Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Parnashavari (Buddhist Deity)

རི་ཁྲོད་མ་ལོ་མ་གྱོན་མ། ནང་ལྷ། 叶衣佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 12860)
Lineages Buddhist
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Three Families Parnashavari (Tibetan: ri tro ma rig sum, lo ma gyun ma. English: the Mountain Ascetic - Wearing Leaves), the goddess who protects from contagious illness.

"...the Bhagavan Parnashavari with a body the colour of pure gold; with three faces, six hands; the main yellow face is slightly smiling and slightly wrathful. The right face is white with a calm expression. The left face is red with an expression of desire; each of the three faces has three eyes. The first right hand holds a vajra at the heart; second, an axe in the manner of striking; third, brandishing an arrow. The first left holds a vajra lasso wound around the fore-finger; second, a fan of new leaves with fruit and flowers hanging; third a bow; adorned with various flowers and jewels. Having an upper garment of red cloth of divine material and a lower garment of new leaves thatched together and adorned with many flowers and fruit. With long hair in a tuft, bound upward by a jeweled white snake and in the prime of youth; the body is very beautiful, dexterous and slightly wrathful. The knee of the right leg is pressing down on the seat and the heel is positioned underneath in support. The left is being raised up, seated in a haughty manner." (Thartse Panchen Namkha Palzang. sGrub Thabs Kun bTus, vol.6, fol.603-607).

Associated with the mysterious Shavari tribe of ancient India, the Forest Goddess, Parnashavari, with three faces and six hands, wears a skirt and a garland of thatched green leaves. She is associated with jungle tribes and the practice of healing, particularly curing contagious diseases. In the Himalayas and Tibet when a large group of people congregate to receive extended religious teachings, it is common to first give the initiation and blessing for the Forest Goddess in order to stave off sickness.

The Forest Goddess is an example of an Indian folk deity absorbed into Tantric Buddhism. She is a popular practice and has numerous forms with varying emphases. For the practitioner of Esoteric Buddhist meditation, the Forest Goddess is an emanation of the Buddha, and her special characteristic or metaphor is that of sickness and healing.

Jeff Watt [added 8-2014]

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