He is Avalokiteshwara also known as Padmapani. He is a Bodhisattva, who embodies compassion of all the Buddhas. Avalokiteshwara literally translates into “Lord who contemplates”, and Padmapani is someone who has a lotus in his hand (Padma – lotus, Pani – hand).

Per early Buddhism, Bodhisattva is Gautama Buddha in his previous lives, and forms the very foundation of Jataka tales. According to later Buddhism, Bodhisattva is someone who has a wish and mind compassionate enough to attain Buddhahood.

Who is a Buddha?

Wait! What do I mean by “a” Buddha? Were there more than one Buddhas?

By Buddha, we generally mean Gautama Buddha. And He was just one of them, but unquestionably the most popular one. Actually, Buddha is someone who has attained enlightenment and has fully comprehended the four noble truths of – pain, origin of pain, cessation of pain, and the path that will lead to the cessation of pain.

According to contemporary Tibetan Buddhism, Avalokiteshwara is someone who looks after all beings with compassion, and usually emanates as Dalai Lama. He is also known as Shadakshari, the “Lord of six syllables”.

What six syllables?

If you have seen those colourful Tibetan prayer flags, have you ever wondered what is written on them? This is what you will find written on them – “Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum”. That’s six syllables. Each of these six syllables are believed to purify the following things in humans, respectively – Pride or Ego, Jealousy or Lust, Passion or Desire, Ignorance or Prejudice, Greed or Possessiveness, Aggression or Hatred. That is precisely all of humanity’s problems in six syllables.

Padmapani
Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India.

Why Buddha?

In ancient India, when the vedic culture turned from being highly scientific into merely ritualistic, the caste system became very rigid. And a vacuum was created which demanded the presence of a spiritual leader who could make humans see the things the way the were, and hence emergence of Gautama Buddha. And He became popular for taking a scientific approach towards attaining Nirvana. His teachings were very simple and spread like wildfire, sweeping settlement after settlement, and laid foundation of early Buddhism.

In frame: Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India. You can find this painting on the left side of the sanctum in cave no.: 1 of Ajanta. Because of extremely low light, photographing paintings inside the Ajanta caves can be challenging and can put your technical skills to test, especially if you are clicking in manual mode.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

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Written by Amrit Panigrahy

Amrit is a freelance photographer and a storyteller.

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