Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Hayagriva (Buddhist Deity) - Black

རྟ་མགྲིན། ནང་ལྷ། 马头明王(佛教本尊)
(item no. 583)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Nyingma, Gelug and Buddhist
Size 70.15x41.91cm (27.62x16.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.40.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Black Hayagriva with an Iron Sword (Tibetan: tam drin nag po chag ral, English: Black Horse Neck One) of the Revealed Treasure Lineage of Nyang Ral Nyima Ozer (1124-1192) of the Nyingma School.

"...on a lotus and sun seat, is the King of the Wrathful, Hayagriva, with a very fierce body blue-black in colour. With one face, two hands and three eyes, the face is radiant with bared fangs, blazing orange beard and moustache. A green horse head on the crown neighs - gathering the power of the Three Realms. The right hand holds a sword aloft severing the heads and bodies of enemies into pieces. The left holds a hook to conduct the life force of enemies and hindrances. In a manner of play with the left extended the two feet are supported by enemies and hindrances. The body is dressed in a great cloak of black silk and a human hide with a lower garment of tiger skin. Having a crown of five dry skulls and a necklace of fifty wet, snake coils of the five naga races, complete with the eight glorious articles - standing in a vast blazing heap of fire." (Terdag Lingpa Gyurme Dorje (1646-1714) and Min-ling Lochen Dharmashri 1654-1718. Tibetan source text 'dod 'jo bum bzang, Part I, page 258).

With one face and two hands he holds in the right a sword and in the left an axe. Very wrathful, fierce, with a gaping red mouth, three glaring eyes, and a green horse head on top amongst the black flowing hair, he is adorned with gold, jewel and bone ornaments. Wearing three types of necklace, a long green snake, fifty freshly severed heads and fifty dry skulls, the upper body is adorned with a large black patterned cloak, human and elephant skin and the lower body wears a tiger skin. With the right leg bent and left extended above various corpses he stands atop a sun disc and lotus seat. To the immediate left is white Buddha Hayagriva, holding a hook in the left hand. Below is green Karma Hayagriva holding a bell. On the right side is yellow Ratna Hayagriva, holding a lasso. Below is red Padma Hayagriva holding a chain. They are all in the same general appearance as the central figure with a horse head above and holding a sword in the right hand.

At the top center is Amitabha Buddha, red in colour, wearing monastic robes, with the two hands placed in meditative equipoise in the lap supporting a black begging bowl. On the left is Amitayus the Sambhogakaya form Amitabha, red, wearing gold and jewel ornaments and supporting a long-life vase in the lap. On the right is Avalokiteshvara, white, with one face and four hands.

At the far left is Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, wearing a lotus hat and holding a vajra and skullcup in the hands. The two consorts Yeshe Tsogyal and Mandarawa are seated in front. At the far right is the Lama Ngag Chang Hung Nag Mebar, wearing monastic robes, a red pandita hat and holding a vajra outstretched in the right hand and a skullcup in the left, seated.

Beneath Amitayus sits the Fifth Dalai Lama Ngagwang Lobzang Gyatso, wearing monastic robes and a yellow pandita hat. Beneath Avalokiteshvara sits the Second Panchen Lama Chogtrul Lobzang Yeshe, wearing the same robes and hat. To the right and left sides of the horse head of Hayagriva are two Nyingmapa siddhas, on the left, Heruka Namka Jigme and on the right Heruka Sishi Yongdrol. They both hold a vajra and skullcup and support a katvanga staff against the left shoulder.

At the bottom center is the yogi Benam Rechen, seated, with matted hair piled atop the head, the right hand in Earth Witness mudra (gesture) and the left in the lap holding a skullcup. He wears the white robes of a wandering yogi and a red meditational belt across the chest. Colourful offerings of wish-fulfilling jewels are arranged in front. Across from the yogi is a wrathful protector, black, with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and intestine lasso, standing on the back of a dzo (female yak) in the middle of a lake of blood. This figure is likely the protector of the 'terma' (treasure) teaching of Black Hayagriva.

Standing at the bottom left corner is the wealth deity Black Jambhala, naked and semi-wrathful, holding a skullcup in the right hand and a mongoose in the left, adorned with snakes and standing on a pink lotus. Seated in the right corner is the wealth deity Yellow Jambhala, peaceful, holding a bijapuraka fruit in the right hand and a mongoose in the left. Wearing lavish jewels and opulent robes he sits with the right foot pressed upon a conch and wealth vase dispensing wishing jewels.

The style of painting is called 'nag tang' (black scroll). On a black background the figures are outlined with fine gold line and filled with various colours at the discretion of the artist or the wishes of the patron. The names of the lamas are inscribed beneath each with fine gold lettering.

Jeff Watt 6-98

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: O rgyan rin po dang mkha' grom gnyis. tshe dpag med phag 'tshal lo. 'od dpag med la phag 'tsal lo. spyan ras gzigs la na mo. snags 'chang hum nag me 'bar. ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho la. mchog sprul blo bzang ye shes. he ru ka nam mkha' 'jig med. he ru ka srid bzhi yong grol. spas rnams ras chen.

Related Items
Publication: Worlds of Transformation
Publication: Dojo Bumzang - Images

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Hayagriva, Black
Teacher: Nyangral Nyima Ozer (Related Subjects)
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 3
Tradition: Nyingma Deity Paintings
Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Hayagriva Main Page