The region of Buriata is centered around the eastern shores of Lake Baikal in southern Siberia. Ethnically a Central Asian Mongoloid race, the Buryats were exposed to Tibetan Buddhism through contact with the Mongols sometime before the 17th century. Although some elements of their native Shamanistic beliefs remained and intermingled with the new faith, Buddhism remains today as the dominant religion among the Buryat people.
This painting is a mandala of the universe as it is conceived in the Indian and Himalayan tradition. At the center of the universe is Mount Meru, upon which Vaishravana sits. It is surrounded by the Cosmic Ocean and the four continents, each with three major islands. According to tradition, only the southern continent, Jambudvipa (here represented by the red quadrant), is terrestrial, with the other three being mythical. The northern continent of Uttarakuru, of which Vaishravana is king, is here depicted more naturalistically with hills and trees, perhaps as a way of giving importance to the central deity.