Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vaishravana (Buddhist Protector) - Riding a Lion

རྣམ་ཐོས་སྲས། བྱང་ཕྱོགས་སྐྱོང་། 北方多闻天王
(item no. 100642)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Black Background on Cotton
Collection Publication: A Tale of Thangkas
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Vaishravana Riding a Lion (Tibetan: nam to se tag shon. English: the Son of Nam To): the Guardian King of the Northern Direction, Lord of Yakshas.

"With vajra armour, a garland of jewel ornaments and the beautiful heavenly banner - fluttering, illuminated in the middle of a hundred thousand Wealth Bestowers; homage to Vaishravana, chief among the protectors of the Teaching." (Nyingma liturgical verse).

Vaishravana, leader of the yaksha race, is a worldly guardian worshipped as both a protector and benefactor. He, with his wife - a naga princess, lives on the north side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings in a sumptuous palace bathed in green emerald light. As the leader of the Four Direction Guardians, he like the others, swore an oath of protection before the buddha Shakyamuni.

At the top center is the wrathful Krodha Vajrapani, blue in colour, with one face and two hands holding a gold vajra scepter, surrounded by flames. At the far left side is Tri Nomohan Ngagwang Tsultrim (1721-1791) the 61st Ganden Tripa and the 1st Tsemonling Incarnation. Next to him and wearing a blue shirt is Zangskhar Lotsawa (14th century [P4529]). At the far right side is Lama Sonam Zangpo holding a folio book in the outstretched hand. Seated to the inside is Ponlob Jamyang (17th century [P3880]) with both hands holing a string of prayer beads.

Descending on the left side are the Eight Horsemen: Atavaka, Purna Bhadra, Samjneya and Jambhala. Descending on the right side are Manibhadra, Panchika, Kubera and Bija Kundalin.

The stories and iconography of the Four Guardian Kings arise primarily from the Mahayana sutras and are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

A Gelug Protector Painting Set with seven compositions in total. The primary donor for the set was Purbu Chog. An inscription on the back of the Shri Devi painting gives the names of four donors; Purbu Chog Ngagwang Champa (1682-1762), Lobzang Dargye the 49th Ganden Tripa, Champa Yeshe and Lobzang Trinle (1697-1761). Only three paintings from the set are currently known however the identity of the missing paintings and additional donors are known from the writings of Purbu Chog.

Lineage of Teachers: Vajradhara, Vajrapani, Chodze Chokyi Dorje, Kuntu Zangpo, Drozang Nyingpo, Rinchen Dorje, Khache Gonpa, Zangskhar Lotsawa, Yorpo Joton, Sonam Rinchen, Jepupa, Lhaje Dorzang, Jampa Lotsawa, Sonam Wangchug, Sonam Sengge, Sengge Tsenchen.

Alternate Lineage of Teachers: Vajrapani, Kamarupa, Karnapa, Drozang Rinchen Dorje, Brahmin Sajnyena, Zijilha, Pagpa Sherab, Shuton Kyab, Dragpa Sengge, Gyaton Drubpapo, Drubchog Dorje Pal, Rinpoche, Lama Sengge Shab, etc.

(For additional information see Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond, Robert N. Linrothe and Jeff J. Watt. Rubin Museum of Art, 2004).

Jeff Watt 4-2014 [updated 1-2016]

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Religious Context
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana (Painting Masterworks)
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Riding a Lion
Buddhist Deity: Vaishravana Riding a Lion (Masterworks)
Painting Type: Black Ground Masterworks
Painting Set: Gelug Protectors (Purbu Chog)
Publication: A Tale of Thangkas
Collection: Bonhams, Hong Kong (December 2nd, 2020)