Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Deity

(item no. 77196)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1200 - 1299
Lineages Kadam and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Publication: Wisdom Publications, Calender
Catalogue # collection of Musee Guimet Museum, Paris
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

The Four Deities of the Kadam Tradition with the substitution of Medicine Buddha in place of Akshobhya Buddha. The other figures are Chaturbhuja Lokeshvara, Arya Achala and Green Tara.

The outer register contains the Thirty-five Confession Buddhas with six arranged in the interior of the composition. Between the Medicine Buddha and Lokeshvara is a human figure dressed as a layman and holding a vajra and bell. It is possible that this is the teacher of the donor figure located below. At the bottom right corner there is a solitary figure wearing the attire of householder and surrounded by various offering objects.

The painting in general has several unique iconographic characteristics. As already mentioned, the Akshobhya Buddha has been substituted with Medicine Buddha. The Green Tara, rather than appearing with a single face and pair of hands, is presented with three faces and eight hands. This form of Tara is more uncommon in appearance and not typically used in this four figure composition.

Tara has three faces and eight arms, green in colour. Each of the faces are green and have a peaceful expression. The main pair of hands are in the teaching gesture at the heart. The three rights hands hold a wheel, arrow and mala. The three left hands hold a water flask, bow and victory banner. She is seated in a relaxed posture with the right leg pendant.

The Thirty-five Confession Buddhas are unusual because of their hand gestures, lack of attributes and range of body colours. Twenty-two are yellow in colour, nine are blue and four are red. Seventeen perform the teaching gesture, seven the meditation gesture, four have the right hand upraised over the right shoulder, three are in earth touching and two have the right hand in a gesture of protection or blessing at the level of the heart.

"Arya Achala has a body dark blue in colour with one face and two hands. The right hand holds aloft a sword and the left performs the wrathful gesture at the heart. Above a lotus and sun seat [he] stands with the right leg bent and the left straight [atop] Vighnanraja [Lord of Hindrances - the elephant headed Ganesh]. Wearing a lower garment of tiger skin, having three eyes, red and round, orange hair flowing upward, all the limbs adorned with snakes, [he] stands in the middle of a blazing mass of fire." (The Narthang Gyatsa of Chim Namka Drag).

Jeff Watt 9-2013

Wisdom Calendar 2001 - Cover (full catalog list)

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Achala Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Akshobhya Buddha Main Page (阿閦佛)
Buddhist Deity: Tara, Green Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Achala Masterworks (Painting)
Subject: Composition - Registers
Buddhist Deity: Achala Masterworks (Standing, Painting)
Buddhist Deity: Tara (Four Faces, Eight Arms)