The Temple

The Lhakhang Gongma (ལྷ་ཁང་གོང་མ་) or Upper Temple is a small square room measuring ca. 5.5 x 5.5 metres, with a height of 4.6 metres. Despite its precarious condition the temple preserves much of it’s original interior decoration on all walls. The main wall is mostly covered in sculptures, consisting of a central, clumsily restored female image within an elaborate throne frame flanked by eight Buddhas. As in the Main Temple each side wall is occupied by a single mandala, both a variant of the Vajradhātu mandala. Remarkable features here are the colourful decorative lotus scrolls and scarves to the sides and in the corners of the mandalas. Of the two clay gate-keepers which once flanked the entrance, only the painted fiery mandorlas remain, together with considerable portions of murals. Most remarkable among these paintings on the entrance wall is the depiction of of the Four Great Kings above the door.

Main Wall

The configuration of sculptures on the main wall of the Upper Temple is unique (◊ Main Wall). There, the crudely restored main image, most likely to be identified again as the goddess Prajñāpāramitā, is flanked by eight Buddhas. The sculptures have been restored so often that their original appearance can only be guessed (◊ Sculptures). However, as their relationship to the surrounding original murals proves, these sculptures, too, are contemporaneous with the paintings. Comparable mandalas dedicated to Prajñāpāramitā are known from a number of roughly contemporaneous monuments, but only here the goddess is flanked only by Buddhas.

Below the sculptures, in the centre of the main wall, is a very unusual depiction of a ◊ Green Tārā as Saviouress from the Eight Dangers, which unfortunately is only preserved in fragments. The goddess is flanked by the group of eight Bodhisattvas of the fortunate aeon, each placed inside fanciful architectural frames. The damages afflicted to the figures on this level are at least partially intentional.

The two-part composition on the main wall can be read as follows: on the central axis female donors present offerings to female main deities, both of which are considered "mothers of the Buddhas". The lower level is more mundane, with Green Tārā and the eight great Bodhisattvas directly responding to the needs of our world. The upper level assembly can be read as a cosmos of Buddhahood, with Prajñāpāramitā, the Perfection of Wisdom, as the mother of all Buddhas in the centre, and the entire assembly hovering in space.

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