Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shri Devi (Buddhist Protector) - Dorje Rabtenma

དཔལ་ལྡན་ལྷ་མོ། 吉祥天母(佛教护法)
(item no. 330)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Nyingma and Sakya
Size 88.90x63.50cm (35x25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.17.13
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Dorje Rabtenma, (English: the Vajra Stable One), a form of Shri Devi originating in the Nyingmapa tradition, predominantly practiced in the Shalupa and Tsarpa sub-schools of Sakya.

Tibetan: Dor je rab ten ma

Fearsome in expression, maroon in colour, she has one face, three eyes, bared fangs and yellow hair flowing upward and out to the side. The right hand holds aloft a flaming sword and the left to the hip clutches a jewel-spitting mongoose bringing forth a stream of variously coloured gems. Crowned with a tiara of five white skulls, gold earrings, bone ornaments and snakes, and a long white snake necklace, she is adorned with a garland of severed heads - pink, green and blue. At the navel, emblazoned below flaccid hanging breasts is an emanating golden sun and above the head a white circle of the full moon. Wearing across the shoulders an upper garment of a human skin and elephant hide, the waist is wrapped with black and gold brocade. With the two feet shackled in iron chains, she sits atop a human skin saddle on a grey mule, above a sea of churning blood awash with human and animal corpses, completely surrounded by dark smoke and the red licks of flame of pristine awareness.

"Goddess Dorje Rabtenma, Great One, with a body maroon in colour, one face, two hands and three eyes; the body is covered by a human skin. Held in the right hand is a blazing sword; a mongoose grasped in the left, riding atop a three-legged mule." (Shalu Liturgical verse by Shakya Gelong Rinchen Namgyal).

At the top center is Padmasambhava, wearing monastic robes and a traditional red scholar's (pandita) hat. The right hand holds to the heart a vajra scepter and the left placed in the lap supports a black begging bowl. Seated at each side is a monk wearing a yellow meditation cloak, and on the right three figures wearing monastic robes and red meditation cloaks, performing various hand gestures (mudras). At the left are three in similar attire, the uppermost wearing a yellow pandita hat.

The mule of Rabtenma is led by an attendant with a sea monster head (makara), red in colour, guiding with a tether composed of a long green snake. At the middle left is a white peaceful wealth deity, holding an arrow and mongoose, riding a white horse; at the right side a black wrathful deity holding a spear riding a black horse. Slightly above and on each side are two wrathful female attendants, black and red, holding swords and skullcups, naked, standing in wild dancing postures. Along the bottom are six more wrathful figures in similar appearance. At the bottom center are three skullcups of wrathful offerings, in the middle a red torma (stylized food) with triangular flame and two smaller vessels of blood and nectar at the sides.

Dorje Rabtenma was the special protector for Buton Rinchen Drup Tamche Kyenpa (1290-1364) the founder of the Bulug-Shalu sub-school of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The style of painting is nag tang - Black Scroll.

Lineage: Acharya Padmasambhava (distant lineage), Loton Dorje Wangchug, Chetsun Sherab Jungne (recent lineage), Tamche Kyenpa Buton Choje, etc.

Jeff Watt 5-99

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Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Female Buddhas at Bruce Museum of Art

Thematic Sets
Tradition: Nyingma, Enlightened Protectors
Subject: Jonang, Bodong & Bulug Protector Deities
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened (Female)
Painting Type: Black Ground Masterworks
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Tradition: Shalu/Bulug Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi, Dorje Rabtenma, Page
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi (Masterworks)
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi Iconography
Subject: Eyes in Himalayan Art
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of RMA: Art Page
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi, Dorje Rabtenma Masterworks
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi Main Page