The subtle body and cosmic man

The subtle body and cosmic man

Illustration of the esoteric body of Hindu tantrism

This preparatory drawing is a splendid example of the full cosmic man who represents the planes of existence from the three realms of the netherworld (or unconscious), through this world of the body-cosmos represented by the subtle body, to the realm of the heavens which comprises successive stages of higher consciousness shown as secret celestial upper ‘chakras’, accessed beyond the seventh Sahasrara Chakra. Reading from the bottom: there is a multi-armed, multi-headed figure of Shiva seated on a lotus held aloft by a monkey balancing on two discs, similar to the red sun and white moon orbs in a cat. 111 opposite. Above this grouping is Vishnu lying in the Endless Ocean prior to Creation; he is accompanied by his consort Lakshmi and an attendant. Above them appears the boar incarnation of Vishnu, Varaha, holding aloft the Earth Goddess, Prithivi, whom he has just rescued from the nether regions. Above them, standing on a snake, is the subtle body of a ‘yogin’, each of whose ‘chakras’ contains either a single figure or a couple within a multi-petalled circle.

The script at different points on the drawing indicates the name of the ‘chakra’, and the colours to be used.

Jackie Menzies, ‘Goddess: divine energy’. pg.178
© 2006 Art Gallery of New South Wales


  • Title : The subtle body and cosmic man
  • Year : 19th century
  • Classification : Drawings
  • Medium : Ink and slight colour on paper
  • Dimension : 240.0 x 50.0 cm (irreg.)
  • Accession No : 433.2003
  • Country/ Geo-location : NEPAL
  • Collection : Art Gallery New South Wales, Australia
  • Credit Line : Purchased 2003
  • Status : Not on display
  • Bibliography : Madhu Khanna, Goddess: Divine Energy, 'Devi Kundalini: the narrative of the subtle body', pg. 173-176, Sydney, 2006, 178 (2 colour illus.). The image on the right is a detail of this work.
  • Exhibition history : Goddess: Divine Energy, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Oct 2006–28 Jan 2007