end of 1673, without having yet visited Tsurpu, the Karmapa was told by the Fifth Dalai Lama to go to Drak (sgrags), a somewhat inaccessible region south of Lhasa, on the north bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. The Karmapa followed the order. There, at Nagdrak Monastery (sngags grwa dgon pa), he produced one of his last works of art, a drawing of the Caṇḍa Vajrapāṇi for Norbu Zangpo and a white-sandalwood statue of Mārīcī riding a pig for Norbu Zangpo’s mother. Around the lunar New Year of 1674, not only was the Karmapa granted permission to return to Tsurpu, but the Dalai Lama gave him back the share of property from which he derived his sustenance, the main and subsidiary estates of Tsurpu. He never returned to Tsurpu, however, as he fell ill at Drak and passed away.” (from 10th Karmapa’s Treasury of Lives biography).

5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682) ordered the painting of Mārīcī by 10th Karmapa
17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje – scholar, translator, poet, playwright, artist, feminist, vegetarian and environmentalist
 
This new artwork is yet another ‘feather in the hat’ of the 17th Karmapa’s creative and intellectual output. In addition, as I wrote about here before, the Karmapa’s activities on gender equality, female empowerment, vegetarianism, environmental protection and so on, are without parallel in the Tibetan Buddhist world today.

“There is a goddess named Mārīcī who goes ahead of the sun.
Because she has the means of mastery over miracles, she always goes ahead of the sun.
The sun cannot see her, but she can see the sun.
No one can see her. No one can know her.
No one can catch her. No one can harm her.
No one can delude her. No one can bind her.
No one can leave a debt to her unpaid. No one can punish her.
She also has no fear of falling under an enemy’s power.”
–Excerpt from ‘Dhāraṇī of Mārīcī ‘ (based on the Chinese-Tibetan translation by 17th Karmapa)

Music? ‘Golden Lady’ by Stevie Wonder! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXCTjAMR3eA

Art review written by Adele Tomlin, 16th February 2022.

FURTHER READING/SOURCES

BRILLIANT LIGHT-RAYS GODDESS, MĀRĪCĪ WHO OBLITERATES ALL DARKNESS: GYALWANG 17TH KARMAPA’S CHINESE-TIBETAN TRANSLATION OF THE DHARANI OF MĀRĪCĪ

Brilliant Light Goddess: Karmapa’s Tibetan Translation of the Dhāraṇī of Mārīcī (Ozer Chenma): Aspirations to End Adversity (Part I)

Himalayan Art Resources video on Mārīcī: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClKiuCH13ok)

Lotsawa House translated texts on Marici: https://www.lotsawahouse.org/topics/marici/

 

 

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