Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Yamari, Krishna (Buddhist Deity)

གཤིན་རྗེ་གཤེད་ནག། ནག་པོ། 黑威罗瓦金刚
(item no. 30913)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Krishna Yamari and Vajra Vetali Mandala (gshin rje gshed nag po): with lineage teachers in the upper register and Outer Protection Wheel deities in the bottom register. There are numerous traditions of Krishna Yamari. There are also several traditions of a three faced, six armed Yamari. Over time a consistently popular form has been the Thirteen Deity Mandala of Krishna Yamari. This painting follows very closely the descriptions found in Tibetan Tantric literature of the Thirteen Deity composition. (See the Krishna Yamari Main Page and Outline Page).

Krishna Yamari, the Black Killer of Death, has three faces and six arms. The main face is dark blue, the right white and the left red. The three right hands hold a curved knife, vajra scepter and sword. The three left hold a white skullcup, wheel and lotus flower. The hair is red and bristles upwards and he is adorned with bone ornaments, standing in a circle of fire atop a dark human-like figure and a grey buffalo. The consort, Vajra Vetali, is light blue, with three faces and six hands. She holds the same six attributes in the hands as Krishna Yamari.

Eight deities in similar form to the principal two figures of the mandala are arranged within a square palace according to the four main directions and the intermediate directions. Below Krishna Yamari is a white deity (eastern direction). To the viewer's left is a yellow deity (southern direction). The red deity above is in the western direction and to the viewer's right is a green deity (northern direction).

The innermost floor of the palace is light blue in colour. The outer floor of the celestial palace is divided into four colours ornately patterned with floral designs: red, green/blue, white and yellow. On the red veranda outside of the palace walls (barely discernible), on each side of the four doors ('T' shaped), are two dancing offering goddesses, multi-coloured, sixteen in total. The outer red and white lines forming a square enclosure represent the stylized decorative facade on the four sides of the palace roof; adorned typically with upright spears, arrows and banners. The elaborate lintels above each of the four doors are constructed of tiered steps topped with a Dharma wheel, two reclining deer, and gold spires with decorative streamers above. At each side are monkeys holding parasols.

Surrounding the palace is a circle of multi-coloured (rectangular) petals representing the enormous lotus upon which the entire palace mandala rests. Divided from the former by a thin blue line, the final outer ring is composed of the multi-coloured fires of pristine awareness wisdom completely enveloping the entire Mandala structure.

Outside of the large central mandala are two large circles at the upper left and right containing two unidentified teachers. Both wear monastic clothing and hold the stems of flower that blossoms to the right and left. The four small circles at the upper right and left, beginning on the left side, contain white Avalokiteshvara, Shakyamuni Buddha, orange Manjushri and blue Vajrapani. The two large circles at the lower left and right contain two forms of Rakta Yamar. The four smaller circles contain the retinue deities belonging to the Rakta Yamari Five Deity Mandala configuration.

In the top register on the left side are eight ascetic, siddha-like, figures. Of the eight, the first five on the left are male and the remaining three on the right are female. All but one of the ascetic figures has a female attendant/partner. On the far right side of the register are four male figures wearing Tibetan monastic attire. None of the figures are readily identifiable. (It is important to note that the top register was torn and damaged and replaced by modern restoration).

The bottom register contains twelve wrathful figures, each with one face and two hands. They appear in a variety of colours and hold various attributes in the upraised right hands. The sixth figure from the left is the only example to have an animal head while all of the others have a 'raksha' wrathful face. This group of figures follows the model of the wrathful deities that make up the 'Outer Protection Chakra' of Krishna Yamari.

The text below describes the role of Yama Dharmaraja in the Yamari literature but also gives a clear and succinct overview of the subject and categorization of the meditational deity Krishna Yamari. "In the special, noble, Vajra Vehicle [Vajrayana], among the numerous four tantras [Kriya, Charya, Yoga and Anuttara] this protector is of the Anuttarayoga. Of those, from the three [classes], Method, Wisdom and Non-dual, this is Method Tantra. From the three famous Father Tantras of the Yamari Cycle, Rakta [Red], Krishna [Black], and Bhairava [Terrifying], this is the uncommon protector of the Vajrabhairava." (Ngor Ponlop Ngagwang Legdrup, 19th century).

The Three Yamari Lineages, the Three Mahamandalas, Abhisheka, Sadhana, together with the Branches: Vajradhara, Jnana Dakini, Acharya Lalitavajra, Amoghavajra, Yeshe Jungne Bepa, Padmavajra, Dipamkara Rakshita, Lama Rwa Dorje Drag, Rwa Lotsawa Chorab, Rwa Yeshe Sengge, Rwa Bum Seng, Lama Lokkyapa Wangchug Dragpa, Lama Ngong, Lama Chokyi Gyalpo (13th century), etc.

Wall murals in a similar style to this painting can be found at the Gyantse Dzong, Tsang province, Tibet. Also, worth comparing is the Vajravali Painting Set dedicated to the memory of Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen and the later set of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo. Over-all the painting follows a Nepalese style of artistry and aesthetic. It is very possible that the painting was created by a Newar artist from Kathmandu working in the Southern regions of Tibet.

Jeff Watt 1-2013

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