Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Kurukulla (Buddhist Deity)

ཀུ་རུ་ཀུ་ལེ། ནང་ལྷ། 作明佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 322)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Uncertain
Size 73.03x51.44cm (28.75x20.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.21.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Kurukulle (Tibetan: rig che ma. English: The One of the Action Family): Goddess of Power.

With one face, three eyes, dark yellow hair flowing upward and four hands, she has a slightly fierce and slightly peaceful expression. Held in the first pair of hands is a bow and arrow and in the second a hook in the right and lasso in the left. All the objects held in the hands are made of red utpala flowers and are used as implements of subjugation. Adorned with a tiara of skulls, earrings, bracelets and a necklace of fifty heads she wears a tiger skin as a skirt. Standing with the right leg drawn up in a dancing posture and the left leg pressing on a red corpse above a sun disc and lotus seat she is completely surrounded by a circle of flames of pristine awareness studded with wishing jewels.

At the top center is the buddha Amitabha, red in colour, seated with the two hands in the mudra (gesture) of meditative equipoise. Encircling the central figure are 99 emanations, red in colour, all with one face and two hands, holding a bow and arrow made of utpala flowers. At the bottom center in a dome of light, precious offerings of red coral, gold lamps, and precious jewels are arranged on a bed of exotic fabrics and rare animal skins.

"Culmination of the pristine awareness and compassion of all conquerors,
Well arising as the bliss-emptiness - Goddess of Power,
Controlling all beings of the three realms with a charming form;
Homage to the Dakini." (Nyingma liturgical verse).

There are numerous forms and lineages of Kurukulle arising from the Kriya and Anuttarayoga classes of tantra of the Sarma traditions and many forms from the 'Terma' (Revealed Treasure) traditions of the Nyingmapa School. In the Kriya tantras she is often portrayed, but not exclusively, as a red power emanation of Tara. However, most forms of red Tara are not Kurukulle. In Anuttarayoga, from the Hevajra and Vajrapanjara Tantras, she is a power emanation of Shri Hevajra. Here Kurukulle, normally red in colour, has been painted with gold as an offering.

Jeff Watt 6-98

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