Mandala of the goddess Sitatapatra Aparajita (detail), Tibet, 1700–1800
Devotional paintings like this one helped to spread Buddhism from India into Tibet, China, and beyond. Initially, traveling storytellers used the paintings on cloth (thangka) as visual aids while they related their tales. In time, such paintings took on a strictly devotional character and became teaching tools used by Buddhist monks. Thangka are not manifestations of an individual’s creativity; they are executed according to strict standards devised to ensure that the images of the deities convey the desired spiritual effect. This gloriously rich and colorful, dizzyingly complex puzzle presents a mandala of Sitatapatra Aparajita, an invincible, parasol-wielding goddess who destroys evil spirits.