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Video: Introducing Parnashavari, A Fierce-Looking Healer Dressed in Leaves




Already hailed as "enthralling" by the New York Times, Asia Society Museum's new exhibition Golden Visions of Densatil: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery focuses on the memorial stupas — large structures that traditionally held the ashes or remains of an important monk or abbot — that were housed in the Densatil Monastery in central Tibet and date from the 12th and 13th centuries.

"These stupas in its main hall were considered some of the most important and some of the most beautiful, spectacular works of art produced by — or for — a Tibetan Buddhist monastery," says Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Senior Curator of Traditional Asian Art at Asia Society. Proser curated the exhibition in collaboration with guest curator Dr. Olaf Czaja.

The eight stupas at Densatil were of a type called tashi gomang (Many Doors of Auspiciousness). Each of them was very large, over ten feet tall, layered like a cake, and intricately decorated with imagery depicting various gods and goddesses all the way up to the top. Tashi gomang stupas consisted of two sections — a multi-tiered tashi gomang section and, above that, another smaller stupa containing the relics of a prominent Buddhist holy man. (Visit the Golden Visions of Densatil website for a detailed description of the tashi gomang stupa and its functions.)

The exhibition showcases several of the three-dimensional sculptures of deities that would have been attached to the Densatil stupas. One of these artworks is a representation of the goddess Parnashavari. In the video above, Proser introduces Parnashavari and relates some of her distinctive attributes, which include multiple arms and the ability to heal.

Golden Visions of Densatil is on view through May 18, 2014 at Asia Society Museum in New York City.