Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vajrasattva (Buddhist Deity)

རྡོ་རྗེ་སེམས་དཔའ། 金刚萨埵
(item no. 20382)
Origin Location Northern India
Date Range 1000 - 1099
Lineages Buddhist
Material Metal, Stone Inset: Lapis Lazuli
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Vajrasattva, Vajrapani or Akshobhya Buddha.

The central male figure is in peaceful appearance with one face and two arms. The right hand holds a vajra scepter at the heart and the left a vajra handled bell at the side. Adorned with a crown and jewellery he sits is a relaxed posture, with the right leg over the left, above an elephant supported throne.

Seated at the proper left side of the male figure is a consort in similar appearance, also holding a vajra and bell. She sits with the legs extended atop the left thigh of the male consort.

Jeff Watt 12-2018

It is well understood that the two sculptural figures of Vajrasattva and Vajrapani in a peaceful appearance are routinely confused with one another and commonly conflated under the identification of Vajrasattva. There is also confusion with some Tantric forms of Akshobhya appearing in an identical manner to Vajrasattva with the consort seated on the left lap. The real difficulty arises when there is a consort included as part of the sculpture.

With paintings, aside from the vajra and bell in hand, the body colour of the deity is generally the most important indicator of identity. Akshobhya is blue. Vajrasattva is white. Vajrapani can be blue, green or white. However, with sculpture there is no colour and therefore it is not always so easy to come to a clear determination of identity.

When Akshobhya Buddha appears in Sambhogakaya appearance with a consort seated on the left thigh it is generally part a set of paintings, or sculpture, depicting each of the Five Symbolic Buddhas in identical posture with a consort, each with their own hand attributes and specific body colour. For the images below , number 86562, the central figure is a blue Akshobhya with consort. For number 85082, it is most likely to be a Vajrasattva with consort. However, number 74008 is more problematic. Is it Akshobhya from a set of five paintings depicting the Five Symbolic Buddhas or possibly a form of Vajradhara with consort? Sculpture number 20382 is even more difficult to identify. Is it Akshobhya, Vajrasattva or a form of Vajrapani with a consort? (See Subject: Confused Iconography (Akshobhya, Vajrasattva, Vajrapani).

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