I am Manjushri, and my name means “Gentle Glory”. I was Buddha’s youngest and most beloved student. I am the first Bodhisattvas having lived with and conversed with the Historical Buddha.
You can always identify me because I ride upon a lion. I wear the crown and jewelry that for a Bodhisattva symbolize spiritual, not material wealth.
Does my lion look fierce and dangerous or more like a pet? We are best friends! This is a way to show that I have the wisdom acquired by controlling my mind, and as you must know, controlling the mind is as challenging as riding on the back of a lion.
Though my arms in this sculpture are missing, I carry in my right hand Manjushri’s flaming sword of truth to cut through ignorance and from the stem of a lotus in my left hand a lotus rises above my shoulder revealing the book of wisdom of the teaching of my master of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. I have been seated with his legs crossed in deep meditation, but now I am about to step down off my lion to come to you.
Look, a lotus springs up from the earth to cushion my every footstep. My lion looks up with a big grin, like your pet dog, who has been locked inside the house all day and is excited that we are about to go out into the world, for together we will travel to wherever there is ignorance., and I will share the wisdom of the Buddha to relieve human suffering.
Goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, and nature, Saraswati is worshiped by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains throughout South and South-east Asia, and by Buddhists in China, Korea, and Japan.
Clay images like this one made by a Dhaka artist are worshiped and then immersed in a nearby river to carry her blessings to the whole world. In this clay image, she is traveling by horse-drawn chariot. Why a swan traveling alongside the chariot? In more traditional Hindu iconography, Saraswati is depicted riding on a white swan.
In this clay image from a Durga puja pandal at Jahangirnagar University, she plays the Vina, the musical instrument that is her most important symbol for identification. Her swan waits anxiously to take her to her next concert event.
But this sculpture of Saraswati in the Varendra Research Museum is more likely to have been created for Buddhists and installed at the Buddhist Vihara entrance. Look carefully to discover the vehicle under her lotus throne.
You might expect to find a swan, a Tibetan Argali [wild sheep] waits to take her on a journey. This iconography is unique and suggests that Saraswati entered the pantheon of Buddhist deities in Bangladesh via Tibetan monks teaching at one great Buddhist.
Universities in Bangladesh. Many of the Hindu and Buddhist sculptures in the Varendra Research Museum have iconographic details unique to the art of Bangladesh. They will require years of study of this collection by leading scholars to reveal to the world Bangladesh’s contribution to the history of art.
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