Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Hayagriva (Buddhist Deity)

རྟ་མགྲིན། ནང་ལྷ། 马头明王(佛教本尊)
(item no. 21)
Origin Location Himalayan Region
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Gelug
Size 62.87x53.98cm (24.75x21.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.10.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Hayagriva (Tibetan: ta drin, English: Horse Necked One): meditational deity of the Padma family of Amitabha Buddha.

The painting is from the very west of Tibet and likely from either Ladakh, Kunu, Manali or Kinnaur - all on the Indian side of the Himalayas. The regional identification is based on the clothing of the donor figures located at the bottom right and left in the painting. Certain elements of the composition such as the large multi-coloured lotus beneath the eight feet of Hayagriva and the style of upward flowing hair on the three wrathful heads indicate that the painting was influenced by Guge art.

Wrathful, red in colour, with three faces, six hands and eight legs, the right face is black, left white, each with three eyes and a gaping mouth. Amongst the upward flowing orange hair are three horse heads. The two lower hands hold a sword and a lasso made of intestines, the middle two a trident and spear. The top two outstretched hold the fresh hide of an elephant with the right holding in addition a gold vajra and the left performing a wrathful gesture. Adorned with crowns of five white skulls, bone earrings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets, he wears a long garland of fifty freshly severed heads, a lower garment of tiger skin and blue cloth tied with a dark blue sash. Standing on eight legs, four splayed to each side, atop the eight great nagas (snakes) of various colours, a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus blossom he is surrounded by the all-encompassing flames of pristine awareness.

At the top center is the buddha Amitabha with a buddha at each side. At the right and left corners are two sets of three lamas similar in style to Lord Tsongkapa and his two main students. At the left is Shadakshari Avalokiteshvara, bodhisattva of compassion, white, with one face and four hands. At the right is Manjushri, bodhisattva of wisdom, orange with one face and two hands. At the lower left is Green Tara, enlightenment in a female form, deity of activity. At the right is White Tara with seven eyes framed by the full disc of the moon inscribed with the face of a rabbit. Below that is the goddess of wealth Vasudhara, orange in colour with one face and two hands. At the lower right corner a figure wearing a red lotus hat holds the right hand to the heart and with the left grasps a mongoose at the left side. To the left of those is the wealth deity yellow Jambhala, holding a bijapuraka fruit with the right hand and a mongoose with the left. At the lower left side is a seated red deity figure in the posture of meditation, wearing a gold crown.

At the bottom center surrounded by various offerings of bolts of cloth, atop a red table is a triangular torma (stylized food) and two offering bowls, decorated with seven upright long-life arrows. At the bottom left is the sponsor, a Tibetan Lord and family. On the right side of the table two figures in a kneeling posture present offering bowls with uplifted hands.

Jeff Watt 2-99 [updated 12-2010]

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Buddhist Deity: Hayagriva Main Page
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin
Tibet: Painting (West Tibet)
Painting Style: Guge Kingdom (Western Tibet)