Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Direction Guardian (Buddhist Deity) - Virudhaka (South)

རྒྱལ་ཆེན་རིགས་བཞི། 四大天王
(item no. 172)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Uncertain
Size 95.57x60.96cm (37.63x24in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.11.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Virudhaka (Tibetan: pag pi kye bo), Guardian of the Southern Direction and King of the Kumbhanda.

Regal in stature, blue in colour, he has a full face with black eyebrows, moustache and beard. Large bulbous eyes gaze to the side. The right hand holds at the waist a long sword with the left cradling the blade across the chest. Adorned with an ornate headdress of gold and jewels, earrings and ribbons, he is richly garbed in the brocade raiment of a king, opulent with silks and elaborate design in a variety of colours. Seated on a light brown deerskin mat above a rocky bench, in a relaxed posture and wearing boots, the right foot is extended pressing on the back of a golden turtle. The left foot is held up by a Kumbhanda daemon, green and pink of colour, in an acquiescent kneeling posture. The head is encircled by an irregular dark green areola edged with licks of flame in various colours. The background is filled with swirling smoke, dark purple, and the foreground sparse and green.

Virudhaka, leader of the Kumbhanda, is a worldly guardian worshipped as a protector. He lives on the south side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. Like the other Direction Kings, the leader Vaishravana, Virupaksha and Dritarashtra, he swore an oath of protection before the buddha Shakyamuni. The stories and iconography of the Four Guardian Kings arose originally with the early Buddhist sutras and became fully developed in the later Mahayana sutras. They are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Paintings of the Kings are generally found in association with a larger thematic set featuring the buddha Shakyamuni and the 16 Great Arhats.

Jeff Watt 6-99

Related Items
Publication: Tibetan Paintings
Publication: Worlds of Transformation

Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Buddhist Protector: Four Guardian Kings Main Page
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Virudhaka, Guardian of the South
Painting Set: Arhat Set I
Buddhist Deity: Virudhaka (Masterworks)