Himalayan Art Resources

Glossary: Gesar Art Topics

Glossary Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Gesar Main Page
- Gesar Outline Page
- Gesar Number Sets
- Aku Trotung, Uncle
- Attributes, Hand Objects, etc.
- Chronology of Artworks
- Dorje Tsegyal
- Drala Warrior
- Gesar - Drala Comparison
- Helmet & Characteristics
- Murals of Dzongsar Shedra
- Norbu Dradul
- Number Sets
- Retinue Figures
- Sichuan Provincial Museum Painting Set
- Werma, Eight Gods of Ling


This is a general glossary of all of the principal terms found in the study of Gesar art and iconography along with related names and terminology that help to contextualize the subject of Gesar.

- Aku Trotung, the maternal uncle of Ling Gesar and one of the thirty principal warriors and generals that always accompany Gesar on his many exploits. In the Ritual literature Tradition of Gesar, Aku Trotung is regarded as an emanation of the Buddhist deity Hayagriva.

- Chipon Rongtsa Tragan, 1st of the Thirty Warriors that are the principal soldiers, heroes and generals of the Gesar Epic.

- Divination, the rituals and practices used in for-telling the future. The figure of Dorje Legpa holds a single die (dice) and Dorje Yudronma holds an arrow of divination.

- Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800-1866), an early author of Gesar ritual literature.

- Dong Bumpa'i Gyatsa Shalkar, brother of Gesar and one of the thirty principal warriors.

- Dorje Legpa, from the retinue of Gesar Dorje Tsegyal. He holds upraised in the right hand a single die (dice).

- Dorje Tsegyal, Gesar. This iconographically distinct form of Gesar, depicted as a king, is believed to have been first conceived and written down in a ritual text by Lelung Zhepa'i Dorje (1697-1740).

- Dorje Yudronma, from the retinue of Gesar Dorje Tsegyal. She holds upraised in the right hand an arrow of divination.

- Drala Warrior, There are two generals ways in which the Tibetan term 'drala' is understood in Himalayan and Tibetan art: (1) as a class of indigenous Tibetan gods and (2) as a warrior appearance, iconographic form, as depicted in painting and sculpture. (Drala Outline Page).

- Druga De Chokyong Bernag, one of the three special warriors from the group of one of the thirty principal warriors.

- Dzogchen Monastery, the most likely source for the creation of the Gesar Dances (cham) performed each year during the summer horse racing festival.

- Eleven Figurative Forms in Tibetan Iconography. These are the basic categories of figurative forms in Tibetan art. The two main iconographic depictions of Gesar belong to two different figurative forms: Warrior Form and King Form.

- Epic Literature Gesar, the subject of Ling Gesar in the context of the stories, narratives, songs and verse about his life and great exploits. Epic Gesar is the first of the two major divisions in the study of Ling Gesar. The second division is that of Ritual Literature Gesar. Only two sets of paintings are known that depict a version of the entire life story of Ling Gesar: (1) Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu, China and (2) Le Musee Guimet, Paris, France. The Sichuan set is complete with eleven compositions and the Guimet set has only two of eleven compositions.

- Gesar Norbu Dradul: the form of Gesar while riding a horse, holding a riding whip, spear and lasso.

- Five Special Generals from the group of Thirty Warriors.

- Four Great Mothers, from the retinue of Gesar Dorje Tsegyal.

- Hand Attributes, the objects generally held in the hands by Gesar Norbu Dradul or Gesar Dorje Tsegyal. Norbu Dradul typically holds a riding whip and the reins of the horse along with a lasso. Dorje Tsegyal typically holds a jewel in the right hand and a bow and arrow in the left.

- Helmet, Battle Helmet. The helmet worn by Gesar Norbu Dradul has three consistent characteristics common with other Drala Warrior Deities: 1) Round shape, 2) Adorned with Flags, 3) Topped with a Victory Banner.

- Joru, the childhood name of Ling Gesar. This name is commonly found inscribed alongside or beneath all of the Gesar early life narrative vignettes on the painting set of the Sichuan Provincial Museum.

- Kyalo'i Seng Cham Drugmo, the wife of Gesar.

- Lelung Zhepa'i Dorje (1697-1740). He is credited with authoring the first text describing the form of Gesar known as Dorje Tsegyal.

- Lhase Dralha Tsegyal, nephew of Gesar and one of the Thirty Warriors. It is Lhase Dralha Tsegyal that is credited with beginning the line of Lingtsang Gyalpos (Kings) in the Lingtsang region of Kham Province, Tibet. The current king and his son live in Chengdu, China.

- Lingtsang, a specific region in the Eastern Tibetan district of Dege, Kham Province - now Sichuan, China. At one time it is said that Dege was actually a part of the greater region of Lingtsang. According to local custom Ling Gesar was born in this place and later the nephew of Gesar, Lhase Dralha Tsegyal, settled here and began the lineage of Lingtsang Gyalpos (Kings).

- Machen Pomra, the most important mountain god from the region of Amdo. The mountain of Amnye Machen is also the secret location of the treasures of Gesar.

- Manjushri Namasangiti, an early Indian Buddhist Tantra, circa 8th - 9th century, believed to for-tell, in a six-line verse, the coming of Gesar as an emanation of Manjushri.

- Mayul Gogze Lhamo, the mother of Gesar.

- Migmar Chenpo, from the retinue of Gesar Dorje Tsegyal. Migmar is wrathful in appearance, red in colour, with one face and two hands. He wears the garb of a warrior with armour, helmet and boots.

- Mipam Jamyang Namgyal Gyamtso, (1846-1912), a prolific author of Gesar ritual texts from the turn of the 20th century.

- Norbu Dradul, Gesar. This form of Gesar is in the appearance of a Tibetan warrior - Drala. He wears armor and a battle helmet riding atop a light brown horse.

- Number Sets (Gesar), the various well known numeric groupings of figures, deities and animals that are associated with the art or literature of Ling Gesar.

- Nyingma Tradition. The Ritual Literature of Ling Gesar primarily originates with the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism with some popularity amongst the Kamtsang and Drugpa Kagyu traditions.

- Padmasambhava. Gesar is commonly believed to be an emanation of Padmasambhava as well as the Three Lords of the World: Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani. Some Gesar Traditions emphasize Padmasambhava while others emphasize Manjushri.

- Pala Sengtag Adom, one of the Three Warriors from the group of the thirty principal warriors.

- Retinue Figures. The accompanying figures surrounding, or alongside, Gesar Norbu Dradul and Dorje Tsegyal are commonly referred to as retinue figures when discussed from an art perspective.

- Revealed Treasure (Terma). A tradition within the Nyingma School of concealing and then uncovering sacred texts over the course of time as needed for the perceived benefit of beings at specific moments in time.

- Ritual Literature Gesar, the study of the various apocryphal texts focused on Ling Gesar as a religious figure, the second of the two major divisions in the study of Ling Gesar. The first major division in the study is Epic Literature Gesar. The majority of paintings and sculpture are products of Ritual literature Gesar.

- Sengchen Norbu Dradul: another name for Gesar Norbu Dradul.

- Terma Tradition (Revealed Treasure - see above).

- Thirty Warriors. The thirty most important warriors and generals to follow Ling Gesar. These thirty are the leaders of the one hundred and one thousand warriors that are led by Ling Gesar. In later ritual texts and sacred dance performances these warriors are each associated with a Buddhist deity or Indian scholar or mahasiddha.

- Thirteen Werma, the thirteen animals that are commonly depicted accompanying Gesar Norbu Dradul. Some paintings depict alternate animals or birds. However, the list below appears to be the most common or standard of the lists:
1. White Lion. seng ge dkar po (sengge karpo)
2. Light Blue Jackal. spyang ki sngo skya (chang ki ngo kya)
3. White Rabbit. ri bong dkar po (ri bong karpo)
4. Yellow Deer. gla ba ja ser (la wa ja ser)
5. Brownish-coloured Poisonous Snake. dug sbrul bya mdog (dug drul ja dog)
6. Bird. glag ja nag (lag ja nag)
7. White Bird. khra skya bo (tra kya bo)
8. White Vulture. bya rgod ngang dkar (ja god ngang kar)
9. Smoke-coloured Owl. 'ug pa du mdog (wuk pa du dog)
10. Tiger. stag 'dzum drug (tag 'dzum drug)
11. Black Wild Bear. dred mong nag po (dre mong nag po)
12. Wild Donkey. rkyang kha dkar (kyang kha kar)
13. Golden Fish. gser nya gser po (ser nya ser po).

- Three Lords of the World, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani. Gesar is believed to be an emanation of all three of the Great Lords and an emanation of Padmasambhava.

- Three Warriors (Tra Lag Jang Sum). A common numeric grouping of three of the most important warriors from the group of Thirty Warriors.

- Tsazhal Danma Jangtra, one of the three Warriors from the group of thirty principal warriors.

- Werma Chu Sum, the thirteen animals that accompany Gesar Norbu Dradul. (See above).

Jeff Watt 11-2011 [updated 9-2017]