Aizen Myo'o (Ragaraja)


Aizen Myo'o (Ragaraja)

Paintings / Nanbokucho

Nanbokucho period, 14th century

Color on silk



This is a painting of Aizen Myo'o, or Ragaraja in Sanskrit. This deity has the power to transform lust and other strong passions into a desire to seek enlightenment. As the painting shows, he is depicted with three eyes, six arms, a red body, and a fierce countenance. His mighty power was venerated and his image was displayed at ceremonies to pray for matrimonial harmony or the cursing of enemies, for example, or when performing a ritual known as aizen ho.

His hands hold objects that symbolize his power, such as a Buddhist bell or a bow and arrow. His raised left hand is curled into an empty fist, though. This is so it can hold objects appropriate for various wishes made during ceremonies.

He sits upon a lotus flower. The large, gorgeous petals are adorned with patterns produced by layers of gold pigment. A closer look reveals detailed stamens flowing out between the petals. The lotus pedestal is supported by a treasure vase overflowing with sacred jewels. This symbolizes prosperity and good fortune. It creates a striking impression with its bulky shape and dragon design adorned with gorgeous golden clouds. Large lotus petals topped with more sacred jewels are painted below the treasure vase.

There is something almost excessive about the depiction and decorativeness of this Aizen Myo'o painting and its focus on sacred jewels. A number of similar works were created around the 14th century. Perhaps it was used at special ceremonies that took place against the backdrop of the bitter political strife that plagued the Nanbokucho period in the 14th century.

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