Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Five Foremost Deities - Srog Lha

ཡི་དམ་གཙོ་བོ་རྣམ་ལྔ། 五个最重要的神祇
(item no. 315)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Buddhist
Size 59.69x42.55cm (23.50x16.75in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.19.19
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Warrior

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

The God of Life (Tibetan: srog lha): from the set of the Five Personal Gods of the Individual (Tib.: go wa'i lha nga).

White in colour, with a mature appearance, moustache and facial hair, the God of Life (1) holds a spear in the right hand and a lasso in the left. Wearing a helmet, leather body armour, brocade garments and boots, he rides atop a grey horse encircled by a large ring of rainbow light. He is located at the chest of an individual.

At the lower left, white in colour, the God of Place (2) holds an arrow upraised in the right hand and a bow in the left. Wearing the garb of a warrior he rides a grey horse. He is located at the crown of the head of an individual. At the lower right, the God of Females (3) is youthful in appearance, white in colour, holding an arrow decorated with streamers in the right hand and a mirror in the left; riding atop a brown hind. She is located at the right armpit.

At the bottom left, the God of Males (4), white and youthful in appearance, holds a bowl of precious jewels and rides atop a brown horse; located at the left armpit. At the right is the God of Enemies (5), mature in appearance with a goatee and thin dark beard; he holds upraised a lance in the right hand and a lasso in the left. A bow in a leopard skin pouch and a quiver of arrows hang at the waist; riding on a grey horse; located at the right shoulder.

The Five Personal Gods (Tibetan: go wa'i lha nga).

"The Female God (mo lha) is beautiful and attractive wearing feminine silk clothing, with a body white in colour, one face and two hands. The right holds an arrow with silk streamers and the left a mirror. Wearing a blue cloak, a jeweled diadem and adorned with various ornaments; riding a hind, emanating forth female, maternal aunt and maternal uncle male deities, dressed the same and middle aged. Further emanating vulture shanlon figures and gathering together female deities, medicine ladies and numerous youthful stags.

The Life God (srog lha) is in the aspect of a white middle-aged male wearing armor and a helmet, holding a spear with silk streamers and a lasso; riding a swift black horse, emanating forth many white men and horses. The male deities are wearing silks and adorned with jewel ornaments.

The Male God (po lha) has a body white in colour, youthful, with flowing silks, holding a bucket filled with precious gems, wearing a blue cloak and adorned with jewels and a silk turban; riding a superior white horse. Emanating forth men, full grown brothers, paternal ancestor deities and the thirty deities of fate; wearing silk clothing and adorned with jewels.

The Regional God (yul lha) is white, holding an arrow and bow, wearing armor and a helmet; riding a superior white horse. Emanating forth religious brothers, masters of the land, many white yaks and flocks of sheep, fortress deities, of houses, etc., of marvelous places of protection.

The Enemy God (dra lha) is holding a spear with silk streamers and a lasso, the head bound with silk, wearing an excellent cloak of white silk and jewel ornaments; riding a swift white horse. Emanating forth spiritual friends and men armored with virtue, and many birds, wolves and wild yaks." (From the text: 'go ba'i lha lnga'i gsol mchod phan bde'i 'dod 'jo by Tukwan Lobzang Chokyi Nyima, 1737-1802).

Bibliographic record. Tibetan text source.

At the top center is the peaceful deity Green Parnashavari with one face and two hands, green in colour. Held aloft in the right hand is a peacock fan and in the left, placed in the lap, a golden vase. In a relaxed posture with the right leg extended and left drawn up, she sits atop a moon disc and lotus seat surrounded by radiant light. At the left side is the Direction King of the North, Vaishravana, holding a victory banner and a mongoose, seated atop a white snow lion. At the right side is the goddess of the dawn, Marichi, yellow in colour with one face and two hands. The right hand is extended across the knee and the left holds a branch of the ashoka tree. In a relaxed posture, she sits on a moon disc and lotus seat atop a golden chariot, symbol of the sun and the dawning of the Law of Dharma, drawn by seven grey pigs.

In the foreground a large pink lotus rises from the waters of a blue pond framed by a green open landscape. And below, a bowl is stacked high with precious jewels proffered as an offering and auspicious symbol of the increase of good fortune.

Other known paintings of the same subject:

The Erie Art Museum - painting 91006

The Essen Collection. Die Gotter des Himalaya (vol.2). Prestel-Verlag, Munchen, 1989. p.204, II-425.

The Guimet Museum. Les Peintures Du Bouddhisme Tibetain. Musee National Des Arts Asiatiques - Guimet, 1995. p.474, #400, (MG 23081) Vie de Ge-sar de gLing.

The Jucker Collection. Tibetan Painting. Hugo E. Kreijger. Shambhala, Boston: 2001. p.126-127, see detail bottom center.

The Rubin Foundation - painting 435

Tibetan Painted Scrolls. Guiseppi Tucci. Rome: La Libreria Della Stato Roma, 1949. p.53, (vol.3).

Jeff Watt 2-2000

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: srog lha, yul lha, mo lha, pho lha, dgra lha.

Secondary Images
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Buddhist Protectors, Worldly Deities (Lokapala)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 7
Tibetan Deity: Five Personal/Foremost Gods Main Page
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Tibetan Deity: Five Personal Gods Masterworks