Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Ganapati (Indian God & Buddhist Deity) - Red (12 hands)

ཚོགས་བདག། ནང་ལྷ། 象鼻天(佛教本尊)
(item no. 101372)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Male

Summary: This form of Ganapati is an emanation of Lokeshvara.

Interpretation / Description

Ganapati, Maha Rakta (Tibetan: tsog gi dag po, mar chen. English: The Great Red Lord of Hosts). A Tantric Buddhist form of Ganapati (Ganesha) related to the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Tantras. This form of Ganapati is regarded as an emanation of Avalokiteshvara. In the upper left corner is the mahasiddha Virupa. At the upper right side is Bhutadamara Vajrapani in the unique form associated with Maharakta Ganapati. (See Maharakta Main Page and Outline Page).

"...beside a lapis lazuli rock mountain is a red lotus with eight petals, in the middle a blue rat expelling various jewels, [above] Shri Ganapati with a body red in colour, having an elephant face with sharp white tusks and possessing three eyes, black hair tied in a topknot with a wishing-gem and a red silk ribbon [all] in a bundle on the crown of the head. With twelve hands, the six right hold an axe, arrow, hook, vajra, sword and spear. The six left [hold] a pestle, bow, katvanga, skullcup filled with blood, skullcup filled with human flesh and a shield together with a spear and banner. The peaceful right and left hands are signified by the vajra and skullcup filled with blood held to the heart. The remaining hands are displayed in a threatening manner. Wearing various silks as a lower garment and adorned with a variety of jewel ornaments, the left foot is extended in a dancing manner, standing in the middle of the bright rays of red flickering light." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557. Translated by Jeff Watt).

In the Maharakta tradition the narrative relates how Avalokiteshvara after killing the Shaiva Hindu Ganesha proceeded to cut off the elephant head and then placed it on top of his own, thus taking on the appearance of the defeated 'evil' Ganesha.

"The elephant-headed god of wealth, Ganapati, appeared to the siddha, Zangtsa Sonam Gyaltsen, during his meditation and carried him up to the highest peak of worldy existence. Looking out eastward from this vantage-point, Zangtsa saw the kingdoms of Tibet, China and Mongolia stretching out into the distance below him, but the great expanses beyond them so unnerved him that he dared not look further. The deity informed him, "Because you dared not look further, dominion over these lands which you have seen will belong, not to you, but to your descendants. Had you looked further, you would have become the ruler of the universe."

In order to fulfill his prophecy, Ganapati approached an elderly sage living in solitude at gLang-dor. This great hermit, Se-ston Ripa, was a pillar of the Kahdampa order, a writer of many books and an emanation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The deity requested him to take rebirth in Sakya as the son of Zangtsa Sonam, and Se-ston Ripa agreed." (A Gift of Dharma to Kublai Khan By Chogyal Phagpa, Seventh Patriarch of Sakya. Ngorchen Konchog Lhundup, Ngor chos 'byung, folia 323-328. Translated by Jared Rhoton, 1976).

This form of Ganapati belongs to a set of three powerful or deities known as the 'mar chen kor sum' or the Three Great Red Deities included in a larger set called 'The Thirteen Golden Dharmas' of Sakya. The other two Great Red Ones are Kurukulla (of the Hevajra Tantra) and Takkiraja (of the Guhyasamaja Tantra).

Lineage: Vajradhara, Vajra Varahi, Saraha, Nagarjuna, Lord Shavaripa, Hangdu Karpo, Mal Lotsawa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, etc. The source text used in the Sakya Tradition was taught by the mahasiddha Krishnacharin and translated by Pandita Gayadhara. It is a little odd that those two names do not appear in the official lineage of teachers.

Jeff Watt 8-2001 [image updated 12-2011]

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Sacred Visions

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Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara (Wrathful/Semi Forms)
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Buddhist Deity: Ganapati Main Page
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Buddhist Deity: Ganapati, Maharakta Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati Masterworks
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Subject: Three Great Nepalese Style Paintings
Painting: Scroll Work
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati, Maharakta (Masterworks)
Nepal: Masterworks (Painting)