Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vaishravana (Buddhist Protector) - Riding a Lion

རྣམ་ཐོས་སྲས། བྱང་ཕྱོགས་སྐྱོང་། 北方多闻天王
(item no. 31520)
Origin Location Tibet
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Gold Background on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Vaishravana Riding a Lion (Tibetan: nam to se tag shon. English: the Son of Nam To): the Guardian King of the Northern Direction, Lord of Yakshas.

Vaishravana Riding a Lion is a worldly Buddhist protector. There are a number of different forms of Vaishravana seated atop a lion. With this particular iconographic form it is Vaishravana and the Eight Horsemen that is referred to here. This image with the Eight Horsemen is the most common form found in art after the earliest Vaishravana form. The earliest form of Vaishravana has no lion. He is either a seated or standing figure found at the entrance way to temples or monasteries, and included in images, both painted and sculpture, of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Arhats.

Vaishravana, leader of the Yaksha race, is a worldly guardian worshipped as both a protector and benefactor. He, with his wife - a naga princess, lives on the north side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings in a sumptuous palace bathed in green emerald light. As the leader of the Four Direction Guardians, he at the head of the others, swore an oath of protection before the Buddha Shakyamuni. The stories and iconography of the Four Guardians arise primarily from the Mahayana sutras and are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Lord Atisha, amongst others, popularized the meditation practice of Vaishravana Riding a Lion in the 11th century.

"With vajra armour, a garland of jewel ornaments and the beautiful heavenly banner - fluttering, illuminated in the middle of a hundred thousand Wealth Bestowers; homage to Vaishravana, chief among the protectors of the Teaching." (Nyingma liturgical verse).

Jeff Watt 7-2003 [image added 7-2015]

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Riding a Lion
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Main Page
Painting Type: Gold Ground