Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Worldly Protector (Buddhist) - Garwa Nagpo

འཇིག་རྟེན་པའི་ལྷ། ནང་ལྷ། 世俗的神(佛教)
(item no. 32940)
Origin Location Mongolia
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

Damchen Garwa Nagpo (English: The Oathbound Blacksmith): wrathful worldly protector of the Treasure 'terma' of the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan: Dam chen gar wa nag po

Wrathful with one face and two hands, he is dark blue in colour, with three eyes, bared fangs and bright orange hair flaming upward. The right hand holds aloft a vajra hammer and the left a blacksmith's bellows made of tiger skin. Adorned with a crown of five dry skulls and gold earrings he is lavishly attired in variously coloured full-length garments and felt boots. Riding atop a brown goat with twisted horns he is surrounded by grey smoke and wisps of orange flame. Following behind are two human-like naked tethered figures. The foreground is filled with types of offerings suitable for wrathful deities such as weapons, musical instruments and wild animals.

At the top center of the composition is Shakyamuni Buddha with various historical teachers to the right and left sides: Atisha, Tsongkapa, Gyaltsab, Kedrub and Padmasambhava. Slightly below on the left is the meditational deity Vajrabhairava and Hayagriva on the right side.

Garwa Nagpo is the main attendant deity to the Tibetan worldly protector Dorje Legpa. Garwa Nagpo can typically be found in art as a retinue figure in paintings of Dorje Legpa or as an independent figure in a painted composition with his own retinue of attendant figures. Garwa Nagpo is generally found as a standard protector deity in the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma Traditions. Some Gelug monasteries and incarnate teacher traditions (trulku) have also adopted Garwa Nagpo as their special protector deity.

Dorje Legpa and his retinue were originally believed to be subjugated in Tibet by Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava in the 8th century. They are avowed protectors and perform the special function of safeguarding the Nyingma Terma (treasure) tradition.

There are no indications that this composition belongs to a painting set and likely belonged to an individual practitioner and was situated on a home shrine.

Jeff Watt 4-2022

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Buddhist Worldly Protector: Garwa Nagpo
Collection of the National Museum of Asian Art (Shrine)