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Samsaracakra: The Wheel of Rebirth in the Indian Tradition

Monika Zin (Author) Dieter Schlingloff (Author)

In Tibetan art, paintings of the Wheel of Rebirths (Samsaracakra) have remained popular to the present day. Divided into five (more often six) sections, the wheel shows the different possible realms of rebirth: in the world of the gods, (of the asuras), the humans, the animals, the hungry ghosts, and the beings residing in various hells. The prototypes of these depictions were devised in India where, however, only one such painting survived, namely on the veranda of Cave XVII in Ajanta. Corresponding with the Samsaracakra paintings, a number of texts preserved in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese, provide instructions on how to paint this type of wheel. The mural in Ajanta corresponds most closely to a fragmentary Sanskrit manuscript found in Kucha. This manuscript describes not only the wheel of rebirth, but also the wheel’s surroundings: Mara, god of sensuality and death – two of the main factors leading to rebirth – should be depicted there in his fourfold form, as well as representatives of various sciences, such as different branches of medicine. The wheel itself is defined as a ghatiyantra, pot-machine, which scoops water, and is known today as noria or the “Persian wheel.” The present book contains the edition, translation, and commentary of the fragmentary manuscript from Kucha, and a meticulous analysis of the corresponding Ajanta mural.

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About the authors
In the spotlight

Monika Zin

Monika Zin taught Indian art history at the Ludwig-Maximilans-Universitat in Munich and the Freie Universität Berlin from 1994 to 2016. Among her research contributions are monographs such as Ajanta: Handbook of the Paintings. Devotional and Ornamental Paintings, Harrassowitz 2003 (English edition currently pending publication at the IGNCA); Compassion and Miracles: Difficult Conversions and Their Icono­graphy in Indian Buddhism (in German, Harrassowitz 2006); Samsaracakra: The Wheel of Rebirth in the Indian Tradition (together with Dieter Schlingloff, in German, EKŌ House of Japanese Culture, 2007) and numerous articles on the identification of narrative art and Indian drama. Since 2016, Prof. Zin has led the research team of the Centre ‘Buddhist Murals of Kucha on the Northern Silk Road’ at the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig/Leipzig University.

Dieter Schlingloff

Professor emeritus Dr. Dieter Schlingloff, formerly head of the Department of Indology and Iranian Studies at the University of Munich, Germany, is a specialist in Buddhist Sanskrit literature, ancient Indian culture and art. More than forty years of the author's researches have been concentrated on the narrative Ajanta paintings.

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Bibliographic information

Title Samsaracakra: The Wheel of Rebirth in the Indian Tradition
Format Hardcover
Date published: 04.02.2022
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 9789387496774
length 234p.