Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Kurukulla (Buddhist Deity) - Four Armed

ཀུ་རུ་ཀུ་ལེ། ནང་ལྷ། 作明佛母(佛教本尊)
(item no. 87222)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya, Ngor (Sakya) and Buddhist
Size 101.60x82.30cm (40x32.40in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Catalogue # acc.# 67.819, Gift of John Goelet
Painting School Ngor
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Kurukulle (Tibetan: rig che ma. English: The One of the Action Family), Goddess of Power.

Powerful, red in colour with one face, hair flowing upward, three eyes and four hands, slightly fierce in expression, she holds a bow and arrow in the first pair of hands and a golden hook and red utpala flower in the lower pair. Adorned with jewel ornaments, a tiara, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and silk scarves, she wears a lower skirt of tiger skin. Standing atop a yellow corpse, sun disc and lotus blossom seat she dances amidst the circular flames of the fire of pristine awareness in front of a cave edged with dark blue rocky out-croppings.

At the top center is the peaceful goddess Green Tara, with one face and two hands, seated in a relaxed posture. At the left is Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo performing the mudra (gesture) of Dharma Teaching with the two hands at the heart, seated in a relaxed posture. At the right is a lama with the hands in the same teaching gesture and wearing a red pandita hat.

In the Sakya Tradition there are numerous forms of Kurukulle from the four different tantra classifications and all of those can be arranged in five levels of profundity. This particular subject belongs to the first classifications - those associated with the lower tantras of kriya and Charya. In these texts Kurukulle is seen as an emanation of the goddess Tara. In the higher tantras Kurukulle is an emanation of Hevajra and the teachings arise from the Hevajra and Vajrapanjara Tantras.

This form of Kurukulle belongs to a set known as the 'marchen kor sum' or the Three Great Red Deities which is included in a larger set called 'The Thirteen Golden Dharmas' of Sakya. The other two are Takkiraja and Ganapati.

Please see the other companion paintings:
MFA, Boston: Ganapati.
Museum der Kulturen, Basel: Takkiraja.

Jeff Watt 4-2001

Related Items
Publication: Visual Dharma: the Buddhist Art of Tibet

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Kurukulla Main Page
Subject: Three Great Red Ones of Sakya
Subject: Thirteen Golden Dharmas of Sakya
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Kurukulla Study Topics
Buddhist Deity: Kurukulla Religious Context
Subject: Caves (Deities & Figures)
Subject: Ngor Masterworks
Subject: Deity Colours - Red (Powerful Activities)
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Buddhist Deity: Kurukulla Masterworks
Tradition: Sakya Deity Paintings
Subject: Power Deities List