Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Vajrayogini (Buddhist Deity) - Vajravarahi

རྡོ་རྗེ་རྣལ་འབྱོར་མ། སྣང་བརྙན་ཡོངས། 金刚瑜伽佛母(全图) Vajra Sow
(item no. 101337)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1200 - 1299
Lineages Kagyu, Taklung (Kagyu) and Buddhist
Size 70x56cm (27.56x22.05in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Vajravarahi Mandala according to the Taglung Kagyu Tradition. Dated to the late 13th century based on inscriptions and depictions of lineage teachers and donor figure.

Video: Vajravarahi Mandala Comparison (HAR on Patreon).

Deity & Mandala:
At the center of the composition is the female Buddhist figure Vajravarahi belonging to the Vajrayogini class of meditational deities. She is framed within a large double tetrahedron depicted as two intersecting triangles against a white background. There are twelve secondary figures surrounding Vajravarahi contained within a single circle. vajra scepters and multi-coloured flames of wisdom fire. The two figures standing upright at the sides do not belong to the mandala proper. On the left is Naro Khechari. On the right side is Maitri Khechari. The lineage source for Vajravarahi is likely to be either Tilopa or Naropa based on the context of the overall mandala. Both siddhas are known to have transmitted several different mandala configurations. (See a comparable example: HAR #101337. For more information on Vajravarahi see HAR #94 ).

Sanskrit: Vajravarahi Tibetan: Dor je pag mo

Outside of the Mandala:
Immediately surrounding the mandala circle is a upright rectangular bow with a deity figure inside each of the corners. At the upper left is Hevajra. Chakrasamvara is on the right. At the lower left is Mahamaya. At the lower right is Shvana Hayagriva.

Eight Charnel Grounds:
Surrounding the mandala circle are the eight great charnel grounds represented inside the rectangle at the top bottom and two locations each at the sides. Each should have a special tree, cloud, pond, naga and two types of worldly gods. Because of the small size of the composition not all of the elements are depicted or clearly shown without some explanations. 'Furthermore, there are headless corpses, hanging corpses, lying corpses, stake-impaled corpses, heads, skeletons, jackals, crows, owls, vultures, and zombies making the sound, "phaim". There are also siddha with clear understanding, yaksha, raksha, preta, flesh eaters, lunatics, bhairava, daka, dakini, ponds, fires, stupa, and sadhaka. All of these fill the charnel grounds.' (Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557, written in 1551). The 'siddha with clear understanding' are represented by laypersons or monastics with some recognizable. The Sakya and Kagyu traditions generally have specific siddhas associated with a particular cemetery and a direction. The Nyingma and Gelug traditions generally include generic unspecified siddha figures.

Upper Register:
In the upper register beginning on the left side is the Marpa Kagyu lineage of teachers. The figures are Vajradhara, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, Pagmodrubpa, Taglung Tangpa Chenpo (1142-1210 [TBRC P2649]), and Kuyalwa (Onpo) Rinchen Gonpo (1191-1236 [p1784]).

Side Registers:
Below Kuyalwa at the top right side is a monastic teacher likely to be Sanggye Yarjon (1203-1272 [p1818]) with an unidentified siddha-like figure below that. The dating of the composition is based on both the figure and dates for the lineage teacher Sanggye Yarjon along with the early Indian style of painting popular in Tibet during the 12th and 13th centuries. On the left side, below the blue Vajradhara is an unidentified monastic figure which is similar to depictions of the Indian teacher Atisha in some other early painted examples. Again, below that, is Heruka Hevajra. Descending at the right and left sides are eight retinue figures that belong to the mandala practice of Vajravarahi.

Taglung Lineage:
1. Shakyamuni Buddha
2. Vajradhara
3. Tilopa
4. Naropa
5. Marpa Chokyi Lodro
6. Milarepa Zhepa Dorje
7. Gampopa Sonam Rinchen
8. Pagmodrubpa Dorje Gyalpo (1110-1170 [p127])
9. Taglung Tangpa Chenpo, Tashi Pal (1142-1209/10 [p2649])
10. Kuyalwa (Onpo) Rinchen Gonpo (1191-1236 [p1784])
11. Sanggye Yarjon (1203-1272 [p1818])
12. Tashi Lama (Mangala Guru, 1231-1297 [p8428])
13. Others....

Lower Register:
In the lower register are six deity figures beginning on the left side are white Vajrasattva, blue Krodha Vajrapani, Kartaridhara Mahakala, Sadhu Mahakala, Shri Devi Dorje Rabtenma, and at the lower right corner an blue unidentified figure. At the lower left corner is a monastic figure likely to be the donor for the composition.

Inscriptions on the Front and Reverse:
An inscription appears on the front of the composition directly below the circle of the mandala. It reads in Tibetan - bla ma rin po che dbon pa dpal gyi thugs dam lags - which can be interpreted to mean the 'mind pledge of the precious teacher Onpa Pal.' Other inscriptions are located on the reverse giving the additional name of Sanggye Onpo Dragpa Pal (1251-1296 [p1019]).

Jeff Watt 8-2022

Tibetan Inscriptions:
bla ma rin po che dbon dpal gyi thugs dam lags.

Chos rje rin po che nas bla ma dbon po pal yan chod yab sras ... rab gnas brgya rtsa brgyad re bzhugs.

Mtshungs med bla ma dam pa pradznya 'ghu ru dang / bdag 'ghir ti shri ra smri bha tra 'bral med ci gsung bka' bsgrub cing / rang sems 'khrul pa dag pa dang / 'gro' ba'i 'dren pa nus par shog.

The inscriptions are taken from the publication Sacred Visions, Early Paintings From Central Tibet. Steven M. Kossak, Jane Casey Singer. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998. (Pages 96-99).

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Sacred Visions

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Varahi (Painting Masterworks)
Mandala: Art History
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini (Comparison #77206 & 101337)
Teacher: Onpo Pal (Front Inscription)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini (Double Dharmakara)
Painting Style: Indian Style Painting (In Tibet)
Tradition: Taglung Kagyu Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini (Miscellaneous Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini (Early Paintings)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Varahi (Sow Head on the Right Side of the Face)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini Subject Outline
Painting Style : Indian (Deities)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Varahi (Mandala Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini (Masterworks)
Mandala: Masterworks Page
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Vajravarahi Iconography
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini Religious Context
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Vajravarahi Study Guide (Brief)
Kagyu: Mandala Masterworks