Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Simhamukha (Buddhist Deity) - (5 deity)

སེང་གདོང་མ། ནང་ལྷ། 狮面空行佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 419)
Origin Location Mongolia
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Buddhist
Size 46.99x31.75cm (18.50x12.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.6.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Simhamukha, Dakini (Tibetan: seng ge dong chen kha dro ma, English: Lion Faced Dakini) and a retinue of four deities.

With a body black in colour, the face is that of a white lion, with three round yellow eyes, blazing fiercely with a gaping mouth, a yellow beard, eyebrows and hair flowing upward. The right hand holds upraised a curved knife to the sky, left a skullcup of blood to the heart, carrying a khatvanga staff tipped with a trident in the bend of the elbow supported against the shoulder. Adorned with a tiara of five skulls, red scarf, elephant skin, bone ornaments, a long snake and fifty freshly severed heads as a necklace, she wears a tiger skin skirt. Standing on the left leg with the right drawn up, trampling on a double triangle symbol, corpse, sun and multi-coloured lotus seat, Simhamukha in a mood of great fierceness dwells in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness.

At the top center is Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, white, with the right hand holding a vajra and the left supporting a skullcup and vase in the lap. A khatvanga staff leans against the left shoulder. Wearing a lotus hat he sits in a relaxed posture with the right leg extended. At the top right is green Karma Simhamukha. At the left is red Padma Simhamukha. At the bottom left is yellow Ratna Simhamukha. At the right is white Buddha Simhamukha. Above the yellow dakini are three skullcups filled with nectar, blood and the offering of the five senses. A solitary offering skullcup is placed on the right side.

At the bottom center is the wrathful worldly protector Tshangpa Karpo, white, with one face and two hands. In the right hand he holds aloft a spear with a red banner and in the left, held to the heart, a flat bowl of jewels. Adorned with a bow and quiver of arrows in a leopard skin pouch, wearing lavish garments and a round white hat, he rides atop a white horse surrounded by flames. He was subjugated and bound as a protector by Guru Padmasambhava.

"Arising from the state of the dharmadhatu, Mother of all conquerors, Queen of all the countless dakinis; With magic powers smashing to dust hindrances and enemies. Homage to Simhamukha." (Nyingma liturgical verse).

Within the Nyingma School, of the two divisions of Kama (Oral Teachings) and Terma (Revealed Treasures), Simhamukha belongs to the Terma. From the three general divisions of Terma: Root, Branch and Essence, Simhamukha belongs to the Dakini Cycle within the Root Terma class. Generally she is regarded as the secret form of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava. In the Sarma Tradition the deity Simhamukha is found in the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Tantras and although similar in name and appearance is unrelated.

The bright combinations of colour and the unusual swirl design of the clouds betray a Nepali or Western Tibetan painting influence. The stylized faces of the lions are of Chinese origin.

Jeff Watt 6-98

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Tradition: Nyingma Deity Paintings
Buddhist Deity: Simhamukha Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Padmasambhava: Outer, Inner and Secret
Subject: Revealed Treasure (Sarma Based)
Buddhist Deity: Simhamukha (5 Deity)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mongolia