Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Direction Guardian (Buddhist Deity) - Virupaksha (West)

རྒྱལ་ཆེན་རིགས་བཞི། 四大天王
(item no. 143)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Size 95.89x59.69cm (37.75x23.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1995.15.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Virupaksha (Tibetan: chen mi zang): Guardian of the Western Direction and King of the Nagas.

With one face and large round eyes, a brown moustache and beard, the right hand holds at the waist a writhing snake entwined around the upper arm - grey in colour with a white belly. With the left hand upraised, he holds a single white pearl-like drop with a lick of yellow flame extending upward from the center. Adorned with an ornate crown of gold, jewels and a small red ribbon at each side he is richly garbed in the raiment of a king, opulent with silk brocades and elaborate designs in varieties of colour. Seated on a deerskin mat above a grassy knoll, in a relaxed posture and wearing boots, the right leg is drawn up supported by an ugly blue daemon in an acquiescent kneeling posture. The left is extended pressing down on the prone form of a brown monkey, lying on the back and wearing a long red garment, gold waist belt and a black cap. The head of the King is encircled by an irregular green areola edged with flames of five colours. The foreground is sparse and green and the background entirely filled with swirling purple smoke.

"Well protecting the Buddha's Teachings with heroic strength of arms; homage to the Kings of the Four Directions, North, South, East and West." (Sakya liturgical verse).

From the set of the Four Guardian Kings of the Directions the other three are Vaishravana - the leader, Virudhaka and Dhritarashtra. Traditionally painted in association with the Buddha and 16 Great Arhats the full group would comprise a total of 25 figures: the buddha Shakyamuni together with the two foremost disciples - Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the 16 Arhats, the attendant Dharmata and the patron Hvashang, together with the Four Kings

Jeff Watt 9-99

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