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Asura Lord


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West slope of ceiling of Mogao Cave 249
Western Wei period
 

Depicted in the centre of the mural is the Asura Lord, a famous guardian deity of Buddhism. He is tall and robust, his upper body naked, and has four eyes and four arms. His feet are set in the ocean while his hands are grasping the sun and the moon. Behind him is Mount Sumeru with the palace of the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven (abode of thirty-three divine beings) at its summit.

The Asura Lord is flanked by the Thunder God, Wind God, Lightning God, Rain God as well as apsara and Garuḍa (a humanoid bird). It looks as if a severe thunderstorm accompanied by gales, torrential rain and threatening lightning will burst out at any moment. Depicted on the shores enclosing the ocean are divine figures meditating in palatial buildings, a ‘Feathered Man' marching, a deer drinking water and a monkey foraging.