Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Hevajra (Buddhist Deity) - Two Arms

ཀྱེ་རྡོ་རྗེ། ནང་ལྷ། 喜金刚(佛教本尊)
(item no. 65123)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Sakya and Ngor (Sakya)
Size 52.07x42.55cm (20.50x16.75in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc. #C2002.24.7
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Male

TBRC: P25326

Interpretation / Description

Hevajra with Two Arms according to the tradition of the mahasiddha Kanha as described in the Hevajra Tantra in two sections. Bibliographic reference: Hevajra Tantra. (See another mandala from the same painting set).

Sanskrit: Hevajra Tibetan: Gye pa dor je

At the center of the painting is Shri Hevajra embracing the consort Vajra Nairatmya. Both have one face, two arms and two legs in a dancing posture; surrounded by the typical eight goddesses of the Hevajra mandala. The square enclosure of the palace is surrounded by the eight great charnal grounds inhabited by local deities, a naga, tree, siddha, stupa, fires and carnivorous animals. The Eight Great Cemeteries, or Charnal Grounds, surrounding the celestial palace of a wrathful deity (or semi-wrathful), can be depicted either inside the nested ring of concentric circles or on the outside. (See other examples).

At the outer circle are four further forms of Hevajra; red Amitabha Hevajra, green Amoghasiddhi Hevajra, white Vairochana Hevajra and yellow Ratnasambhava Hevajra. The Hevajra at the center of the mandala is Akshobhya Hevajra, blue in colour. Eight offering goddesses in various colours accompany those deities.

In the top register starting at the top left are the three; blue Vajradhara, black Nairatmya and orange Manjushri. In the middle are the Buddhas of the Five Families: yellow Ratnasambhava, blue Akshobhya, white Vairochana, red Amitabha and green Amoghasiddhi. At the right are an orange bodhisattva (possibly Maitreya), blue fierce Vajrapani, and green Vajravidarana.

In the register at the bottom starting from the left are eight goddesses followed by Black Jambhala, Panjaranata Mahakala, and Shri Devi with four arms.

The floor of the celestial palace is divided into four colours ornately patterned with floral designs: red, blue, white and yellow. On the red veranda outside of the palace walls (barely discernible), on each side of the four doors ('T' shaped), are two dancing offering goddesses, sixteen in total. The outer red and white lines forming a square enclosure represent the stylized decorative facade on the four sides of the palace roof; adorned with upright spears, arrows and banners. The elaborate lintels above each of the four doors are constructed of tiered steps topped with a Dharma wheel, two reclining deer, and gold spires with a silk canopy above.

Mandalas and the Eight Mahasiddhas: With this particular painting the eight mahasiddhas that are represented in the eight cemeteries are each recognizable and identified. It is common only in the Sakya and some Kagyu Traditions to have identifiable mahasiddhas in the cemeteries. Even then, most often, only a few are iconographically identifiable and most are depicted in a generic form. The Nyingma and Gelug Schools do not have the artistic tradition of depicting identifiable mahasiddhas in their mandala paintings. It is important to remember that only wrathful and semi-wrathful deity mandalas have the eight cemeteries. The mandalas of Peaceful deities do not have a ring of cemeteries.

Surrounding the palace is a circle of multi-coloured (rectangular) petals representing the enormous lotus upon which the entire palace structure rests. The second to final ring is composed of the multi-coloured fires of pristine awareness completely enveloping the Hevajra Mandala. The outermost circle, divided into eight sections, containing small figures and objects is the ring of the eight great charnel grounds filled with corpses, fires, chaityas (stupas), yogis, nagas, and wrathful worldly deities. More often, this ring of cemeteries is found within the ring of the fires of pristine awareness.

The Eight Great Charnel Grounds: according to Tantric literature and the descriptions of wrathful deities and their environments, the eight charnel grounds surround the central palace only for those wrathful and semi wrathful deities such as Hevajra, Chakrasamvara, Vajrabhairava, etc. There are several different sets of eight names and descriptions for the eight great charnel grounds depending on the Buddhist and Hindu Tantric literature consulted. These charnel grounds also have physical locations in India such as the Laughing charnel ground at Bodhgaya and the Cool Grove charnel ground close by, along with the Frightening charnel ground in the Black Hills of Bihar.

From the Hevajra Tantra literature: "In the east is the Gruesome charnel ground (chandograkatasi); south Frightful with Skulls (bhairavakapalika); west Adorned with a Blazing Garland (jvalamalalankara); north Dense Jungle (girigahvaronnati); north-east Fiercely Resounding (ugropanyasa); south-east Forest of the Lord (ishvaravana); south-west Dark and Terrible (bhairavandhakara); north-west Resounding with the Cries Kili Kili (Kilikilaghoshanadita). Furthermore, there are headless corpses, hanging corpses, lying corpses, stake-impaled corpses, heads, skeletons, jackals, crows, owls, vultures, and zombies making the sound, "phaim". There are also siddha with clear understanding, yaksha, raksha, preta, flesh eaters, lunatics, bhairava, daka, dakini, ponds, fires, stupa, and sadhaka. All of these fill the charnel grounds." (Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557, written in 1551).

The Eight Great Cemeteries, or Charnel Grounds, have six named features for each:[1] a Cemetery, [2] Tree, [3] Direction Guardian, [4] Cloud, [5] Naga and [6] Guardian Deity. (Note that each of these features is found in the above painting, however [6], the Guardian Deity is very difficult to see because of its small size).

East: Gruesome charnel ground (Chandograkatasi), [Tree] Shirisha, [Direction Guardian] yellow Shakra mounted on an elephant, left hand holding a skullcup marked with a vajra, [Cloud] yellow Kolahala, [Naga] yellow Vasuki, [Guardian Deity] white elephant-faced Devasangha. (Mahasiddha Indrabhuti).

South: Frightful with Skulls (Bhairavakapalika), [Tree] Chuta, [Direction Guardian] blue Yama mounted on a buffalo, left hand holding a skullcup and mace, [Cloud] blue Nivritika, [Naga] white Padma, [Guardian Deity] blue buffalo-faced Yama. (Mahasiddha Nagarjuna).

West: Adorned with a Blazing Garland (Jvalamalalankara), [Tree] Kamkala, [Direction Guardian] white Varuna mounted on a crocodile, left hand holding a skullcup and rope, [Cloud] white Bhairava, [Naga] black Karkota, [Guardian Deity] red crocodile-faced Megharaja. (Mahasiddha Virupa).

North: Dense Jungle (Girigahvaronnati), [Tree] Ashvattha, [Direction Guardian] yellow Yaksha mounted on a horse, left hand holding a skullcup and stick, [Cloud] yellow Bhramara, [Naga] red Takshaka, [Guardian Deity] yellow horse-faced Yaksha-senapati. (Mahasiddha Kukkuripa).

North-east: Fiercely Resounding (Ugropanyasa), [Tree] Mahavriksha, [Direction Guardian] white Ishana mounted on a bull, left hand holding a skullcup and spear, [Cloud] white Gadha, [Naga] white Maha-padma, [Guardian Deity] smoky bull-faced Pretasabha. (Mahasiddha Padmavajra).

South-east: Forest of the Lord (Ishvaravana), [Tree] Karanja, [Direction Guardian] red Agni mounted on a gelded-goat with one face and four hands, [Cloud] red Purika, [Naga] blue Hulunta, [Guardian Deity] red goat-faced Rishisabha. (Mahasiddha Dombi Heruka).

South-west: Dark and Terrible (Bhairavandhakara), [Tree] Lambitavrikshika, [Direction Guardian] black Rakshasa mounted on a zombie, left hand holding a skullcup and sword, [Cloud] blue Balahaka, [Naga] green Kulika, [Guardian Deity] black zombie-faced Rakshaganika. (Mahasiddha Ghantapada).

North-west: Resounding with the Cries Kili Kili (Kilikilaghoshanadita), [Tree] Arjuna, [Direction Guardian] blue Vayu mounted on a deer, left hand holding a skullcup and streamer, [Cloud] blue Roshana, [Naga] yellow Shankhapala, [Guardian Deity] green deer-faced Vayuraja. (Mahasiddha Saraha).

The descriptions for the eight cemeteries above come from three different Indian Sanskrit texts named Astasmasana-nama [1], folio 626-627, Astasmasana-nama [2], folio 627-628, and Astasmasanakhyana-nama, folio 646-649. They are found in the Black Tangyur, volume 8 of the Tantra section. All three were translated into Tibetan language by Drogmi Lotsawa, Bhikshu Shakya Yeshe.

On the outside of the cemetery mandala circle starting at the upper left is yellow Ratnasambhava-Hevajra. On the right is red Amitabha-Hevajra. At the Bottom left is white Vairochana-Hevajra and on the right green Amoghasiddhi-Hevajra. Each of these is in the same general appearance as the central deity.

Shri Hevajra is a meditational deity of the Anuttarayoga Non-dual classification. From the many Hevajra Tantras and forms of the deity, this representation of Hevajra arises from the root Hevajra Tantra of 'two sections' and was popularized by the Indian mahasiddha (the one of great accomplishment) Virupa. The style of the painting is from Ngor Monastery in south western Tibet evidenced by the strong use of red colours and the intricate circular floral patterns used for the background and flame designs.

Numbered List:
1. Hevajra
2. Nairatmya

Eight Goddesses:
3. East - Gauri (black)
4. South - Chauri (red)
5. West - Vetali (yellow)
6. North - Ghashmari (green)
7. North-east - Pukkashi (blue)
8. South-east - Shavari (white)
9. South-west - Chandali (purple)
10. North-west - Dombini (multi-coloured)

Five Buddha Families - Hevajra:
(Center - Akshobhya Hevajra)
11. Amitabha Hevajra
12. Amoghasiddhi Hevajra
13. Vairochana Hevajra
14. Ratnasambhava Hevajra

Top Register:
15. Vajradhara
16. Nairatmya
17. Manjushri
18. Ratnasambhava
19. Akshobhya
20. Vairochana
21. Amitabha
22. Amoghasiddhi
23. Maitreya
24. Vajrapani
25. Vajravidarana

Eight Offering Goddesses:
26. - 33.

Eight Sense Goddesses
34. Mohavajra
35. Dveshavajra
36. Matsaryavajra
37. Ragavajra
38. Irshyavajra
39. Nairatmya Yogini
40. Kayavajra
41. Vakvajra
42. Chittavajra

Two Protectors
43. Black Jambhala
44. Panjarnata Mahakala
45. Shri Devi

Eight Cemeteries:
A. East - Gruesome Charnal Ground (Chandograkatasi)
B. South - Frightful with Skulls (Bhairavakapalika)
C. West - Adorned with a Blazing Garland (Jvalamalalankara)
D. North - Dense Jungle (Girigahvaronnati)
E. North-east - Fiercely Resounding (Ugropanyasa)
F. South-east - Forest of the Lord (Ishvaravana)
G. South-west - Dark and Terrible (Bhairavandhakara)
H. North-west - Resounding with the Cries Kili Kili (Kilikilaghoshanadita)

The painting belongs to the Ngor branch of the Sakya Tradition and is typical of the works of art produced at Ngor Ewam monastery in Tsang province, Tibet. Observing the composition, the drawing of the figures and the detailed ornamentation and patterning, it is most likely the work of a Newar artist from Kathmandu Valley in the employ of the monastery.

Jeff Watt 3-2006 [updated 1-2013]

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Mandala, The Perfect Circle (RMA)

Thematic Sets
Collection of RMA: Ngor Style Paintings
Mandalas: Cemeteries on the Outside
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Mandalas (Masterworks)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mandala
Mandala: Main Page
Tradition: Sakya Deity Paintings
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Main Page (Gallery 1)
Collection of Rubin Museum (Mandala Masterworks)
Tradition: Ngor Main Page (Sakya)
Painting Set: Vajravali Mandalas (Sakya/Ngor Monastery)
Painting Style: Ngor Mandalas
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 2
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Mandalas