The mythical Mount Meru, represented in this small Tibetan Buddhist model, has cosmic significance in three major South Asian religions—Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism—all of which deem it to be the center of the universe. Though the symbolism of Meru varies from tradition to tradition, it is always a mountain of monumental proportions, with each of its four sides composed of a different precious material. It vertically connects the heavenly and earthly realms, and also serves as the axis around which all heavenly bodies orbit, around which rings of mountains and oceans as well as the continents of earth are situated.
As the center of the cosmos, Mount Meru is often symbolized in temple architecture. This model suggests Buddhist temple architecture, especially that of Nepal. It also resembles Tibetan three-dimensional wooden mandalas. Indeed, the universe around Mt. Meru forms a mandala and is the subject of the ritual mandala offering.
Mount Meru and its cosmology form a universe in which the various beings of samsara inhabit different regions, according to their karma. Deities inhabit the slopes of Mount Meru in sumptuous palaces, while the ethereal residents of the form and formless realms reside above, and hell beings reside below. It is believed that as a human, born in our continent of Jambudvipa to the south of Mount Meru, one can have an opportunity to encounter the Buddha’s dharma and attain enlightenment.
Come view our Art of the Week in the exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art.