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Publication: Protector Deity Glossary (Buddhist)

Glossary Index Main Page | Protector Deities Main Page

Achi Chokyi Drolma, 12th century, the great grand-mother of Jigten Sumgon (1143-1217) founder of the Drigung Kagyu. She made a vow to protect Buddhism.

Amnye Machen (Machen Pomra): the most prominent mountain god from the Amdo area of Tibet.

Bamo Sum: three witches with colourful narratives. The term 'Bamo' is a classification for witch in the Sakya Tradition. There are numerous other Bamo witches aside from the most famous three: Mamo Rigkye, Namkha Drolma and Shangmo.

Bamro Yab-yum: a pair of monkeys that generally stand on their hands and support skullcups upraised with their feet. The Bamro are associated with the Shri Devi and Bernagchen Mahakala practices of the Karma Kagyu school. Sometimes they are depicted in painted compositions along with the Shingkyong Yab-yum.

Begtse Chen: an important protector for the Sakya Tradition later imported into the Gelug Tradition - becoming very popular in Mongolia. Begtse is associated with the Hayagriva Cycle of Practices. He has two attendants - wife and son - named Goddess of Life and Lord of Life.

Cha Kyung: a mountain god in the retinue of Amnye Machen, also the special protector of the West side of Rebkong, in Amdo.

Chenmigchen (Sera): a deity special to Sera Monastery. Wrathful in appearance and red in colour, his main characteristic is a single eye on the forehead.

Chingkarwa: a Tibetan worldly protector deity (god) in the appearance of a Drala warrior. He is white in colour with one face and two hands riding atop a white horse. His face is not wrathful but in the manner of king - slightly stern. In the right hand outstretched is a long spear and in the left a bowl of jewels held at the waist. The top of his head is wrapped in a whit cloth.

Chitipati (Shri Shmashana Adhipati): a male and female skeleton standing in a dancing posture. They are associated with the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Practices.

Confused Visual Subjects: [1] Brahmarupa Mahakala, Mahasiddhas, [2] Dorje Shugden, Dorje Legpa, Dorje Ta'og, [3] Tsiu Marpo, Dorje Setrab, Dragtsen, [4] Simhamukha: ishtadevata, attendant, retinue figure, [5] Gesar, Dralha and Mountain Gods, [6] Jambhala, Aparajita, Vaishravana, Twelve Yaksha Generals

Dhritarashtra: a member of the Four Guardian Kings, early protectors of Buddhism. He is the Guardian King of the East and typically holds a lute - stringed instrument.

Dorje Dragtsen (Pehar): a worldly deity, one of the five forms of Pehar when they are depicted as the group of Five Kings.

Dorje Legpa: a worldly deity, special for the 'Treasure' Tradition of the Nyingma. He typically holds a vajra scepter and a heart, riding atop either a lion or a goat.

Dorje Setrap: a worldly deity, the regional god for the area of Reting Monastery North of Lhasa. He has the appearance of a Tibetan 'Tsen' spirit.

Dorje Shugden (Worldly Protector, Buddhist): originally a worldly deity however now disputed by some and claimed to be a wisdom deity. His main characteristic is the wearing of monastic robes and a monastic riding hat. Both Dorje Legpa and Dorje Ta'og wear similar hats are are often confused as the same deity.

Dorje Ta'og (Sera): a worldly deity, originally a protector of Samye Monastery. Dorje Ta'og was purchased by the Purser of Sera Monastery to be the special protector for Sera.

Dorje Togu: a worldly deity from the Amdo Rebkong region of East Tibet, likely related to the Nyingma Tradition.

Dorje Yudronma: one of the Twelve Goddesses of Tibet (Tanma Chunyi). She has different appearances depending on the visual context she is in - as a group of twelve, alone and seated, or riding a wild animal. She is most popular with the Drugpa Kagyu and Nyingma Traditions.

Drabshi Lhamo: a form of Shri Devi unique to Lhasa, Tibet. She has one face and two hands. The face is almost identical to the Indian face of the wrathful goddess Kali with a long protruding tongue. Her most unique characteristic is her legs and feet which are in the shape of chickens feet.

Draglha Gonpo: a local Tibetan god, a protector special to the Minyak region of Eastern Tibet.

Dragtsen (Karma Kagyu), a female worldly deity, with one eye on the forehead and riding a buffalo.

Dralha: God of Life, God of the Soul, and later under Buddhism the name was interpreted to be God of Enemies. An early Tibetan god generally appearing as a warrior and accompanied by eight horsemen.

Drogdze Wangmo: a wrathful female deity in the appearance of a Mamo, or witch. She is special for the Mindroling Tradition of Nyingma.

Ekajati: a wisdom protector deity of both the Sarma and Nyingma Traditons of Tibetan Buddhism. In the Sarma she is considered the mother of Mahakala and Shri Devi. In the Nyingma she is leader of the three special protectors of the Treasure Tradition.

Five Personal Gods: a group of Five Gods believed to be born with each sentient being. The gods are generally located in the region of the head. Originally a Bon practice it has recently been adopted into Buddhism.

Four Guardian Kings: Vaishravana, Dhritarashtra, Virudhaka, Virupaksha: worldly gods,

Garwa Nagpo: a worldly deity, known as the Blacksmith because he holds a hammer and a blacksmith's bellows. He is associated with the protector Dorje Legpa and the Nyingma Tradition, although popular in the Karma Kagyu as well.

Guardians of the Ten Directions: a group of ten Indian gods that are appointed as guardians of the directions. They are commonly found as secondary figures in large mandalas such as that of Medicine Buddha, Sitatapatra and others.

Gauri & Marajit: the two principal protector deities for the Vajrakilaya Cycle of Tantric Practice. They are almost always depicted as a pair.

Genyen Chingkarwa: a worldly protector popular with Reting Monastery and the later Gelug monasteries of Ganden and Sera. His name refers to his white felt hat. He is typically white in colour and rides a white horse. Chingkarwa can be commonly found as a minor figure in Tashi Lhunpo compositions.

Guan Yu: a worldly deity, the deified form of a Chinese General, popular in the Amdo region of East Tibet.

Karma Tansung: a worldly deity, originally a Karma Kagyu monk, subjugated and attached to Palpung Monastery in the Kham region of East Tibet.

Kshetrapala: more commonly one of the five retine deities for Shadbhuja Mahakala, Kshetrapala is also practiced individually primarily for very wrathful activities. His principal characteristic is that he rides atop a bear and is accompanied by a consort.

Kula Khari: a worldly god from a mountain on the Eastern Tibetan border with Bhutan.

Lha Chenpo: a worldly deity, the Indian god Shiva, enlisted by the Nyingma as both a protector and a wealth deity. The practice is popular with the Mindroling Tradition of the Nyingma.

Mahakala: a wisdom deity, the principal protector deity of Tantric Buddhism. There are numerous forms appearing in a variety of shapes and colours.

Marajit & Gauri: the two principal protector deities for the Vajrakilaya Cycle of Tantric Practice. They are almost always depicted as a pair.

Marutse: a Nyingma protector deity most likely from the 'Revealed Treasure' Tradition and also related to the various cycles of Maning Mahakala.

Mo Lha: the central female figure of the Five Personal Gods (Buddhist), or Five Gods of the Head (Bon). Originally a Bon practice it has been adopted into Buddhism.

Nechung Chogyong: a worldly deity, the famous oracle of Nechung Monastery, associated with the Pehar protection practices.

Oden Barma: a wisdom deity, a black female in a standing posture. She is a wrathful form of Sarasvati and associated with the Vajrabhairava Cycle of Practices.

Pursrung Chunyi (Vajrakila): twelve female figures each with an anthropomorphic appearance - an animal or bird head - as the outer protectors for the Vajrakila Cycle of Practices according to the Sakya Tradition.

Putra Mising Nga: wisdom deity emanations of Panjarnata Mahakala, the inner retinue. They are a group of five deities, a mother and father accompanied by three wrathful children.

Pehar: a worldly deity, originally a protector for Samye Monastery. He was moved to Nechung Monastery and served as the oracle for the government of the 5th Dalai Lama. Pehar is actually a group of five different depictions/forms each representing the deity Pehar. The most common form depicted hasthree faces and six hands, white in colour and riding a lion. He also wears a hat similar to a monastic riding hat like Dorje Legpa, Dorje Shugden, and Dorje Ta'og.

Rahula: a worldly deity, the personification of the astrological eclipse. Rahula has nine heads placed atop each other, three by three, and the lower body is that of a coiled snake. As a Nyingma protector of the Treasure Tradition he is often in association with Ekajati and Dorje Legpa.

Shanglon: a wisdom deity, derived from the Four Medical Tantras and the Yutog Nyingtig Treasure Cycle. He is regarded by many as a form of Mahakala.

Shangpa Karpo: a mountain god of Tibet, converted by Padmasambhava to be a protector of Buddhism. He generally is dressed in white and rides a white horse. A white conch also adorns the crown of the head.

Shanpa Marnag: a worldly deity, associated with the retinue of Maning Mahakala of the Nyingma Tradition.

Nujin Shingjachen: a worldly protector of Dratang Monastery.

Shingkyong Rag-gyal: a worldly god, from the region of Chamdo, East Tibet.

Shingkyong Yab-yum: a pair of deities with lion faces. They are associated with Bernagchen Mahakala and can also be found practiced individually in the Nyingma and Karma Kagyu Traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Shri Devi: a category of wisdom deity, the most important female protector of Tantric Buddhism. She has many different appearances but generally maintains a black or dark maroon colouring, riding atop a mule, donkey or Tibetan kyang.

Shri Shmashana Adhipati (Chitipati): a wisdom deity, male and female skeletons, standing in a dancing posture. They are associated with the Chakrasamvara Cycle of Practices as wealth protectors. When associated with Vajrayogini they function as protectors. In Tibet these deities were popularized by the Sakya Tradition.

Shingjachen: a Tibetan worldly god associated with Pehar.

Srog Lha: one of the four male figures from the Five Personal Gods (Buddhist), or Five Gods of the Head (Bon). Generally it is the female Mo Lha that is depicted as the central figure - but not always. Originally a Bon practice the Five Gods have been adopted into and adapted by Buddhism.

Ten Directions Gods: (See Guardians of the Ten Directions)

Ten Wrathful Ones: generally associated with any Yoganiruttara (anuttarayoga) Tantra meditation practice. The Ten Wrathful Ones constitute the inner protection chakra (wheel) of a mandala. The names of these ten are not consistent between the different tantra systems and even when the names are the same the descriptive appearance can be very different system to system.

Twelve Goddesses of Tibet (Tanma Chunyi): peaceful and beautiful in appearance the goddesses are believed to have been subjugated by Padmasambhava in the 8th century. It is likely that the goddesses are associated with Tibetan mountains. There are many different lists of the Twelve Goddesses as well as different descriptions of appearance.

Tseringma: the name of at least three indigenous Tibetan protectors: Shalu Monastery Tseringma, Kagyu Tseringma and Longchen Nyingtig Tseringma. The Kagyu Tseringma was a worldly goddess of Tibet, subjugated by both Padmasambhava and Milarepa. She and her four sisters figure prominently in the life story and songs of Milarepa.

Tsi'u Marpo: a worldly deity, resident protector at Samye Monastery especially after Pehar was removed to the Nechung Monastery in Lhasa. Tsi'u Mara is an example of a Tibetan 'Tsen' spirit. They appear as warriors, red in colour, riding a horse. Strong evidence suggest that Tsi'u Mara was a Bon mountain god prior to becoming a Buddhist protector.

Vaishravana (North): a worldly deity, a member of the Four Guardian Kings, early protectors of Buddhism. He is the Guardian King of the North and is typically yellow in colour and holds a banner and a mongoose.

Vaishravana Riding a Lion: a worldly deity, typically depicted riding a lion and accompanied by eight horsemen. This form of Vaishravana functions as a meditational deity for protection and the accumulation of wealth. Vaishravana is an especially popular deity in the Sakya, Bulug, Tsar and Gelug Traditions. The Sakyas practice seventeen different forms of Vaishravana.

Virudhaka (South): a worldly deity, a member of the Four Guardian Kings, early protectors of Buddhism. He is the Guardian King of the South and is typically blue in colour and holds a sword.

Virupaksha (West): a worldly deity, a member of the Four Guardian Kings, early protectors of Buddhism. He is the Guardian King of the West and is typically red in colour and holds a stupa and a snake.

Vajravega: a wisdom deity, the principal protector deity for the Kalachakra Cycle of Tantras. Vajravega and Kalachakra are very similar in appearance and sometimes conflated and misidentified.

Yama Dharmaraja: a wisdom deity, the principal protector for the Vajrabhairava Cycle of Tantra Practices. There are three main forms of Dharmaraja: Outer, Inner and Secret.

Jeff Watt 2-2011 [12-2015, 1-2017, 8-2019, 4-2020]