About the Artwork

Within the Hindu Shaivite and Shakta Tantra traditions a deity may be worshipped in three different ways: on a gross or outer level as a figurative statue or painting; on a subtle or inner level as the abstract form of a yantra or 'device'; or on a most subtle or secret level as the mantra of the deity. A yantra is much like a mandala in its two-dimensional geometrical construction, yet unlike a painted or powdered sand mandala a yantra is usually drawn or inscribed with a metal stylus on materials such as birch-bark, or upon gold, silver or copper plates. Some yantras, particularly the Shri Yantra, may also be three-dimensionally sculpted from precious materials such as gold, rock crystal or lapis lazuli, and a yantra is traditionally placed upon a flat surface and worshipped in a specific direction.

The Shri Yantra, Shri Vidya, or Shri Chakra is the most well known of all yantras and is a symbolic representation of a Mahayidya goddess who bears the name of Shri, meaning 'the auspicious one'. This important tantric goddess is also known as Tripura Sundari, meaning the 'beautiful lady of the three cities'; or as Sodashi, meaning the 'sixteen-year-old'; or as Lalita, the 'playful one'. Tripura Sundari is one of the ten Mahavidya or 'great knowledge-holding' goddesses of the Shakta Tantra traditions, which represent ten principal and unique aspects of the great goddess, Devi (Durga).

Tripura Sundari is red in color, beautiful and youthful like a sixteen-year-old (sodashi), and she sits upon a red lotus that may emerge from the navel of the prone form of Lord Shiva; or upon the horizontal couch of Shiva's body, which is supported by four legs that appear in the form of the Vedic gods, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra. In her four hands she holds the subjugating attributes of a bow made from sugarcane, five arrows fashioned from different flowers, an iron hook, and a noose that is made from a lotus-stem or adorned with flowers. In this aspect she is similar to the red subjugating Buddhist goddess, Kurukulla, whose name and form is also closely identified with that of Lalita Tripura Sundari.

The Shri Yantra's interior is formed from nine triangles that interlock around a central seed point or 'bindu', with the bindu representing the yantra's presiding goddess. Four of these triangles point upward, representing the male aspect of Shiva as 'fire'; and five point downward, representing the female aspect of Shakti as 'creative energy'. Collectively these nine intersecting triangles create a precise mathematical configuration of forty-three red triangles on a white background. The forty-three triangles are grouped into a series of five wheels or chakras that consist of one, eight, ten, ten, and fourteen red triangles, which progressively emanate from the central bindu outwards.

© text by Robert Beer

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