Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara (Eleven Faces, Gaganaraja)

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The Gaganaraja (Namkha Gyalpo) and Bhikshuni Shri forms of Avalokiteshvara are different in six ways:
1. Origin and Chronology
2. Lineage
3. Appearance of the faces
4. Number of main hands
5. Hand attributes
6. Retinue figures: number and identity

The Tibetan version of the origins of the Gaganaraja (Namka Gyalpo) Tradition of Avalokiteshvara begin with the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. The physical appearance of Avalokiteshvara in this tradition is different than the appearance of Avalokiteshvara in the Bhikshuni Shri tradition. Namka Gyalpo has five tiers of stacked heads. In the lowest tier are three horizontal white faces. Above that are three horizontal yellow laughing faces. Above that are two wrathful red faces. Above that are two wrathful blue faces and finally a red face at the very top. There are ten principal hands rather than eight. There are One thousand and seventy hands in total. The hand attributes are different for the secondary and tertiary hands following the initial eight hands. The first group of hands represent the Dharmakaya, the second the Sambhogakaya and the third the Nirmanakaya.

Lineage: Avalokiteshvara, Songtsen Gampo, Padmasambhava, Trisong Detsen, Drubtob Ngodrub, Ngadag Nyangral, Se Mikyo Dorje, Shakya Zangpo, Gewa Bum, Cham Yeshe Chog, Chu Gompa, Ta Shi Chatral, Tsulchen Sonam Sengge, Lama Tashi Gyaltsen, Chu Ngagpa Lodro Gyatso, Pagchog Norzang, Choje Zangpo Gyaltsen, Khedrub Palden Sanggye, Tennawa Ngagwang Dragpa, Jangsem Sherpal, Jetsun Drolchog, Je Lawang Dragpa, etc. (Rinjung, Taranata).

(Also see Sacred Vision, Early Paintings From Central Tibet, 1998, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Catalog plate #12. For images of Songtsen Gampo and Namka Gyalpo as a minor figure see HAR #71936 and #74124).

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Jeff Watt 5-2009