Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Ganapati (Indian God & Buddhist Deity) - Red (12 hands)

ཚོགས་བདག། ནང་ལྷ། 象鼻天(佛教本尊)
(item no. 89906)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Sakya, Ngor (Sakya) and Buddhist
Size 73x47cm (28.74x18.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Male

Summary: This form of Ganapati is an emanation of Lokeshvara.

Interpretation / Description

Ganapati, Maha Rakta (Tibetan: tsog gi dag po, mar chen. English: The Great Red Lord of Hosts). A Tantric Buddhist form of Ganapati (Ganesha) related to the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Tantras. This form of Ganapati is regarded as an emanation of Avalokiteshvara. (See the Ganapati Main Page and Outline).

Video: A Ganapati Painting

"...beside a lapis lazuli rock mountain is a red lotus with eight petals, in the middle a blue rat expelling various jewels, [above] Shri Ganapati with a body red in colour, having an elephant face with sharp white tusks and possessing three eyes, black hair tied in a topknot with a wishing-gem and a red silk ribbon [all] in a bundle on the crown of the head. With twelve hands, the six right hold an axe, arrow, hook, vajra, sword and spear. The six left [hold] a pestle, bow, katvanga, skullcup filled with blood, skullcup filled with human flesh and a shield together with a spear and banner. The peaceful right and left hands are signified by the vajra and skullcup filled with blood held to the heart. The remaining hands are displayed in a threatening manner. Wearing various silks as a lower garment and adorned with a variety of jewel ornaments, the left foot is extended in a dancing manner, standing in the middle of the bright rays of red flickering light." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup, 1497-1557. Translated by Jeff Watt).

This form of Ganapati as Maharakta 'the great red one' belongs to a set of three powerful deities known as the 'mar chen kor sum' or the Three Great Red Deities included in a larger set called 'The Thirteen Golden Dharmas' of Sakya. The other two deities are Kurukulla (of the Hevajra Tantra) and Takkiraja (of the Guhyasamaja Tantra).

At the top center is Ratnasambhava Buddha, yellow in colour, with the right hand extended across the knee with the palm facing outward. He is associated with the qualities of enlightenment and in the Tantic Buddhist pantheon the host of Wealth deities. Below the Buddha are two Indian teachers and four Tibetan teachers. All of the figures except one wear the attire of fully ordained monks. At the upper left side is Durjayachandra with Chogyal Pagpa below wearing a red pandita hat and NyenPhul Jungwa wearing the garb of a lay person. At the upper right side is Kache Pandita with Sakya Pandita and Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo seated below.

At the lower left is Bhutadamara Vajrapani in the unique form that is associated with Maharakta Ganapati. On the right side is Chakrasamvara, with four faces and twelve hands, embracing the consort Vajrayogini.

At the lower left is Vaishravana Riding a Lion, holding a victory banner in the right hand and a mongoose in the left. On the right side is Aparajita, white in colour, holding a hook in the right hand and a treasure vase in the left.

At the lower left is Pita Vasudhara, yellow in colour, with the right hand extended over the knee, palm outward and the left holding a wealth vase and a stalk of grain. On the right side is Pita Jambhala, yellow in colour, holding a bijapuraka fruit in the right hand and a mongoose in the left.

At the bottom center, standing in front of a large fruit bearing tree are the three Pishaci sisters 'Yugu Chesum,' red, blue and green in colour. Beautiful in appearance, they hold wealth vases and jewels.

This form of Ganapati belongs to a set of three powerful or deities known as the 'mar chen kor sum' or the Three Great Red Deities included in a larger set called 'The Thirteen Golden Dharmas' of Sakya. The other two Great Red Ones are Kurukulla (of the Hevajra Tantra) and Takkiraja (of the Guhyasamaja Tantra).

Lineage: Vajradhara, Vajra Varahi, Saraha, Nagarjuna, Lord Shavaripa, Hangdu Karpo, Mal Lotsawa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, etc., (page/folio 556). The source text used in the Sakya Tradition was taught by the mahasiddha Krishnacharin and translated by Pandita Gayadhara. It is a little odd that those two names do not appear in the official lineage of teachers.

Jeff Watt 8-2001 [updated 4-2011]

Numbered Image:
1. Maharakta Ganapati
2. Ratnasambhava Buddha & Lineage Teachers
3. Bhutadamara Vajrapani
4. Chakrasamvara
5. Vaishravana Riding a Lion
6. Aparajita
7. Vasudhara
8. Yellow Jambhala
9. Three Pishaci Sisters (Yugu Chesum)

Sakya Ganapati History: "The elephant-headed god of wealth, Ganapati, appeared to the siddha, Zangtsa Sonam Gyaltsen, during his meditation and carried him up to the highest peak of worldy existence. Looking out eastward from this vantage-point, Zangtsa saw the kingdoms of Tibet, China and Mongolia stretching out into the distance below him, but the great expanses beyond them so unnerved him that he dared not look further. The deity informed him, "Because you dared not look further, dominion over these lands which you have seen will belong, not to you, but to your descendants. Had you looked further, you would have become the ruler of the universe."

"In order to fulfill his prophecy, Ganapati approached an elderly sage living in solitude at gLang-dor. This great hermit, Se-ston Ripa, was a pillar of the Khadampa order, a writer of many books and an emanation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The deity requested him to take rebirth in Sakya as the son of Zangtsa Sonam, and Se-ston Ripa agreed." (A Gift of Dharma to Kublai Khan By Chogyal Phagpa, Seventh Patriarch of Sakya. Ngorchen Konchog Lhundup, Ngor chos 'byung, folia 323-328. Translated by Jared Rhoton, 1976).

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: [Name inscriptions beneath each figure]

Reverse of Painting
Special Features: (Printed script (Uchen))

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati, Maharakta (Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati, Maharakta Iconography & Religious Context
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati Iconography
Tradition: Sakya Deity Paintings
Collection: Private 1
Subject: Wealth Deities Main Page
Teacher: Mingyur Gyaltsen, Sharchen Ludingpa
Collection: Claude de Marteau Collection (Curator's Choice)
Collection: Bonhams, Paris (June 2022)
Buddhist Deity: Yugu Chesum
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati, Maharakta Main Page
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Collection: Claude de Marteau (Brussels)
Subject: Greyscale - Figurative & General Composition
Subject: Deity Colours - Red (Powerful Activities)
Buddhist Deity: Ganapati Masterworks
Painting Set: Thirteen Golden Dharmas (Kham)
Subject: Thirteen Golden Dharmas of Sakya