Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Hevajra (Buddhist Deity) - Combined Families (Vajrapanjara Tantra)

ཀྱེ་རྡོ་རྗེ། ནང་ལྷ། 喜金刚(佛教本尊)
(item no. 13601)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Male

TBRC: W25327

Interpretation / Description

Shri Hevajra Panchadaka Mandala (Tibetan: pal gye pa dor je rig du kyil kor. English: The Combined Glorious Hevajra Five Lords Mandala) with Forty-nine Deities from the Vajrapanjara Commentary Tantra. The composition is from a set of paintings, circa 1380, depicting the series of Vajravali deity mandalas commissioned in honor of the Sakya teacher Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen Palzangpo (1312-1375 [TBRC P1226]. bla ma dam pa bsod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po). Bibliographic reference: Arya Dakinivajrapanjara Mahatantrarajakalpa Nama

Sanskrit: Hevajra Tibetan: Gye pa dor je

There are three mysteries concerning this famous set of Vajravali mandala paintings. The first is [1] 'where were the paintings made,' [2] 'when were the paintings made,' and 'who commissioned the set of paintings?'

The set of paintings can be as few as twenty-six, or twenty-eight or as many as forty-two compositions, as described in the Vajravali Sanskrit text of Abhayakaragupta (11th century).The set was commissioned in the last half of the 14th century in honour of the great teacher and patriarch of the Sakya Tradition Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen (1312-1375) by a person identified as Chen-nga Chenpo which is an epithet belonging to several individuals in recorded history. One individual who held this title of Chen-nga Chenpo (1310-1370) was the son of Pagdru Jangchub Gyaltsen and a devoted student of Lama Dampa. Chen-nga was offered the title (Chen-nga) when he returned to Densatil in the 1360s. Is it possible that this set of paintings was created to honour Lama Dampa by his devoted student while both were still alive which would place the date of creation roughly between 1365 and 1370?

The full name inscription of Lama Dampa (at the top center of each composition) and the donor figure (at the bottom right or left) are so far only found on one of the known paintings from the set. (See the Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja, HAR #58302).

Within the center of the two-dimensional circular diagram (mandala) representing the top view of a three-dimensional celestial palace and surroundings are five smaller square mandalas each containing a form of Shri Hevajra with nine deities. In the central square is Akshobhya-Hevajra, blue in colour, with eight faces, sixteen hands holding skullcups and four legs in a dancing posture. The first pair of hands embrace the consort Vajra Nairatmya (Selfless One), dark blue, with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup, standing on the left leg with the right embracing Hevajra. They stand atop four corpses in the appearance of the four great gods; Brahma, Indra, Vishnu, and Shiva, within the flames of pristine awareness surrounded by eight goddesses of various colours, each with one face and two hands, standing in a dancing posture on the left leg above a corpse and lotus seat. Beginning from the top and moving in a clockwise direction are Vetali, Dombini, Ghashmari, Pukkashi, Gauri, Shavari, Chauri, and Chandali. They all hold their own distinct hand objects and have their own body colour.

"...in the east black Gauri, right hand holding a curved knife, left a rohita fish; south red Chauri, right hand holding a damaru, left a pig; west yellow Vetali, right hand holding a tortoise, left a skullcup; north green Ghashmari, right hand holding a snake, left a skullcup; north-east blue Pukkashi, right hand holding a lion, left an axe; south-east white Shavari, right hand holding a monk, left a monk's staff; south-west purple Chandali, right hand holding a wheel, left a plough; north-west multi-coloured Dombini, right hand holding a vajra, left a wrathful gesture. Also, all have one face, two hands, three eyes and yellow hair flowing upward; naked, adorned with five ornaments of bone; a crown of five human skulls and a necklace of fifty skulls. With the left leg extended and the right in a half-lotus posture, in a dancing manner, they stand in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness." (Konchog Lhundrub).

Surrounding the [1] Akshobhya Hevajra mandala, in the square above, is the deity [2] Amitabha-Hevajra, red in colour, embracing the consort red Pandara Vasini. In the square to the right is [3] Amoghasiddhi-Hevajra, green in colour, embracing light green Samaya Tara. In the square below is [4] Vairochana-Hevajra, white in colour, embracing pink Vajradhatvishvari. In the square to the left is [5] Ratnasambhava-Hevajra, yellow in colour, embracing orange Buddha Lochani. Surrounded by their own unique circle of variously coloured eight goddesses each set of figures is otherwise identical in appearance to the central Hevajra except for the hand attributes which are different for each of the five forms of Hevajra.

The floor of the celestial palace is divided into four colours: red, green, white and yellow. Four empowerment vases adorn the four squares of the intermediate directions. The outer red, blue and white lines forming a square enclosure represent the red veranda outside of the palace walls and the stylized decorative facade on the four sides of the palace roof; adorned with upright spears, arrows and banners. The elaborate lintels above each of the four doors ('T' shaped) are constructed of four tiered steps, red, blue, green, and yellow, topped with a Dharma wheel and two reclining deer with a silk canopy above. The palace is placed squarely on a horizontal multi-coloured double vajra (Sanskrit: vishvavajra) with only the prongs and makara heads (an Indian mythological water creature) appearing on the four sides. Surrounding that is a circle of multi-coloured (rectangular) lotus petals (Skt.: padmavali) representing the enormous lotus upon which the entire palace structure rests.

Along the top of the composition are the lineage gurus for the Panchadaka Hevajra system of Tantric instruction. At the top center is Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen (1312-1375 [TBRC P1226]). To the viewer’s left of the central figure are Vajra Nairatmya, Yogeshvara Virupa, Kanha, Damarupa, and Avadhutipa. From the right side are Dombipa (Dombi Heruka) riding a tiger, Alala Vajra, Nagtropa, Garbharipa, Jaya Shrijnana and Acharya Durjayachandra. In the four corners framed within large circles are the goddesses blue Gegmo, yellow Lumo, red Shangma and green Garma. Descending on the right and left sides is the continuation of the guru lineage with Bikshu Viravajra, Drogmi Lotsawa, Ngaripa Salwai Nyingpo, Khon Gyichuwa Drala Bar, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), Sonam Tsemo, Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita, Chogyal Pagpa, Tsog Gom Kunga Pal, Dragpuga Nyenchenpa, etc.

In the lower register beginning on the left side are the four goddesses of music holding a flute, stringed instrument, single sided drum and a double-sided drum. Following that are Kartaridhara Mahakala, Panjara Mahakala, Bhutadamara Vajrapani, Shri Devi, Krishna Jambhala, Yellow Jambhala and a white Ganapati. In the bottom right corner is a donor figure, wearing lay attire, and holding a mala in the outstretched right hand.

The outer circle of the mandala depicts the Eight Great Cemeteries. From the Hevajra Tantra literature: "In the east is the Gruesome charnel ground (chandograkatasi); south Frightful with Skulls (bhairavakapalika); west Adorned with a Blazing Garland (jvalamalalankara); north Dense Jungle (girigahvaronnati); north-east Fiercely Resounding (ugropanyasa); south-east Forest of the Lord (ishvaravana); south-west Dark and Terrible (bhairavandhakara); north-west Resounding with the Cries Kili Kili (Kilikilaghoshanadita). 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).

Shri Hevajra Panchadaka is a meditational deity (ishtadevata) of the non-dual yoga classification. From the numerous types of Hevajra Tantras this representation of Panchadaka arises from the Vajra Panjara Tantra and was popularized in India by the pandit Abhayakaragupta and in Tibet by the founders of the Sakya and Ngog practice traditions.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Nairatmya, Virupa, Acharya Dombi Heruka, Alala Vajra, Nag Tropa, Garbharipa, Jaya Shrijnana, Acharya Durjayachandra, Bhikshu Viravajra, Drogmi Lotsawa, Ngaripa Salwai Nyingpo, Khon Gyichuwa Drala Bar, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), Sonam Tsemo, Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita, Chogyal Pagpa, etc.

So far only two compositions from the painting set the double vajra ground (vishvavajra) in a three dimensional manner with the four tines in each of the directions overlapping. This can best be understood by observing what appears to be a double makara head with all of the tines (prongs) emerging out then tapering to meet at the cardinal points and touching the tip of the central prong.

The style of the painting is a mixed Tibetan and Nepali, evidenced by the strong geometric form, the use of bright red and blue colours and the intricate floral patterns used in the background design and flame patterns. (See a Nepalese mandala painting dated to 1365).

Jeff Watt 1-2019 (based on HAR 81, 6-1998).


Bibliographic reference: Arya Dakinivajrapanjara Mahatantrarajakalpa Nama

Secondary Images
Related Items
Collection: Sotheby's New York (Painting. March, 2019)

Thematic Sets
Subject: Lineage Paintings - Asymmetrical
Subject: Five Buddhas (Mandala)
Subject: Monkey Imagery Page
Indian Adept: Hands of the Dakini/Deity
Mandala: Sakya Masterworks
Mandala: Complex Multi-Mandalas
Mandala: Deity Figures & Shapes
Collection of Zhiguan (Painting & Textile)
Mandala: Religious Context
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Mandalas
Mandala: Shape, Form & Composition
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra (Combined Families)
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Mandalas (Masterworks)
Painting Set: Vajravali (Lama Dampa Set)
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Religious Context