Dharani Pillar, levels 1-2

Dali Kingdom, 1200-1220 AD
Kunming City Museum

The lowest level of the pillar is a drum, carved with dragons, that represents the world ocean. Level 1 is capped by an octagonal surface with an inscribed Chinese dedication of the monument. Above this, on level 2, directional guardians (Lokapalas) guard Sanskrit spells (dharani) that have been placed between them. Illustrated here is Vaisravana, guardian of the North, holding spear and pagoda and supported by earth spirits.

The pillar was dedicated by a Dali king, Yuan Douguang, and other top officials of the kingdom, for the favorable reincarnation of their deceased General, Gao Ming Shen. One of the inscribed spells belongs to the Ushnishavijaya Dharani Sutra; this spell, consistent with the pillar's dedication, protects against unfavorable reincarnations.