Iconography: Buddhist Iconography in Himalayan & Tibetan Style Art (Figurative) Main Page

Buddhist Iconography Main Page | Iconography Main Page | The Three Basic Figurative Forms | Eleven Figurative Forms | Iconography Subjects Outline | Iconography Sources & Texts Outline | Faces of Deities



Introduction: In Himalayan and Tibetan style art the study of Tantric Buddhist iconography involves the combination of eight subjects under the three categories of [1] Hierarchy (1), [2] Appearance (2-5), and [3] Class & Function (6-8). The category of Hierarchy is the traditional manner in which the figures and deities are arranged and understood according to importance within the religious tradition. The category of Appearance is based on objective observation mixed with religious tradition and the terminology of the indigenous artistic traditions. The category of Class & Function is based on the theoretical and abstract categorizations within the various Tantric Buddhist traditions.

[1] Hierarchy:
- 1. Traditional Hierarchy

[2] Appearance:
- 2. Three Moods & Gender
- 3. Eleven Figurative Forms by Appearance
- 4. Eleven Types of Deities by Appearance
- 5. Physical Features (Faces, Arms, Legs)

[3] Class & Function:
- 6. Four Classes of Tantra
- 7. Four Tantric Activities & Four Colours
- 8. Deities According to Function



1. Traditional Hierarchy (in descending order):
(1) Guru (Teacher)
(2) Buddha (Outline Page)
(3) Ishtadevata/Meditational Deity
(4) Bodhisattva (Outline Page)
(5) Arhat/Pratyekabuddha/Sthavira (Resource Page)
(6) Daka/Dakini (Outline Page)
(7) Protector Deity, Enlightened (Outline Page)
(8) Wealth Deity (Outline Page)
(9) Four Guardian Kings (Outline Page) & Protector Deities (Worldly)
(10) Worldly Gods of the Indian Pantheon



2. Three Moods & Gender (Three Moods):
(1) Peaceful Mood/appearance
(2) Semi-peaceful/semi-wrathful Mood/appearance
(3) Wrathful Mood/appearance



3. Eleven Figurative Forms by Appearance (Main Page):
(1) Buddha Appearance
(2) Arhat Appearance
(3) King Appearance
(4) Monastic Appearance
(5) Lay Figure Appearance (including Yoga Appearance)
(6) Mahasiddha Appearance
(7) Peaceful/Deva/Bodhisattva Appearance
(8) Semi-peaceful/Semi-wrathful Appearance
(9) Wrathful Appearance
(10) Animal Headed Gods & Deities
(11) Warrior (Drala) Appearance



4. Eleven Types of Deities by Appearance:
(1) Peaceful Appearance
(2) Semi-peaceful/semi-wrathful Appearance
(3) Wrathful Appearance
(4) Animal Featured Appearance
(5) Warrior Appearance
(6) Universal Appearance
(7) Layered Appearance
(8) Stacked Appearance
(9) Ithyphallic Appearance
(10) Androgynous & Gender Reversed Appearance
(11) Weird Gods & Fantastical Deities



5. Physical Features:
(1) Faces of Deities (numbers)
(2) Arms of Deities (numbers)
(3) Legs of Deities (numbers)
(4) Trampled Deities
(5) Colours in Himalayan Style Art



6. Four Classes of Tantra (Main Page):
(1) Kriya Tantra
(2) Charya Tantra
(3) Yoga Tantra
(4) Anuttarayoga Tantra



7. Four Tantric Activities & the Four Colours:
(1) Peaceful Activities (White Deities)
(2) Increasing Activities (Yellow Deities)
(3) Powerful Activities (Red Deities, Outline Page)
(4) Wrathful Activities (Blue/black Deities)
- Green Colour
- Multi-coloured
- Other Colours



8. Deities According to Function:
(1) Buddha (Main Page, Outline page)
(2) Meditational Deity: (Main Page)
(3) Long-life (Main Page, Outline Page)
(4) Wisdom (Main Page, Outline Page)
(5) Power (Main Page, Outline Page)
(6) Miscellaneous (Main Page)
(7) Protector: (Main Page, Outline)
(8) Protector, Worldly: (Main Page, Outline)
(9) Wealth Deity (Main Page, Outline Page)
(10) Purification (Main Page, Outline Page)

Jeff Watt February 27th, 2010 [updated 2-2016]