Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Parnashavari (Buddhist Deity)

རི་ཁྲོད་མ་ལོ་མ་གྱོན་མ། ནང་ལྷ། 叶衣佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 65302)
Origin Location Himalayan Region
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Parnashavari (Tibetan: ri tro ma, lo ma gyun ma. English: the Mountain Ascetic Wearing Leaves), the goddess who protects from contagious illness. (See the Parnashavari Main Page and Outline Page).

Tibetan: Lo ma gyun ma

Natural in colour (yellow), she has three faces and six hands. The main face is slightly peaceful and wrathful with three eyes and the hair tied with a snake in a topknot on the crown of the head. The red face on the left is in a desirous mood and the white face on the right is peaceful. The first pair of hands hold a gold vajra and a vajra lasso held to the heart. In the second pair is a vajra axe upraised in a manner of striking and a fan of fresh leaves and in the lower pair of hands is an arrow and bow. Adorned with gold and jewel ornaments, a circlet of fresh leaves around the neck and a long snake necklace she wears an upper silk scarf gray in colour. The lower body is covered with a thatched skirt of fresh leaves tied with a yellow silk ribbon. With the right knee pressing on the sun disc and lotus seat she sits in a kneeling posture. Flames and a dark blue nimbus surrounds the entire form.

At the top center is a blue buddha wearing silks and ornaments. At the left is the Four-armed All-seeing Lord (Avalokiteshvara) and White Tara is seated at the right side.

At the lower center is the wrathful goddess Chandika, yellow in colour. At the bottom left is Achala according to the Atisha Tradition. At the bottom right side is the wrathful goddess Simhamukha.

The background portrays a lush green landscape rich with various offerings of wish-fulfilling jewels and auspicious objects arranged as offerings petitioning the special healing favours of the deities.

Parnashavari belongs to the Kriya class of tantra and is employed in the eradication of contagious disease. Various lineages of practice are found in both the Nyingma and Sarma schools of Tantric Buddhism.

Associated with the mysterious Shavari tribe of ancient India, the Forest Goddess with three faces and six hands wears a skirt and garland of thatched green leaves. She has always been associated with jungle tribes and the practice of healing. Her specialty is contagious disease. In the Himalayas and Tibet it is common place when a large group of people congregate to receive extended religious teachings to first give the initiation and blessing for the Forest Goddess in order to stave off sickness.

The Forest Goddess is an example of an Indian folk deity absorbed into Tantric Buddhism. She is a popular practice and has numerous forms with varying emphasis. From the point of view of Buddhist Esoteric meditation, the Forest Goddess is an emanation of the Buddha, and her special characteristic or metaphor is that of sickness and healing.

This type of painting with unusual dimensions is generally intended as a mural. Painted on cloth it is then glued to a temple wall. The gold paint, leaf or gold powder, is intended as a lavish offering by the donor to increase the merit accrued by having sacred objects created, the more gold the more merit. Three other female deities are represented in this painting, White Tara at the top right, a fearsome goddess at the lower center and the Lion-faced Goddess at the bottom right.

Jeff Watt 5-2005

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Female Buddhas at RMA

Thematic Sets
Subject: Deity Colours - Yellow (Increasing Activities)
Buddhist Deity: Parnashavari (Healing Deity) Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Parnashavari (Yellow, Three Faces)
Buddhist Deity: Parnashavari (Masterworks)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Main Page