Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Ekajati (Buddhist Deity) - (Nyingma Tradition)

རལ་གཅིག་མ། ནང་ལྷ། 一发佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 263)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Nyingma
Size 59.69x44.45cm (23.50x17.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.2.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Ekajati (Tibetan: ral chig ma. English: One Braid of Hair), the principal protectress and guardian of the 'Revealed Treasure' tradition of the Nyingma School.

Black in colour and fearsome in appearance she has one central eye and one long white tooth, sharp, biting down over the lower lip. Her yellow hair flows upward like flames, twisted into a single braid. The right arm is held upward with the hand in a wrathful gesture, the index finger pointed outward and emanating the form of a wolf, she brandishes a stick adorned with an impaled corpse. The left hand upraised to the mouth holds a dark red human heart that almost conceals her single downward hanging breast. Adorned with a tiara composed of five flower blossoms and three skulls, a scarf of smoke encircling the neck, the ears and limbs are decorated with earrings, bracelets, armlets and anklets while a flayed tiger skin is wrapped about the waist. Completely surrounded by smoke and flames, with the right leg raised in a dancing posture she stands with the left foot pressing down on a prone figure lying atop a lotus blossom seat above a triangular throne decorated with nine human skulls.

"Arising from the mandala of suffocating black wind at a kalpa's end,
Mistress of a host of activities and pristine awareness,
Leader of the Mamos, Great Queen of the World;
Homage to the Lord of Mantra, Ekajati!" (Nyingma liturgical verse).

Ekajati is a principal female protector in both the Nyingma (Old) and Sarma (New: Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug) Schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In the Nyingma School she is the chief protector for the 'Revealed Treasure' traditions and manifests in numerous forms, often appearing with only one eye and one tooth, sometimes with only one leg as in the red manifestation from the Longchen Nyintig tradition of Jigme Lingpa. The different forms and descriptions of Ekajati are found in the various 'Revealed Treasure' texts of the Nyingma School.

In the Sarma Schools she is the mother of Shri Devi (Palden Lhamo) and has a more typical appearance with one face, three eyes, and two breasts, always in a semi-wrathful visage and with one braid of hair (Sanskrit: eka, one; jati, braid [of hair]). She is found in the various Mahakala Tantra texts (anuttaryoga class) originating from India. Ekajati is also found in the lower kriya tantra texts and more commonly in association with the important figure of Tara where she is often seen as an attendant figure standing on the left while the goddess Brikuti stands on the right side.

Jeff Watt 3-2002

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