Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Sherab Chamma (Bon Deity)

ཤེས་རབ་བྱམས་མ། བོན་ལྷ། 希绕强玛(苯教本尊)
(item no. 200009)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Bon
Size 43.18x31.75cm (17x12.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.30.9
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Sherab Chamma (English: Loving Wisdom. Tibetan-Wylie: shes rab byams ma) a form of the enlightened goddess Satrig Ersang.

Youthful, white in colour, with one face and two hands she holds extended across the knee a gold swastika symbol in the right and in the left, to the heart a golden vase filled with the nectar of compassion, and the stem of a white lotus blossom opening above the left shoulder. Adorned with a gold tiara, earrings, necklace and bracelets, the shoulders are covered with a dark green scarf unfurling at the sides. The lower body is wrapped in an orange and red skirt tied with a blue sash. With the right leg extended and the left drawn up atop a moon disc and white lotus seat above a red and blue throne supported by eight tarkin antelope-like animals of the Tibetan Plateau, she is surrounded by a red aureola and blue-orange nimbus of radiant light.

At the four corners are four attendant figures, emanations representing the five activities, red, green, white and blue, each with one face and four hands, holding a variety of objects. Seated on moon discs and lotus thrones they are surrounded by circles of light.

At the bottom center of the flat brown landscape, filling a large red bowl, heaps of precious jewels, red coral, ivory tusks and gold ornaments, topped with blazing jewels are offered to the goddess of Loving Wisdom.

Sherab Chamma is the name of Satrig Ersang when she is not included in the group of the Four Transcendent Ones - of which she is the first of the four. In her most wrathful form she manifests as the horrific enlightened protector Sipai Gyalmo - the principal protector of the Bon religion. In her semi-wrathful form she manifests as the deity Yeshe Walmo with two different forms, as a protector and as a healing deity.

Jeff Watt & Lee Hartline 1-2000


Simple in composition and not overly embellished, sacred paintings of this type are personal and used as objects of devotion, such as the centerpiece for a home shrine. Known as the Five Deity Loving Mother of Wisdom, the central figure is surrounded by four attendant goddesses representing in all the five main activities of the deity, peaceful, bountiful, powerful and wrathful. Associated with the Loving Mother is a system of protection from eight fears similar to the Buddhist system of fears commonly associated with the Buddha Tara. The eight fears of the Bon are; enemies, magic, infertility, serpent spirits, wrong views, harm, death, and the negative effects caused by planets.

Youthful, white in colour, with one face and two hands, she holds extended across the knee a golden yungdrung emblem. Borrowed from the Sanskrit language, in English this emblem is known as a swastika. The yungdrung is the principal symbol for the Bon religion. Held at the heart is a golden vase filled with the nectar of compassion and immortality. Wearing the typical dress and ornaments of a youthful goddess, she sits atop an unusual throne supported by eight tarkin, unique antelope-like animals of the Tibetan Plateau. The art of the Bon religion is often populated with strange and wonderful animals of the Himalayas and Central Asia that are not found in Buddhist art, the latter based on Indian models and animals from the Indian sub-continent.

As a foundational deity of the Bon religion, in her paramount form she is understood to be the ?Mother of All Enlightened Ones? and is referred to by the name Satrig Ersang from the Zhang Zhung language, currently untranslatable into any language.

Jeff Watt 5-2005

Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Female Buddhas at RMA

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Bon Deity: Sherab Chamma Main Page
Bon Deity: Sherab Chamma (Five Deity)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Bon Artworks
Bon Deity: Female
Bon: Artworks (All)