Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mandala of Vajrayogini (Buddhist Deity) - Vajravarahi, Red

རྡོ་རྗེ་རྣལ་འབྱོར་མ། སྣང་བརྙན་ཡོངས། 金刚瑜伽佛母(全图)
(item no. 94)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Kagyu, Karma (Kagyu) and Buddhist
Size 49.53x36.83cm (19.50x14.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.7.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Semi-Peaceful

Gender: Female

Interpretation / Description

Vajravarahi Five Deity Mandala, (Tibetan: dor je pag mo lha nga kyil khor). This painting is dated to the early 16th century because of the presence of seven images of Karmapa wearing the characteristic black hat. The 7th Karmapa Chodrag Gyatso lived between 1454-1506. The composition can be dated to circa 1500 or even a little earlier.

Sanskrit: Vajravarahi Tibetan: Dor je pag mo

In the center of two crossed triangles bordered with a white edge stands Vajravarahi, red in colour, with one face and two hands. The right hand holds aloft a curved knife and the left a skullcup to the heart. In the bend of the left elbow a katvanga staff is held against the left shoulder. Adorned with bone ornaments and a necklace of heads she stands in a dancing posture on a corpse seat. On the four lotus petals stand the four yoginis; above is red Khandaroha, to the right green Lama, below dark blue Dakini, and to the left is yellow Rupini. All have the same hand objects, ornaments and posture as the central figure. Situated on a black background, the central figures are surrounded by three successive rings of skulls, gold vajras and the five coloured flames of the fires of pristine awareness.

Directly above are four seated buddhas beneath rainbow arches. Above those are two rows of various mahasiddhas and lamas of the Karma Kagyu tradition interspersed with black hat Karmapas and red hat Sharmapas. The circle at the upper left is the Chakrasamvara 5 Deity Mandala. To the right another 5 Deity Mandala with two central blue figures. Again to the lower right and left are two more 5 Deity Mandalas.

Along the left side and below the mandala are two sets of six goddesses of various colours and along the right side are a further six goddesses with animal faces. At the bottom, from the right is Mahakala wearing a long tunic, Panjarnata Mahakala, Shri Devi, For-handed Chaturbhuja Mahakala, Black Robed Mahakala (Tib.: ber nag chen), Mahakali Remati, yellow Jambhala, Vaishravana, Black Jambhala and Dam Chen Garwa'i Nagpo riding a goat.

This form of Vajravarahi is one of the most special practices of the Kagyu Tradition and arises from the Chakrasamvara cycle of tantras belonging to the wisdom class of Anuttarayoga Tantra.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa (1012-1097), Milarepa (1040-1123), Dwagpo Sonam Rinchen, Lord Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193), Rechen, Pom Dragpa, Karma Pakshi (1206-1283), etc.

Jeff Watt 7-98


Vajravarahi is one of the most popular and commonly depicted meditational deities of Tantric Buddhism. She is also found in the same Sanskrit literature (Abhidhana Uttaratantra) that describes the deity Chakrasamvara. Vajravarahi is a form of the deity Vajrayogini. The only difference in appearance is that Vajravarahi has a boar's head attached to her own, either placed on the top or on the right side of the head.

In the center of the composition are two crossed triangles, red in color, appearing as a six-pointed star. In fact, what is depicted here are two tetrahedrons, four-sided pyramids, merged together with the two points facing down. Mandalas are architectural plans and all architectural forms need a foundation. The foundation for all mandalas is a tetrahedron and for most of those it is a single tetrahedron. The Yoginis are most often depicted above a double tetrahedron (Sanskrit: dharmodayo, dharmakara) but not in all cases.

At the center of the tetrahedron on a four-petalled lotus is Vajravarahi, red in color, with one face and two hands. Her right hand holds aloft a curved knife and the left a skull-cup to the heart. In the bend of the left elbow a katvanga staff is held against her left shoulder. Adorned with bone ornaments and a necklace of heads she stands in a dancing posture on a corpse seat. Surrounding her, on the four lotus petals, stand four figures. Above is red Padma Dakini, to the right is green Karma Dakini, below is dark blue Vajra Dakini, and to the left is yellow Ratna Dakini. All have the same hand objects, ornaments, and posture as the central figure. Situated on a black background, the central figures are surrounded by three successive rings of skulls, gold vajras, and the five colored flames of the fires of pristine awareness.

Directly above are four seated buddhas beneath rainbow arches. Above them are two rows of various mahasiddhas and teachers of the Karma Kagyu tradition interspersed with black hat Karmapas and red hat Shamarpas. The circle at the upper left is the Chakrasamvara Five Deity Mandala. The circle at the upper right is another Five Deity mandala, with two central blue figures. The circles to the lower right and left are two more Five Deity mandalas.

Along the left side and below the mandala are two sets of six goddesses of various colors and along the right side are a further six goddesses with animal faces. At the bottom, from the right is Black Hayagriva, wearing a long tunic, Panjarnata Mahakala, Shri Devi, Four-handed Chaturbhuja Mahakala, Black-robed Mahakala, Shri Devi Remati, Yellow Jambhala, Vaishravana, Black Jambhala, and Damchen Garwa Nagpo, riding a goat.

Blue Section 'A':
A. Vajrayogini Mandala
A1. Six Dakini
A2. Six Animal-headed Dakini
A3. Six Dakini

Red Section, Four Mandalas:
B. Chakrasamvara Heruka Mandala
C. Hevajra Heruka Mandala
D. Hayagriva Mandala
E. Green Tara Mandala

Green Section, Lineage Teachers:
- Vajradhara
- Tilopa
- Naropa
- Marpa
- Milarepa
- Gampopa
- Dusum Kyenpa, 1st Karmapa
- Drogon Sanggye Rechen
- Pomdragpa Sonam Dorje
- Karma Pakshi, 2nd Karmapa
- Teacher
- Teacher
- Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa
- Teacher
- Rolpa'i Dorje, 4th Karmapa
- Teacher
- Deshin Shegpa, 5th Karmapa
- Tongwa Donden, 6th Karmapa
- Teacher
- Chodag Gyatso, 7th Karmapa
- Teacher
- Teacher

Purple Section 'G' Eight Mahasiddhas:
- Indrabhuti
- Dombi Heruka
- Nagarjuna
- Ghantapa
- Virupa
- Luipa (?)
- Kukkuripa
- Saraha

Yellow Section 'H':
- Dipamkara Buddha (?)
- Shakyamuni Buddha
- Maitreya Buddha (?)
- Amitabha Buddha

Brown Section 'I':
- Black Hayagriva
- Panjarnata Mahakala
- Shri Devi, Dudsolma
- Chaturbhuja Mahakala
- Bernagchen Mahakala
- Shri Devi Remati (Naropa Tradition)
- Yellow Jambhala
- Vaishravana Riding a Lion
- Black Jambhala
- Damchen Garwa Nagpo

Jeff Watt 10-2008

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

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Varahi (Sow Head on the Right Side of the Face)
Subject: Tetrahedron (dharmakara/dharmadayo)
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini (Masterworks)
Subject: Svastika - Bliss Whorl Confusion
Mandalas: Kagyu
Subject: Protector Deities, Tibetan (Prior to 17th Century)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mandala
Mandala: Main Page
Tradition: Kagyu Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery II
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Vajravarahi Main Page
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini Main Page
Painting Style: Tibet (Balri)
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Mandalas: Female Deities
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini Mandalas
Buddhist Deity: Vajravarahi Mandalas
Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Varahi (Masterworks)