Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Grahamatrika (Buddhist Deity) - (Three Faces)

གཟའ་ཡུམ་རིག་པ་ཆེན་མོ། ནང་ལྷ། 大明星母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 77203)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Publication: Wisdom Publications, Calender
Catalogue # collection of L. Fournier
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Grahamatrika, Mahavidya (Tibetan: za yum chen mo): a female deity that is related to the sun, moon, planets and constellations. She is sometimes referred to as the Queen of the Planets or Mother of the Planets. She is a meditational deity and her special function or activity is to remove obstacles that are caused by poorly aligned astronomical events.

"...the Great Mother with the colour of an autumn moon, three faces, the right face black and the left face red, with three eyes [each] and slightly smiling. Having six arms the first pair perform the Dharma teaching gesture, [the right two] hold a vajra and arrow. In the left is a lotus and bow. The hair is piled with some falling loose. The two legs perform the vajra posture, very beautiful, adorned with the marks and examples [and] wearing various fluttering garments. Vairochana adorns the head as a crown." (Gongkar Dorje Denpa Kunga Namgyal, 1432-1496 [P3183]). rgyud sde rin po che kun las btus pa bzhugs so. Volume 1, folio 358-408).

"...Vidyarajni Grahamatrika with a body white in colour, three faces, white, blue and red, each having three eyes. With six arms the first pair [perform] the teaching gesture. The middle two [hold] a vajra and lotus. The lower two hold an arrow and bow. Seated with the legs in vajra posture and wearing heavenly garments and ornaments." (Jonang Taranata, 1575-1635 [TBRC P1428]. yi dam rgya mtsho'i sgrub thabs rin chen 'byung gnas. Volume 1, folio 464-466).

At the top left and right sides are Shakyamuni Buddha, blue Vajrapani, white Lokeshvara and orange Manjushri. Slightly below, on the right and left, are two Kings of the Directions. In the lower composition are found the other two Guardian Kings - all belonging to the set of Four Great Guardian Kings of the Directions.

A small donor figure wearing the attire of a monastic is located at the lower left. Along the bottom of the composition are nine worldly gods borrowed from the Indian Vedic and Brahminacal cosmological traditions. Some of the gods are easily identified such as Indra seated on a white elephant. Chandra sits in a chariot pulled by geese. Surya sits also in a chariot pulled by green horses.

The painting of Grahamatrika is very much in the style of the murals of Palkor Chode monastery in Gyantse, Tibet. Individual paintings in a Gyantse style are relatively rare. Gyantse is most famous for the rich and highly colourful murals which fill the main temple and the many stupa chambers. The fortress on top of the adjacent hill is likely the earliest structure with many mural paintings in a pronounced Nepalese (Newar) painting style. The mural paintings of Palkor Chode and stupa are more relaxed, colourful and expressive. The middle and late period Gyantse style scroll paintings follow after the Palkor Chode and stupa murals. There are a number of early period Gyantse style paintings with several dated within a few years of commission. Those paintings, dating from the mid 14th to the early 15th century, are very important in the study of the identity and legacy of the artist Chi'u Gangpa and the Chi'u Gang painting style.

Lineage (14 Deity): "Buddha, Yogeshvara Virupa, Abbot Shantirakshita, Khon Luwang Sungwa, Khon Dorje Rinchen, Khon Sherab Yontan, Khon Tsultrim Gyalwa, Khon Dorje Tsugtor, Khon Gekyab, Khon Getong, Khon Balpo, Khon Shakya Lodro, Khon Sherab Tsultrim, Khon Konchog Gyalpo, Khon Tsewa Chenpo Kunga Nyingpo, Lobpon Rinpoche Dragpa Gyaltsen, Choje Sakya Pandita, Drogon Chogyal Pagpa, Sharchen Sherab Jungne, Sharchen Dorje Ozer, Lama Epa Jamyang, Bagton Shonnu Tsultrim, Lama Tsultrim Gyaltsen, Kunkhyen Namkha Ozer, Tagtsang Lotsawa Sherab Rinchen, Gongkar Dorje Denpa Kunga Namgyal, Khenchen Sonam Gyatso, Drepung Tsewang Tashi, Lama Orgyan Gyalpo, Khenchen Sonam Gyalpo," etc.

Alternate 'Recent' Lineage: "Vajradhara, Vajrapani, Jetari, Vajrasana Senior & Junior, Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo," etc. (rgyud sde rin po che kun las btus pa bzhugs so. Volume 30, folio 22-23).

Jeff Watt 2-2019

Wisdom Calendar 2001 - July (full catalog list)

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Grahamatrika Mahavidya Main Page
Iconography: Deities - Physical Features Page
Painting Style: Gyantse Scroll Paintings
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Subject: Astrological Iconography