Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shri Devi (Buddhist Protector) - Magzor Gyalmo

དཔལ་ལྡན་ལྷ་མོ། 吉祥天母(佛教护法)
(item no. 89955)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Female

TBRC: W19221

Interpretation / Description

Shri Devi, Magzor Gyalmo (Tibetan: pal den lha mo, mag gyi zor le, gyal mo. English: Glorious Goddess, the Queen who Repels Armies, or the Queen who has the power to turn back armies. Sanskrit: Shri Devi, Yakshi Remati): belonging to the larger class of enlightened protector deities known as Shri Devi. Magzor Gyalmo is regarded as a wrathful emanation of the peaceful goddess Sarasvati, popular in Hinduism and Buddhism.

"... Shri Devi Remati, Queen who Repels Armies, riding a mule, blue-black in colour, with one face and two hands, having bared fangs and gnashing down on a human corpse. Possessing three round red eyes, and the forehead furrowed into a frown, brown hair flowing upward with licks of flame and smoke issuing forth. The right ear is adorned with a poisonous snake and the left with a lion, crowned with five dry human skulls and a necklace of fifty blood dripping wet [heads] strung with intestines. ... having a lower garment of tiger skin, a snake belt and necklace, and the like. The right hand holds to the sky a sandalwood stick marked with a vajra. The left holds to the heart a mustard seed and blood filled skullcup. ... At the navel is a sun and at the crown of the head a crescent moon; above the head is a peacock parasol canopy." (Sharchen Champa Kunga Tashi 1558-1603).

Northern Buddhism often prides itself on stating that it has no deities, a statement that does not appear obvious. What is meant here is that the Buddhism of India has created no deities for itself. Implying that it has appropriated deities from other religions. This is a statement from deep within Buddhism and as to proving how valid it is will require careful examination. Based on similarities between Hindu and Buddhist literature and their origin myths, the Glorious Goddess, is undeniably related to the Hindu mother goddess Kali, the wife of Shiva in a wrathful form.

The Glorious Goddess is understood as a class of female protector deity that includes many forms and many different variations on the early origin myth. Some claim that there are twenty-one in number attested to in popular prayer; others say that some of these forms are indigenous to the Himalayas and Tibet. Relying on ancient Tibetan texts, possibly of Indian origin, the Glorious Goddess has a list of one hundred names. Portrayed with four arms, she is considered the principal and original form of the goddess, similar to the Hindu goddess Kali.

The Queen who Repels Armies, appearing with just two arms, is another form within this class. Based on her specific origin myth she is said to be the fearsome manifestation of the Hindu goddess Sarasvati, popular in Hinduism and Buddhism. In the Bon religion Queen of the World is similar to the Buddhist and Hindu forms in both appearance and function.

Jeff Watt 5-2003

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Female Buddhas at RMA

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened (Female)
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi, Magzor Gyalmo Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Shri Devi, Magzorma with Retinue
Subject: Protector Deities, Tibetan (Prior to 17th Century)
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi, Magzorma (Masterworks)
Collection: Private 1
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi Main Page
Tradition: Gelug, Enlightened Protectors