Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Chakrasamvara (Buddhist Deity)

འཁོར་ལོ་བདེ་མཆོག། ནང་ལྷ། 勝樂金剛 (全图)
(item no. 86435)
Origin Location Nepal
Date Range 1100 - 1199
Lineages Buddhist
Collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Avalokita Chakrasamvara and the consort Lasya, accompanied by six female retinue figures and surrounded by a palace, mandala circle and extensive cemetery scenes according to the tradition of the Indian siddha Advayavajra as found in the teachings of Mitra Yogin. A description for this deity and retinue can also be found in the edited Bhattacharya version of the Sadhanamala Sanskrit text (see #250) where the tradition is attributed to the Indian siddha Durjayachandra. There are minor differences between the Sanskrit text of the edited Sadhanamala and the Tibetan text of the Mitra Gyatsa. (Also see the publication bod brgyud nang bstan lha tshogs chen bzhugs so, pages 281-282. ISBN 7-5420-0816-1).

"Anuttarayoga Tantra: (#51 condensed version) of the Mitra Gyatsa, the Blue Chakrasamvara with three faces, six hands and eight deities according to the system of siddha Advayavajra." (Mitra Gyatsa).

Chakrasamvara Description: blue in colour with three faces and six hands, in a standing posture. The consort has one face and six hands. They stand in the center of a circle of six retinue deities. Each of the retinue figures has one face and four hands, standing on both legs: Heruka (blue), Bhairavi (yellow), Krodha (red), Ishvari (green), Nimitta (smokey) and Vajra Dakini (white).

"Samvara Seven Deity Mandala of the Advayavajra Tradition: in a celestial palace, above a six-spoked wheel, Bhairava and Kalaratri, ...is Heruka, blue, with three faces, the right yellow, left green and three eyes. With six arms the first [pair] hold a vajra and bell. The consort has the same arms. The middle two hold an arrow and bow in embrace. The last two hold a human skin and katvanga staff and a trident and blood [filled] skullcup; adorned with fierce ornaments. On the six spokes, circling to the right, in the East is blue Heruka, red Bhairavi, red Krodha Bala, green Nangchema, smokey coloured Vajra Krodha, and white Vajra Dakini. All have one face and four arms with the first two holding a hand drum (damaru) and bell and the second two a katvanga staff and skullcup; adorned with fierce ornaments." (gyud de kun tus, volume 23, page 535-536. #81. Mitra Gyatsa Contents List).

The Eight Charnel Grounds: the mandala is surrounded above and to the sides by the eight great charnel grounds of India. In the Chakrasamvara cycle of Tantras the Eight Great Charnel grounds are: east Gruesome, north Dense Wild Thicket, west Blazing with [the Sound] Ur Ur, south Terrifying, south-east Marvelous Forest, south-west Interminably Gloomy, north-west Resounding with the Sound Kili Kili, north-east Wildly Laughing. (These names are found in a Chakrasamvara ritual text composed by Chogyal Pagpa).

At the bottom center, Eastern direction, is the Gruesome charnel ground with the first of the Eight Direction Guardians, yellow Shakra, seated on an elephant beneath the first of the Eight Great Trees. Immediately to the left is the South-east with the Marvelous Forest charnel ground and Agni riding a gelded goat. Slightly to the side and above that is the charnel ground of the South, Terrifying, with blue Yama seated on a buffalo. At the top left, South-west, is the charnel ground Interminably Gloomy, with black Rakshasa seated on a zombie. At the top center, the Western direction and the charnel ground Blazing with [the Sound] Ur Ur, is white Varuna seated on a Makara. At the top right, North-west and the charnel ground Resounding with [the Sound] Ur Ur, is green Vayu seated on a buffalo. At the lower right, North and the charnel ground Dense Wild Thicket, is yellow Yaksha seated on a horse. At the bottom right, North-east and the charnel ground Wildly Laughing, is white Ishana seated on bull. At the immediate right or left side for each of these worldly gods is one of the Eight Great Nagas. In the branches of the tree behind each god is one of the Eight Guardian Deities identified by the animal face identical to the mount of the Direction God. According to the original Sanskrit literature the charnel grounds can be placed either outside of the celestial palace but inside the nested concentric rings or placed outside of the concentric rings. Both are correct however over time different religious traditions standardized with one system or the other. (See examples of other mandalas with the Charnel Grounds on the outside).

"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 siddhas with clear understanding, yakshas, rakshas, pretas, flesh eaters, lunatics, bhairavas, dakas, dakinis, ponds, fires, stupas, and sadhakas. All these fill the charnel grounds which surround the celestial palace." (Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557, written in 1551).

Eight Mahasiddha: a group of eight Tantric siddhas that are depicted in each of the charnal grounds. There are different groupings of the Eight Great Adepts that have been depicted in art over the last 1000 years. The earliest are found on metal Lotus Mandalas. In literature, an early description of each of the eight siddha was composed in verse by Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292-1361) naming and prioritizing them as: Nagarjuna, Indrabhuti, Dombi Heruka, Saraha, Ghantapa, Kukkuripa, Luipa, and Padmavajra. This grouping is also found in one known painting. Again later in the 18th century, Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne, based on Dolpopa, designed his own compositions illustrating his selection of the eight siddha and replacing Luipa with Lawapa. According to Situ the siddha are: Saraha, Indrabhuti, Nagarjuna, Padmavajra, Ghantapa, Dombi Heruka, Kukkuripa and Lawapa.

At the top left a standing siddha appearing to be Kukkuripa holds a dog wrapped about the waist. At the top right another dancing siddha in the posture of Ghantapa holds a vajra in the right hand and bell in the left. At the bottom left a siddha with a consort, just like Dombi Heruka, rides atop a tiger.

Bottom Register: at the left side is a seated religious figure and numerous ritual and offering objects. To the right are five goddess figures. The goddess at the right with one face and six hands, yellow in colour, appears to be Vasudhara. The other four goddesses are currently unidentified. Two female donor figures are seated at the far right side.

Jeff Watt 7-2009

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

Thematic Sets
Mandalas: Cemeteries on the Outside
Subject: Greyscale - Figurative & General Composition
Painting: Early Works Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Chakrasamvara Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Chakrasamvara (Mandala Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Chakrasamvara Mandala (Early Works)
Mandala: Early Works (1100-1399)
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Painting)
Buddhist Deity: Chakrasamvara Mandala