Himalayan Art Resources

Tibetan Deity: Drala, Nine Brothers

Drala Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Drala Nine Brothers Explanation (below)
- Drala: Warrior Appearance Outline
- Five Personal Gods
- Mountain Gods
- Gesar-Drala Comparison
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Drala, the Nine Enemy God Brothers (Tibetan: dra la che gu): Drala is a class of indigenous gods inhabiting the Himalayas, Tibet and Central Asia. They are found in both the Bon and Buddhist religions. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Drala are said to have been subjugated and then forced into the service of Buddhism as worldly protector gods by the 8th century Indian teacher Padmasambhava. The Tibetan word 'drala' is considered to be a Tibetan Buddhist word having been changed from the word 'drabla' used in the Bon Religion and referring to a 'life god' associated with a person, tribe or place. See a depiction of Dralha Yesi Gyalpo the special protector and 'life god' of the Bon Religion founder Tonpa Shenrab - when he was a mere boy - according the early life stories.

Typically Krodha Vajrapani blue in colour and wrathful in appearance, is placed above worldly gods in a painted composition. This indicates that they are worldly gods under the watchful gaze of the powerful Vajrapani. Some paintings will alternately have Padamasambhava at the top center.

The central figure of a painting is Drala Tatug Karpo, white in colour, with one face and two hands, dressed as a warrior and riding a white horse. The upraised right hand holds a whip made of a length of bamboo with three joints. Holding the reins in the left hand, he also supports a spear in the bend of the elbow. Surrounding the central figure are eight almost identical Drala brothers.

The iconography of the Drala Nine Brothers is not consistent and they can appear either with a peaceful, semi-peaceful or wrathful demeanor. The attributes in the hands can also vary from a riding whip, spear or sword in the right hand to a spear, lasso or simply the horse reins in the left hand. More detailed paintings sometimes depict various birds and animals surrounding the central figure. Amongst the examples below only one central figure is holding a sword.

Jeff Watt 5-2011 [updated 12-2017]