The Temptation of Shakyamuni

The Temptation of Shakyamuni

Painting in hanging scroll (thangka) format, with decoratively stitched borders, mounted on the removable support panel
This Nepalese painting illustrates one of the central episodes in the biography of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Just before he attained enlightenment, the soon-to-be-Buddha was challenged by the evil demon Mara. In an attempt to distract Shakyamuni from his meditation, Mara had his armies swarm around, threatening him and creating a great noise. He also had his lovely daughters dance before the young ascetic. Shakyamuni maintained his concentration with the support of the earth, which rumbled a threat at Mara after the Buddha touched it with his hand. Mara is seen arriving in his chariot in the lower-left corner and departing, defeated, in the lower right.

The Buddha Shakyamuni sits in an elaborate throne, wearing a crown, his right hand pointing downward in Bhumisparsa (earth-touching) mudra. He is surrounded by a wide variety of demonic figures, some of which gesture threateningly toward him. Below, a group of women dance, while a male figure (Mara) arrives and departs on a chariot.

In a thin band across the lower part of the painting, in Newari script, an identificatory inscription including a date equivalent to 1561 AD.


  • Title : The Temptation of Shakyamuni
  • Year : dated 1561(Nepal Samvat 681)
  • Classification : Paintings
  • Medium : Distemper on cotton
  • Dimension : 108.5 x 75.5 cm (42 11/16 x 29 3/4 in.)
  • Accession No : 67.846
  • Country/ Geo-location : NEPAL
  • Collection : Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Credit Line : Gift of John Goelet
  • Status : NOT ON VIEW
  • PROVENANCE : By 1967, John Goelet, New York, NY (probably purchased in India or Neapl in the 1960's); 1967, gift of the Goelet to the MFA. (Accession Date: September 13, 1967)