Friday, July 05, 2019

Sukunda: Newa`s five elements

(Information by Dipak Shrestha)

Sukunda is a typically traditional Nepali oil lamp made of brass. The front part of this lamp shows a tiny icon of Ganesha, the god 
 of luck and success. In its front is a tiny cup of fixed in the shape of Yoni to put the wick in it. Fixed on the back of the lamp is a fascinating loop handle designed with a five headed serpent (sometimes a mythical dragon or makara) raising head in a very watchful attitude. A small spoon with a nagakanya on top- is generally used for replenishing the oil from the reservoir.
The artistic work on this unique oil lamp reflects the remote past of a very famous Buddhist legend. 
The Legend
Long time ago Kathmandu valley was a large lake inhabited by nagas(snakes). In the middle of the lake was a beautifully blooming thousand petalled lotus flame. When Buddhisattwa Mahamanjushree heard all about this, he rushed to the valley all the way from China to pay homage to the flame. The entire valley rang up with the thundering strike of his magic sword on the southern hill of the lake, which drained the entire water from the lake leaving the valley floor open to all. The most famous Buddhist stupa of Nepal locally known as Swayambhubatha is believed to have originated from the same legendary lotus flame. The cut where the water drained out is now known as Kwaina. (Kwaina Ganesh).
It is interesting to note that the word Sukunda, means a beautiful lake in Newari language. The Sukunda story in many ways sounds like an artistic fact in fiction. It is said that the oil reservoir of Sukunda represents the legendary lake and its wide open mouth represents the full-blown thousand petalled lotus and the cup attached to it in which the lamp is lighted the self existent divine lotus flame. The snake hood over the Sukunda and the snake spoon half dipped in its oil reservoir symbolize the nagas(snakes), original inhabitants of the legendary lake. The Yoni lamp cup symbolizes Swayambhu Jyotir-linga meaning the self-existent divine light. The lamp lighted in this yoni-cup symbolizes the great union of Shiva(Swayambhu) and Shakti and Lord Ganesh in front represents great guru who is there to teach one and all about the supreme acts of God and his changeless inner nature. This is one of the reasons why Lord Ganesha is entitled to receive the first worship by his devotees before they begin any ceremony. No socio-religious ceremony in Nepal, big or small, ever starts until Sukunda is lighted and set up at the ceremonial spot.

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