Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Five Foremost Deities - Mo Lha

ཡི་དམ་གཙོ་བོ་རྣམ་ལྔ། 五个最重要的神祇
(item no. 435)
Origin Location Mongolia
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Nyingma
Size 33.02x23.50cm (13x9.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.10.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Five Personal Gods of the Individual (Tibetan: go wai lha nga). It is believed that the Five Gods are born with and accompany each individual human on their life journey. The five live on the body at the crown of the head, heart, right armpit, left armpit, and right shoulder. They function as private Gods governing health, wealth, luck and good fortune for each person. This belief system is indigenous to Tibet, Mongolia and Central Asia and the Five Gods are tolerated in Buddhism and some small ritual offering texts can be found. The Bon religion presents a richer understanding of the Five Gods along with marriage ceremonies incorporating the Five as necessary elements.

Srog Lha (Life God) is located in the heart of an individual.
Yul Lha (Regional God) is located at the crown of the head of an individual.
Po Lha (Male God) is located at the right armpit.
Mo Lha (Female God) is located at the left armpit.
Dra Lha (Enemy God) is located at the right shoulder.

[Center of the painting]. "The Female Goddess (mo lha) is beautiful and attractive wearing feminine silk clothing, with a body white in colour, one face and two hands. The right holds an arrow with silk streamers and the left a mirror. Wearing a blue cloak, a jeweled diadem and adorned with various ornaments; riding a hind, emanating forth mother, maternal aunt and maternal uncle male deities in the attire of middle age. Further emanating vultures as minsters and gathering together attractive mother deities and medicine ladies; emanating youthful girls as numerous hinds.

[Bottom right]. The Life God (srog lha) is in the aspect of a white middle-aged male wearing armor and a helmet, holding a spear with silk streamers and a lasso. A bow, arrow and knife are bound at the waist; riding a swift black horse, emanating forth many white men and horses. The male deities are wearing silks and adorned with jewel ornaments.

[Bottom left]. The Male God (po lha) has a body white in colour, youthful, with flowing silks, holding a bucket filled with precious gems, wearing a blue cloak and adorned with jewels and a silk turban; riding an excellent white horse. Emanating forth the father's brothers, paternal ancestor deities and the thirty deities of fate; wearing silk clothing and adorned with jewels.

[Top left]. The Regional God (yul lha) is white, holding an arrow and bow, wearing armor and a helmet; riding an excellent white horse. Emanating forth religious brothers, village headmen, many white yaks and flocks of sheep, fortress deities, guardians of the house and land, wearing wonderful clothing.

[Top right]. The Enemy God (dra lha) is holding a spear with silk streamers and a lasso, the head bound with silk, wearing an excellent cloak of white silk and jewel ornaments. A bow arrow and knife are bound at the waist; riding a swift white horse. Emanating forth spiritual friends and white men wearing armor, and many birds, wolves and wild yaks." (From the text: 'go ba'i lha lnga'i gsol mchod phan bde'i 'dod 'jo written by Tukwan Lobzang Chokyi Nyima, 1737-1802. Bibliographic record. Tibetan text source).

At the top center is the wrathful bodhisattva Vajrapani, blue, holding a vajra and lasso.

At the bottom center are the Eight Auspicious Symbols arranged together into one symbol with the parasol at the top, the wheel and endless knot in the middle, and the lotus at the bottom.

Jeff Watt 2-2000

Other known paintings of the same subject but not in the HAR database:

The Essen Collection. Die Gotter des Himalaya (vol.2). Prestel-Verlag, Munchen, 1989. p.204, II-425.

The Guimet Museum. Les Peintures Du Bouddhisme Tibetain. Musee National Des Arts Asiatiques - Guimet, 1995. p.474, #400, (MG 23081) Vie de Ge-sar de gLing.

The Jucker Collection. Tibetan Painting. Hugo E. Kreijger. Shambhala, Boston: 2001. p.126-127, see detail bottom center.

Treasures of Tibetan Art, Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Page 207, Five Personal Protectors. Barbara Lipton & Nyima Dorjee Ragnubs. Oxford University Press: New York, 1996.

Also see: Oracles and Demons of Tibet by Nebesky-Wojkowitz, pages 318-328. Paljor Publications: New Delhi, 1998.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Female Buddhas at Bruce Museum of Art

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protectors: Worldly (Female)
Tibetan Deity: Five Personal/Foremost Gods Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mongolia
Region: Mongolia, Paintings (Miscellaneous Collections)
Subject: Protector Deities Main Page (All Traditions)
Subject: Protectors That Are Not Wrathful
Buddhist Protectors, Worldly Deities (Lokapala)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Buddhist Protectors: Worldly (Nyingma)