Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Faces of Deities (Numbers)

Faces of Deities | Deities- Physical Features Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Faces of Deities Description (below)
- Gender (male, female, both, neither)
- Three Moods (Peaceful, Semi, Wrathful)
- Colours in Himalayan Style Art
- Animal Headed/Features Gods & Deities
- Confusions
- Others...


Numbers of Faces:

One Face (1): (all or most deities)

Two Faces (2): Vajrayogini/Varahi

Three Faces (3): Achala, Amritakundalin, Avalokiteshvara, Bhurkumkuta, Chakrasamvara, Ganapati, Guhyasamaja, Grahamatrika, Hayagriva, Heruka (Dragtung, Vajravali), Hevajra, Humkara, Jambhala, Jnaneshvara, Mahakala, Maitreya, Manjushri, Marichi, Parnashavari, Pratisara, Sarasvati, Sitatapatra, Trailokyavijaya, Ushnishavijaya, Vajrakila, Vajrapani, Vajrasattva Samvara, Vajravarahi, Vighnantaka, Yamari, Krishna, Yogambara, Vaishravana, Vajramrita.

Four Faces (4): Achala, Brahma, Buddhasamayoga, Chakrasamvara, Dvajagrakeyura, Kalachakra, Chaturmukha Mahakala, Mahamaya, Manjushri, Pratisara (Pancha Raksha), Tara, Vairochana, Vajrasattva, Vajravega, Vimaloshnisha.

Five Faces (5): Lokeshvara.

Six Faces (6): Manjushri, Marichi, Krishna Yamari.

Seven Faces (7): (none identified)

Eight Faces (8): Amaravajra Devi, Hevajra, Manjushri

Nine Faces (9): Rahula, Vajrabhairava.

Ten Faces (10): Lokeshvara, Nagaraksha.

Eleven Faces (11): Lokeshvara.

Twelve Faces (12): Ekajati.

Seventeen Faces (17): Dakarnava Chakrasamvara.

Twenty-one Faces (21): Mahottara.

Thirty-six Faces (36): Vajravarahi.

One Thousand Faces (1000): Sitatapatra, Sipa'i Gyalmo, Raudra Samvara.
Buddhist Iconography: Faces

The majority of Buddhist Tantric deities only have a single face. Even deities that are commonly known for having multiple faces will most often have a simple form of the deity with only a single face, two arms, two legs and the like. However, many of these deities have a number of different forms which include peaceful appearances, wrathful appearances and multiple faces.

The most common number of multiple faces are three. There are in total approximately forty-one of the most commonly known and catalogued deities belonging to this category. They can be peaceful, semi-peaceful or wrathful in appearance. They include all of the most popular categories of deities such as Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Vajrapani and Tara.

As for the other categories, only Vajravarahi is known for having two faces. A number of deities, approximately fourteen, have four faces. One deity has five faces. Two deities have six faces. Two deities each are also catalogued as having eight, nine and ten faces. There are no deities yet identified with seven faces. There is also only a single deity each catalogued with eleven, twelve, seventeen, twenty-one and thirty-six faces. There are three deities with one thousand faces. As the numbers indicate, by comparison there are very few deities with more than three faces and three faces remains the largest category.

Jeff Watt 2-2013 [updated 6-2017]