In Buddhism, Gautama Buddha is respected as the highest Buddhist figure and is respected by every Buddhist devout and Buddhist disciples all over the world. Aside from Buddha, there are various figures who are well respected and worshipped by Buddhist devout and Buddhist monks. Bodhisattvas are considered as the Buddhist figure who use their knowledge to help all the living beings attained Nirvana. These Bodhisattvas have made a vow to help other living beings and prioritized these tasks over attaining Nirvana themselves. As mentioned in countless Buddhist art and history, there are many Bodhisattvas in Buddhism but these five Bodhisattvas are considered the most important among all the others in Buddhism.
1. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara
Also known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, sympathy, and affection, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is well respected in many Buddhist traditions such as Burmese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Newar Buddhism, etc. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is also popularly known as the Buddhist figure with thousands hands as well as thousands heads and it is said that these hands are given by Amitabha Buddha, one of the Pancha Buddhas.
Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit is translated as "the one who looks down on pity". Sometimes, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is depicted with Amitabha Buddha since Amitabha Buddha gave him thousands hands when Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara hands were shattered in thousand pieces. And then Amitabha Buddha was believed to take form of Mahakala. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is considered as one of the most revered Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism and also in Theravada Buddhism. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is sometimes popularly depicted in female version i.e. Guanyin.
2. Bodhisattva Manjushree
Manjushree Bodhisattva is one of the iconic figure in main stream Buddhism i.e. Mahayana as well as Newar and Tibetan Buddhism. Also known as Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Bodhisattva Manjushree is mostly depicted with Vajra Sword of Discriminating Light. Bodhisattva Manjushree is also represented as the wisdom of Prajna. According to Mahayana Buddhist literature, Bodhisattva Manjushree is referred in early Mahayana Sutras.
Manjushree is translated as "The One Who is noble and gentle". Bodhisattva Manjushree is also portrayed as he was holding a Sword in his right hand and Sutra of Perfection of Wisdom in his left hand. Manjushree is believed to be an important figure in the origin of Swayambhunath stupa, one of the important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal. The statues of Manjushree is quite popular among the Tibetan Buddha statues and Nepalese Buddha statues.
3. Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta
One of the important and iconic figure in Pure Land Buddhism along with Avalokitesvara and Amitabha Buddha. Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva is often known as the One who has obtain Great Power and is believed to use his great power to liberate human beings from Samsara. In Pure Land Buddhism, Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta is also often depicted as female version. Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva is depicted holding lotus in his hand.
4. Bodhisattva Samantabhadra
Known as Fugen in Japan, and Puxian in China, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is considered as the celestial Bodhisattva or iconic figure who vowed to protects all living beings who teach the fundamental of Buddha i.e. Dharma. Thus Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is also known as One who is All-pervadingly good. Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is popular depicted as an iconic figure riding on the six tusks and three headed Elephant. Sometimes Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is depicted with Manjushree along with Vairochana Buddha i.e. one of the Pancha Buddhas.
5. Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha
Popularly known for his bald head, Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha is considered as an iconic figure who vowed to save all the living beings from hell and also vowed not to attain Nirvana until and unless none remains in Hell. The sculptures of Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha is believed to protect all the children, expectant mother, and travelers. Unlike other Bodhisattvas who are depicted in royal form, Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva is depicted in simple form of monks holding wish-fulfilling jewel in one hand and a staff with six rings in other hands. The six rings represents that Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha protects all living beings in all six realms.
Most of these Bodhisattvas are considered quite important Buddhist figures many Buddhist tradition, i.e. Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism etc especially in Buddhism in Nepal. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, and Bodhisattva Manjushree are depicted in many Nepal Tibetan Buddha statues.