Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vaishravana (Buddhist Protector) - Riding a Lion

རྣམ་ཐོས་སྲས། བྱང་ཕྱོགས་སྐྱོང་། 北方多闻天王
(item no. 102)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Uncertain
Size 50.80x33.02cm (20x13in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1995.4.2
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.

Vaishravana, with a regal bearing, has one face and two hands holding in the right a banner of variously coloured silks atop a long red shaft. In the left, cradled against the side is a brown mongoose excreting gems from the mouth. The King is adorned with a jewelled crown, gold earrings and elaborate flowing garments of manifold colours richly textured, along with pants and boots in Mongolian style. With the chest covered by a golden coat of armour he sits atop a white snow lion with a green mane above a multi-coloured lotus blossom surrounded by a dark nimbus fringed with rainbow light and a red and green aureole.

At the top center is wrathful Vajrapani, blue in colour, with one face and two hands holding a vajra aloft with the right and a lasso in the left, standing surrounded by flames. The bodhisattva Vajrapani serves as mentor to Vaishravana. At the left corner is orange Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, holding a sword and book. At the right corner is white Avalokiteshvara Sadaksari, the bodhisattva of compassion, with one face and four hands.

Along both sides are the main attendants to Vaishravana - eight Yaksha horseman of various colours. They each hold symbols of affluence and wealth, banners, conch shells, gold vases and the like, and wear garments similar to the King.

At the bottom center is Green Tara performing the mudra (gesture) of supreme generosity with the right hand and holding the stem of a blossoming lotus with the left. To the left side is the wealth deity yellow Jambhala holding a bijapuraka fruit in the right hand and a mongoose in the left. To the right is the wealth goddess Vasudhara, consort to Jambhala, performing the mudra of supreme generosity with the right hand and holding a stalk of grain with the left. Golden vessels of wishing jewels stand in front. The gentle landscape is green and lush populated with placid animals, flowers and jewel topped golden vases.

"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.

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

Jeff Watt 7-98

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protectors, Worldly Deities (Lokapala)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Painting Style: Men-ri (New)
Subject: Wealth Deities Main Page
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Riding a Lion
Subject: Eight Wrathful Ones of the Gelug School