The Sakya Artisans of Nepal

I bought two small statues – one of Vajravarahi (Dorje Phagmo) and the other of Buddha Shakyamuni, from an artisan in Patan. He is a descendent of the legendary Abhaya Raj Sakya, who built the Mahabuddha Temple (see picture) in Patan more than 500 years ago.

The Sakya artisans are bronze craftsmen par excellence since time unknown. I spent two full days visiting this metal town, listening to their stories, watching them at work, and admiring some of their marvelous creations – and reading what is available of their past.

A folk legend, which I heard many years back, tells the story of one of their ancestors, a Sakya artisan, who was taken to the realm of gods in his dreams by Vishwakarma, and was introduced to all the 33 deities there. He was told to memorise how each of the deities looked, and to craft them accordingly in bronze. This is the reason why, I was told, the Sakya artisans make the perfect replicas of Buddhist and Hindu divinities. 

Another legend claims that the statues crafted by the artisans, who have descended from that Sakya artist, will eventually talk (sungjoen in Dzongkha). One example of such a person is the artistan Pintsa Deva, who was invited by Zhadrung Ngawang Namgyel in the 17th Century and whose works are still revered in dzongs and temples in Bhutan – the most famous being the Wish-fulfilling statue in Tango Monastery.

In more recent times, Kuber Singh Sakya, a member of the same clan built the 40-feet tall Maitrya Buddha in Trongsa Dzong between 1938-39. The statue was made in Nepal, dismantled, and then packed in boxes, and carried on mules to Bhutan, and finally assembled in Trongsa in the 1940s. One of his grandsons was the Late Raj Kumar Sakya who built the giant 173 feet tall Guru Nangsi Zillnoen at Takila in Lhuentse in 2015.

Some of these craftsmen also claim bloodline to Buddha Sakyamuni, who was born in the Sakya clan. 

Likewise, another myth or legend is that the gods wanted to be fair. So, they distributed the skills equally among the Sakyas, the Bhutanese and the Tibetans. Accordingly, while the Sakyas make the best bronze images, the Bhutanese make the best clay statues, and the Tibetans are best at thangka painting.

May these artisans, craftsmen and painters continue to create and inspire, and make this world more beautiful to live in, for eons to come. 

#newari #sakyastatues #buddhism #thangka #vajrayana

Buddha Maitrya in Trongsa Dzong that was made in 1938-39 in Nepal and reassembled in Bhutan
Mahabuddha Temple in Patan
Sudarshan Suwol is a great contemporary Newari artist
Mayadevi on the Golden Temple

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