Zanabazar, Bogd Gegeen — The First Resplendent Saint of Mongolia

When Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhists sought to consecrate a new spiritual master for Mongolia, a remarkable gift of divination occurred, when all omens pointed to the three-year-old son of Gombodorji Zanabazar, who later became the first Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia.

In 1640, Zanabazar a direct descendent of the Great Chinggis Khaan, was recognized by the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama, as a Living Buddha and was thus, enthroned as the head of the Gelug tradition in Mongolia. Zanabazar rapidly acclimated to his recognition and his youth was accompanied by wondrous occurrences.

Given his remarkable ability to combine art with invention, to some he is the Michelangelo of Asia, offering a regional renaissance in theology, language, astronomy, art, medicine, and other spiritual matters. As a religious leader he wrote sanctified music, mastered the sacred arts of bronze casting and painting, fashioned a new design for monastic robes, and created both the Soyombo Script, which according to scholar Ragchaagiin Byambaa, is modeled on Indian Lantsa, known as the Ranjana Script, and the Quadratic Script based on the Tibetan and 'Phags-pa Scripts.

Further, Byambaa suggests that both scripts of Zanabazar were crafted to write in a tri-combined Dharma language of Tibetan, Mongolian and Sanskrit. He phonetically designed his two alphabets to reflect the merged sounds of all three languages more accurately. Used primarily for sacred and ornamental Buddhist inscriptions, it is still occasionally used among learned Buddhist scholars in Mongolia, today.


Primary Iconography: Bogd Gegeen, Zanabazar
Tibetan: khal kha rje btsun dam pa
English: The First Resplendent Saint of Mongolia
Period: The First Resplendent Saint of Mongolia
Dimensions: 16 X 22 inches
Collection: Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts
Photo: Glenn H. Mullin and B. Batbold

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