Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Achala, Standing (Atisha & Mitra Traditions)

Achala Iconography

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Kadam Tradition
- Mitra Yogin Tradition
- Masterworks
- Confusions: Black Manjushri, Vighnantaka, Black Hayagriva, Niladanda
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Video: Achala: The Unmovable One

Krodharaja Achala (English: the Immovable One, King of the Wrathful). Achala is found in two Tantras from the Kriya classification along with the Siddhaikavira Tantra - catalogued by the Sakyas as a Charya Tantra - also known as the White Manjushri Tantra. From this last Tantra Achala takes on his primary role as a remover of obstacles and secondly as the special protector for the meditational practices related to Manjushri. The continuation of this practice of linking the two deities is still found in the Sakya Tradition and likely others as yet undocumented. (See Tantra Classifications).

There are two well known traditions for the standing Achala. The more common of the two is the Achala of the Jowo Atisha Tradition and the second belongs to the Mitra Yogin Tradition. In the Kadam Tradition of Atisha the Achala is known as one of the 'Four Deities of Kadam' (kadam lha shi). In the Mitra Tradition there are eleven deities in total. All forms of Achala have the facial characteristic of the upper teeth biting down on the lower lip.

There are several other Tantric deities which can be easily confused with the standing form of Achala. The other deities are Vajrapani, Black Manjushri, Vignantaka. There is also a retinue protector deity named Achala that is part of the group known as the Ten Wrathful Ones.

The top of the head is often adorned with a very small figure of Akshobhya Buddha. Some texts name Vajrasattva as the figure.

Under the feet of Achala is the prostrate form of either one or two figures. According to the Nartang Gyatsa text of Chim Namkha Drag (1210-1285) the single prostrate figure is Vignayaraja with an elephant head. According to the Rinjung text of Taranata (1575-1634) there are two figures Elephant nose Ganesha and Maheshvara (Shiva).

"...Arya Achala with a body blue-black in colour, one face and two arms. The right hand holds up to the sky a wisdom sword. The left [performs] a wrathful gesture together with a lasso. [Achala] has three eyes, red and round, orange hair bristling upwards. The limbs are adorned with snake ornaments and jewels, a tiger skin as a lower garment. Within a vast swirling mass of wisdom fire [he] stands with the right leg bent and the left straight atop Vinayakaraja [the king of hindrances]. Vajrasattva adorns the head." (Drub Tab Kun Tu, vol.13, Nartang Gyatsa, pp.861-862. TBRC W19221).

Jeff Watt 3-2012 [updated 7-2018]