Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Hevajra (Buddhist Deity)

ཀྱེ་རྡོ་རྗེ། ནང་ལྷ། 喜金刚(佛教本尊)
(item no. 90919)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Gold Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Shri Hevajra and the Eight Goddesses (Tibetan: pal gye pa dor je lha mo gye), the principal Tantric deity of the Sakya School. This painting was created by a master artist and belongs to set of unknown number. Two other paintings from the set are known: Tsembupa Avalokiteshvara and Sakya Tridzin Jambai Dorje.

Sanskrit: Hevajra Tibetan: Gye pa dor je

Semi-wrathful, dark blue in colour with eight faces, sixteen hands and four legs, at each side of the main face are three further faces with the eighth situated centrally above. Brown hair flows upward like flame from each of the heads. Skullcups are held in sixteen hands. The eight on the right hold various animals looking inward and the eight on the left hold the eight worldly gods gazing outward. The first pair of arms folded at the heart embrace the consort. Adorned with a crown of five skulls, bone ornaments and a necklace of fifty freshly severed heads he has the appearance of being slightly wrathful and slightly peaceful. The consort Vajra Nairatmya, blue in colour, has one face and two hands. In the upraised right she holds a curved knife. Adorned with a tiara of five skulls, a necklace of fifty skulls and white bone ornaments, she is supported by the left leg with the right embracing Hevajra. Standing on two legs with the two remaining drawn up in a dancing stance atop the forms of four Hindu gods, a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus seat, Hevajra and consort are completely surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness.

Surrounding the central figures are eight goddesses in various colours, each with one face and two hands, standing in a dancing posture on the left leg above a corpse and lotus seat. Beginning from the top and moving in a clockwise direction they are yellow Vetali, multi-coloured Dombini, green Ghashmari, blue Pukkashi, black Gauri, white Shavari, red Chauri, and purple Chandali. They are all adorned with bone ornaments and a necklace of fifty skulls and each holds their own distinct hand objects.

Across the top of the painting starting at the left are Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Vajrasattva, Virupa and Dragpa Gyaltsen.

At the bottom left is the special guardian of the Hevajra Tantra, Panjarnata Mahakala, black, with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup, standing above a corpse and lotus seat surrounded by flame. At the right is Mahakali Shri Devi, light blue and emaciated, with one face and four hands holding a sword and skullcup in the right and a trident and spear in the left, riding a light brown mule standing in an ocean of blood.

Shri Hevajra is a meditational deity of the Anuttarayoga non-dual classification. From the many Hevajra Tantras, and forms of the deity, this representation of Hevajra arises from the root Hevajra Tantra of 'Two Sections' and was popularized by the Indian mahasiddha (the one of great accomplishment) Dombi Heruka.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Nairatmya, Virupa, Acharya Dombi Heruka, Alala Vajra, Nag Tropa, Garbharipa, Jaya Shrjnana, Acharya Durjayachandra, Bikshu Viravajra, Drogmi Lotsawa, Ngaripa Salwai Nyingpo, Khon Gyichuwa Drala Bar, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

Jeff Watt 10-2006

"...Shri Hevajra with a body blue in colour, eight faces, sixteen hands and four legs. The main face is blue, right white, left red, upper face smoky; the two remaining pairs of faces are black. Each face has three eyes and four bared fangs; yellow hair flowing upwards; the top of the head is marked with a vishvavajra. The sixteen hands hold sixteen skullcups. The first right holds a white elephant, the first left holds the yellow God of Earth; these two embrace the Mother. In the second right is a blue horse; third - ass with a white patch; fourth - yellow bull; fifth - ash-coloured camel; sixth - red man; seventh - blue sharabha; eighth - cat with a white patch. In the second left hand is the white God of Water; third - red God of Fire; fourth - green God of Air; fifth - white God of the Moon; sixth - red God of the Sun; seventh - blue Yama; eighth - yellow Holder of Wealth. Each head has a crown of five dry human skulls; and a necklace of fifty fresh heads; six bone ornaments; the two right legs are extended, on the thighs the toes of the two folded left legs are pressing in the half-[vajra] posture in a dancing manner; possessing the nine sentiments of dancing: grace, strength and ugliness; laughter, ferocity and frightful; compassion, fury and peace. In the lap is the mother Vajra Nairatmya, with a body blue in colour, one face, two hands, three eyes; yellow hair flowing upwards; right a curved knife, left holding a skullcup and embracing the father; five dry human skulls as a crown; a necklace of fifty dry [skulls]; five bone ornaments; left leg extended and the right drawn up embracing the father. Both are standing in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness." (Ngagwang Legpa).

"...in the east black Gauri, right hand holding a curved knife, left a rohita fish; south red Chauri, right hand holding a damaru, left a pig; west yellow Vetali, right hand holding a tortoise, left a skullcup; north green Ghashmari, right hand holding a snake, left a skullcup; north-east blue Pukkashi, right hand holding a lion, left an axe; south-east white Shavari, right hand holding a monk, left a monk's staff; south-west purple Chandali, right hand holding a wheel, left a plough; north-west multi-coloured Dombini, right hand holding a vajra, left a wrathful gesture. Also, all have one face, two hands, three eyes and yellow hair flowing upward; naked, adorned with five ornaments of bone; a crown of five human skulls and a necklace of fifty skulls. With the left leg extended and the right in a half-lotus posture, in a dancing manner, they stand in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness." (Konchog Lhundrub).

Jeff Watt 3-2000 [updated 5-2017]

Reverse of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: Inscriptions on back.

Special Features: (Ranjana script (Ornamental Sanskrit))

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: RMA Masterworks, January 28th, 2021

HAR: Jeff Watt - Profile

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Painting & Textile (Masterworks)
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra, Deity Paintings
Painting Tradition: Menri
Collection of RMA: Red & Gold Ground Masterworks
Collection of RMA: Gold Ground Masterworks (Menri Style)
Painting Type: Gold Ground
Buddhist Deity: Hevajra Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art (RMA): Main Page
Painting Set: Sakya Gold Ground (Series)
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 1
Painting Type: Gold Ground Masterworks
Collection of RMA: Painting Masterworks Page