Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Hayagriva (Buddhist Deity) - Padma Ishvara

རྟ་མགྲིན། ནང་ལྷ། 马头明王(佛教本尊)
(item no. 32939)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Hayagriva, Padma Ishvara - Very Secret.

Padma Ishvara has three faces, six hand, four legs and a pair of wings. The main face and torso are red, right white and left green. The right hands hold a lotus, hook and stick. The left hands hold a skullcup, lasso and sword. The consort has one face and two hands, blue in colour, holding a heart and skullcup. At the left side of Hayagriva is Shri Devi Magzor Gyalmo. On the right side is a wrathful white coloured figure riding a horse, possibly Chingkarwa.

At the top center is Amitabha Buddha along with two Gelug teachers wearing yellow hats and two Indian teachers wearing red pandita hats.

At the bottom center is the deity Begtse Chen regarded as the special protector deity associated with Padma Ishvara. Often the origin narratives and lineages of the two deities are conflated and confused. Toi the right side is Tsiu Marpo and Rahula with a serpents body. On the left side is Dorje Setrab and possibly the white figure of Tsangpa Karpo riding a lion.

"To the Dharma body of all conquerors of the Lotus Lineage,
Vajra body of the Dharma Lord Amitabha,
In a raging great form, emanating from HRIH, Avalokiteshvara;
Homage to Hayagriva, neighing like a horse." (Nyingma Liturgical Text).

Hayagriva 'Very Secret' Lineage from India: Vajradhara, Mahadeva, Nyi Od Dragpa, Dawa Nagpo, Shridhara Krashu, Nyen Lotsawa Dharma Drag, Khau Chokyi Gyaltsen, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

Hayagriva is a Tantric Buddhist meditational deity that can be found in all four of the standard classifications: Kriya, Charya, Yoga and Anuttarayoga. He is associated with the Padma Buddha Family where the Buddha is Amitabha, the Lord is Avalokiteshvara and chief wrathful deity is Hayagriva. According to some traditions Hayagriva is an independent entity while in others he is the wrathful emanation of Amitabha or Avalokiteshvara.

Hayagriva is common to both the Nyingma and Sarma Schools (Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug) and his practices are found ranging from simple forms to complex deities with multiple faces and arms, inhabiting mandalas accompanied by numerous attendant figures. Hayagriva is one of the principal deities in the Nyingma system of the Eight Heruka (Kagye). There is a variant form of Hayagriva where the three deities Vajrapani, Hayagriva and Garuda, are merged together as one. Hayagriva can also be represented at the top of the handle of a 'kila' peg.

Jeff Watt 4-2022


The Cults of Peaceful and Wrathful Avalokitesvara at Sera Monastery. Jose Ignacio Cabezon. University of California, Santa Barbara. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) and Modern Society. Proceedings of the Fifth Chung-Hwa International Conference on Buddhism. Edited nu William, Magee and Yi-hsun Huang. 2007.

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Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Hayagriva 'Very Secret' (Padma Ishvara)
Collection of the National Museum of Asian Art (Shrine)