Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Kurukulla (Buddhist Deity)

ཀུ་རུ་ཀུ་ལེ། ནང་ལྷ། 作明佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 422)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Sakya and Ngor (Sakya)
Size 29.21x21.59cm (11.50x8.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Red Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.7.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

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

Powerful, red in colour with one face, hair flowing upward, three eyes and four hands, slightly fierce in expression, she holds a bow and arrow in the first pair of hands and a hook and lasso in the lower pair. All the hand objects are constructed of red utpala flowers and used as implements for the subjugation and accomplishment of all goals. Adorned with jewel ornaments, a tiara, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and silk scarves, she wears a lower skirt of tiger skin. Standing atop a corpse, sun disc and lotus blossom she dances amidst the circular flames of the fire of pristine awareness.

At the top center is the Buddha of the Western direction Amitabha. At the top left is mahasiddha Virupa performing the gesture (mudra) of Dharma Teaching with the two hands at the heart; seated in a relaxed posture. At the top right is a teacher of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism with the hands folded in meditation and wearing a scholar's (pandita) hat with the lappets folded across the crown. At the bottom left is Green Tara, with one face and two hands, seated in a relaxed posture. At the right is another Sakya teacher holding a vase in the extended right hand and the stem of a lotus in the left held to the heart with the blossom supporting an ignorance cleaving sword and the Prajnaparamita wisdom book. At the bottom center is the wrathful protector 'Queen of the Weapon Army' (mag zor gyal mo), with one face and two hands holding a stick and skullcup; riding a mule.

In the Sakya Tradition there are numerous forms of Kurukulle from the four different tantra classifications and all of those can be arranged in five levels of profundity. This particular subject belongs to the fourth or fifth of the higher classifications - those associated with the Hevajra and Vajrapanjara Tantras.

Guru Lineage: the great Vajradhara, the holy Kurukulla, Raja Sahaja Lalita, Vajrasana the Greater, the Younger Amoghavajra, Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

This type of painting is called tsal tang - gold outline on a red background, generally used for power and long-life deities, and bodhisattva figures. A similar type of painting is a ser tang where the background is entirely of gold with the drawing often done in a red outline.

Jeff Watt 4-98

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery II
Tradition: Sakya Deity Paintings
Painting Type: Red Background
Buddhist Deity: Kurukulla Main Page
Subject: Deity Colours - Red (Powerful Activities)
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 2
Teacher: Jamyang Khyentse (Minor Figure)