Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Sitatapatra (Buddhist Deity) - (1000 faces, 1000 hands)

གདུགས་དཀར། ནང་ལྷ། 大白伞盖佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 468)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Sakya and Gelug
Size 67.31x48.90cm (26.50x19.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.18.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Sitatapatra: Vajra Ushnisha Sitatapatra (Tibetan: dor je tsug tor dug kar mo. English: The White Parasol One of the Vajra Crown Protuberance [of the Buddha]). This painting was commissioned in 1864 by a loving husband to honour the memory of his deceased wife.

Sanskrit: Sitatapatra Tibetan: Dug kar mo

White in colour with 1000 faces, 1000 hands, 1000 legs and 10,100,000 (ten million one hundred thousand) eyes. The main face in front is white with 199 white faces above, to the left is a vertical row of yellow faces, to the right is a vertical row of green faces, on both sides are red faces and on top of those are 200 more blue faces. Each face has three eyes and each set of coloured faces displays a different expression. In the first pair of hands the right holds a Dharma Wheel in the Refuge Giving mudra (gesture) and the left holds an arrow together with the handle of a parasol, held to the heart, unfurled above on the right side. She is adorned with various jewel ornaments and wears upper and lower silk garments of assorted colours.

A further 99 pairs of hands hold in the right a Dharma Wheel and an arrow in the left. The remaining 400 hands on the right hold a vajra, jewel, lotus and visvavajra (double vajra), 100 of each object. The remaining 400 hands on the left hold a bow, sword, lasso and hook, again 100 of each object. The 500 legs on the left side are extended above worldly deities and a host of animals and the legs on the right are bent and press down on all worldly troubles, daemons and animals. All the limbs and parts of her body are covered with large staring eyes, flashing like lightning, earnestly longing out of compassion for sentient beings. She stands upon a lotus and is completely surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness. Two offering bowls of peaceful articles and fruit are placed directly below the lotus seat.

Along the top are seven buddhas each with one face and two hands, wearing monastic robes, and performing various mudras; each resting upon a moon disc and lotus seat. At both sides, slightly below, are two flying goddesses, presenting offerings of flower garlands with both hands.

Along the bottom are the Three Mahakala Brothers (Tib.: gon po che sum), black in colour, wrathful, with one face and two hands holding a curved knife held aloft in the right and a skullcup in the left. Supported in the bend of the elbow is a sandalwood staff vertically standing. They wear bone ornaments, long linen garments of various colours, Mongolian boots and each stands above a corpse, sun disc and lotus seat, enclosed in the flames of wisdom. On either side of the central Mahakala two couples kneel in a gesture of petitioning.

The practice of Sitatapatra is common to both Nyingma and Sarma. According to the Sarma Schools she belongs to the Kriya Classification of Tantra. From the variety of forms in which she appears, one faced, three faced and thousand faced, this is the most popular and most commonly rendered in artistic representation, usually in painting and cast metal.

Sarma Lineage: Buddha Tathagata, Ushnisha Sitatapatra, Vajrapani, Dasa Samadhi, Chandragomin, Giravati, Vajra Tikshna, Padma Angkusha, Brahmin Ratna Vajra, Jetari, Vajrasana the Senior and Younger, Bari Lotsawa, Denma Kyura Akyab, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

This is a good example of an indigenous Tibetan painting with well formed figures and a fearless use of colour. The background is rich with a landscape made lively with stylized foliage and waterfalls.

Jeff Watt 6-98

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Lansa inscription

Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Female Buddhas at RMA

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Subject: Female Imagery Introduction
Subject: Female Meditational Deities (Buddhist)
Buddhist Deity: Sitatapatra Main Page
Subject: Why Paintings Are Made
Nepal: Dated Art
Subject: Pilgrimage Souvenir Paintings (Newar Merchants)
Subject: Universal Deities (Appearance)
Subject: War, Conflict & Strife
Subject: Eyes in Himalayan Art
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Tradition: Sakya Deity Paintings
Subject: Faces of Deities (Numbers)