Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: War, Conflict & Strife

War, Conflict & Strife | War, Conflict & Strife Outline Page | Weird & Off Topics Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- War, Conflict & Strife Description (below)
- Principal Deities (below)
- Confusions
- Others...

There are many deities in both the Hindu and Buddhist Traditions that are associated with violence, aggression, conquest and war. In most cases it is not their primary function but there are enough deities and enough stories to make it an interesting subject.

Durga: a female goddess of India, most famous for defeating the demon Mahisha and his vast army of followers. She is commonly portrayed as a warrior holding all of the various weapons of the most important Hindu gods.

Hevajra: a principal meditational deity and Tantric system in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism using the metaphor of war. Hevajra with the name 'Hail Vajra!' is related to the Hindu god Indra in a number of ways. Many of the minor associated rituals are concerned with destroying an enemy and entire enemy armies.

Indra: as an early Indian god of war and weather Indra is probably best known for wielding the great vajra scepter weapon - related to the lightning bolt of Zeus.

Shakyamuni Buddha & the Defeat of Mara: one of the important events in the life of the Buddha is his attainment of enlightenment after defeating the armies of Mara. The depiction of this event is standard for almost all visual presentations of the life story

Karma Guru: In the 'Terma' Revealed Treasure Tradition of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism there are a number of deities with different appearances referred to as Karma Guru. Some figures have the look of a complex Guru Dragpo, while others can appear more like Dorje Drolo or the wrathful blue Krodha Vajrapani. Karma Guru has many ritual texts related to conquest and protection from and the defeat of enemy armies.

Krodha Vajrapani: the wrathful form of Vajrapani who wields the vajra scepter in the upraised right hand - ready to throw - figures prominently in narratives related to the subjugation and defeat of the Naga races.

Mahakala: the most wrathful and the highest of all protectors (Dharmapala) of Tantric Buddhism, he has numerous rituals devoted to wrathful activity and destruction - notably of enemies and enemy armies. In 11th century India, at Bodhgaya, the human skin of a general leading an invading army was dried and used to make a Mahakala mask. In the 13th century, during the Yuan dynasty, the Mongolians under Kublai Khan and his descendants used the face of Mahakala as a war banner.

Sitatapatra: a female deity that since the 17th century and the time of the 5th Dalai Lama has taken on the role for Tibet and China as a state protector of the empire - Tibet or China.

Shambhala Kings & the Future War: an interesting part of the Kalachakra and Shambhala narrative is the prognostication of a future war and a battle to end all battles led by the last King of Shambhala.

Vajrabhairava: generally regarded as the most terrific and horrific of the Tantric Buddhist meditational deities he was also the means used by Rwa Lotsawa to ritually assassinate numerous Tibetan Lamas of the 11th and 12th century - most notably Dharma Dode - the son of Marpa the Translator.

Jeff Watt, 11-2010 [updated 3-2019]