Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Simhamukha (Buddhist Deity) - (Bari Lineage)

སེང་གདོང་མ། ནང་ལྷ། 狮面空行佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 424)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug
Size 77.47x51.44cm (30.50x20.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.9.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Simhamukha, Dakini (Tibetan: seng ge dong chen kha dro ma, English: the Dakini Having a Lion Face) along with two attendants; from the lineage of Bari Lotsawa.

With a body dark blue in colour, she has one face - that of a white lion, three red round eyes blazing fiercely with a gaping mouth, a green beard, eyebrows and hair flowing upward. The right hand holds aloft a curved knife to the sky, left a skullcup of blood to the heart, carrying a khatvanga staff tipped with a trident in the bend of the elbow. Adorned with a tiara of five skulls, a green silk scarf and bone ornaments, she wears a tiger skin skirt. Trampling on a corpse with the left foot, above a sun disc and pink lotus blossom, she stands with the right leg drawn up, in a mood of great fierceness dwelling in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness.

At the bottom left is Vyaghramukha 'Tiger Faced' dakini in the same appearance as the central figure except wearing a leopard skin skirt and a red scarf. At the right is Rikshamukha 'Bear Faced' dakini, also but for a red scarf, is in the same appearance.

At the top left is the primordial buddha Vajradhara, blue in colour, with one face and two hands holding a vajra and bell, seated in vajra posture. To the right is a lama wearing monastic robes and performing the gesture of 'giving protection' with the right hand and the left supports a long-life vase in the lap; seated, wearing the traditional yellow pandita hat of the Gelugpa School.

The dakini Simhamukha is a tutelary deity arising out of the Chakrasamvara cycle of Tantras and belongs to the Anuttarayoga 'wisdom' classification. The Sarma tradition Simhamukha is unrelated to the deity of the same name and appearance in the Nyingma 'terma' (treasure) traditions. In that tradition, of the many forms of Padmasambhava, Simhamukha is a secret form of Guru Rinpoche.

Gelugpa Lineage: Vajradhara, Dakini Simhamukha, Vajrasana, Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158) and the five Holy Superiors of Sakya, Rongpa Dorje Gyaltsen, Sanggye Yeshe, Yak De Panchen, Gyalwa Tsongkapa (1357-1419), etc.

This painting is a good example of Tibetan iconographic art. There are no overt, or overwhelming, Nepali or Chinese influences. The figures are outlined clearly with strong lines, shape, and added colour. The background is simple and does not detract from the subject of the painting.

Jeff Watt 6-98

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Thematic Sets
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery II
Buddhist Deity: Simhamukha Main Page
Subject: Animal Headed/Features Gods & Deities (Buddhist)
Subject: Thirteen Golden Dharmas of Sakya
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Buddhist Deity: Simhamukha (3 Deity)