Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Mahottara Heruka (Chemchog 3 Faces)

Heruka (Nyingma)

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- One Face, two arms
- Three Faces (holding a vajra & bell, below)
- Three Faces (holding vajra & skullcup)
- Nine Faces
- Twenty-one Faces
- Masterworks
- Nyingma Main Page
- Confusions: Lama Gongdu
- Others...

- Nyingma Heruka Deities (Part 1)
- Nyingma Heruka Deities (Part 2)

Mahottara (chem chog) is the principal heruka of the wrathful sambhogakaya deities of the Nyingma tradition. He is dark brown in appearance, wrathful, with three, nine or twenty-one faces. He has six, eighteen, or forty-two arms. He has two or eight legs standing atop the figure of Rudra. In art, both painting and sculpture, it is possible to find a simple one face and two armed form of Mahottara although this is rare. The three main forms of Mahottara are the three, nine and twenty-one faced deities.

There are several names, both Sanskrit and Tibetan, that are commonly used and often interchangeable which can lead to confusion in identification: Mahottara, Chemchog, Yangdag, Shri Heruka, Samputa, and possibly Buddha Heruka.

Mahottara Colours: Maroon/brown/red or Blue.

Mahottara Faces: one, three, nine, or twenty-one.

Hand Attributes for the Three Faced Mahottara:
- Vajra & Skullcup Mahottara: three vajras & three skullcups.
- Vajra & Bell Mahottara (below): vajra & bell, drum, katvanga, skullcup intestine lasso.

There are two different forms of the three faced Mahottara based on hand attributes. The first holds a vajra scepter in each of the three right hands. The three left hands each hold a skullcup. The second style is where the right hands hold a vajra, hand drum, and a katvanga staff. The three left hands hold a bell, lasso of intestines and skullcup. The colour of the consort can also vary.

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Jeff Watt [updated 8-2018]