Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Pancha Raksha (Buddhist Deity)

སྲུང་མ་རྣམ་ལྔ་། ནང་ལྷ། 五部护法(佛教护法)
(item no. 30553)
Origin Location Tibet
Lineages Buddhist
Material Metal
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

A Deity from the Group of Pancha Raksha (Five Protector Goddesses).

It can be very difficult to identify each of the individual goddesses because there are so many different systems of iconography with variations in colour, number of faces and arms, and hand attributes.

The 'Five Protectors' are a group of five female deities that are the personifications of five early Buddhist texts (sutra), the oldest dated to the 4th century A.D. The personifications are also of the special verbal utterances contained in the sutras - called mantras. These five deities each have specific functions and are directed towards accomplishing worldly welfare and happiness, preventing and surviving natural disasters, curing snakebite, overcoming fear and averting pestilence and epidemics.

There are many forms for each these five female deities, with multiple heads and arms, and many different traditions of practice. They are most popular in Nepal but can be found throughout the Himalayas and Central Asia as well as in China, Korea and Japan.

Principle amongst the five is Maha Pratisara, followed by Maha Sahasrapramardini, Mahamayuri, Shitavati and Mantramanudharani.

Jeff Watt 5-2005

English References:

Religions of India In Practice, edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton University Press, 1995. The Power of Mantra: A Story of the Five Protectors. Todd T Lewis, pp.227-234.

Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal, Narratives and Rituals of Newar Buddhism. Todd T. Lewis. Translations in Collaboration with Subarna Man Tuladhar and Labh Ratna Tuladhar. Foreward by Gregory Schopen. State University of New York Press, 2000. Chapter 6. The Refuge of Recitation: The Pancaraksa, pp.119-164.

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