Himalayan Art Resources

Padmasambhava: Iconography

Padmasambhava Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Iconography Description (below)
- Padmasambhava with Shantarakshita & Trisong Detsen
- Padmasambhava with Mandarava & Yeshe Tsogyal
- Three Figure Configuration
- Eight Forms
- Twenty-five Disciples
- Copper Coloured Mountain
- Field of Accumulation (Refuge Field)
- Embracing a Consort (All Images)
- Standing
- Iconography Sub-sets Outline
- Early Images in Painting
- Rubin Museum (RMA): Padmasambhava
- Confusions
- Others...

- Padmasambhava: Early Portrait Paintings
- Eight Forms of Padmasambhava

Padmasambhava does have a main or principal iconographic form which is NOT counted as one of the Eight Forms.

According to the Revealed Treasure accounts in the Terma literature he is white in colour with a reddish hue, one face adorned with a moustache and goatee, the right hand holds to the heart an upright gold vajra. The left hand placed in the lap holds a white skullcup filled with nectar, jewels and a long-life vase. The ornate katvanga staff of a Vajrayana mendicant decorated with streamers rests against the left shoulder. Adorned with gold earrings and necklaces, the head is covered with a lotus hat, a gift of the King of Zahor, of silk brocade topped with a half-vajra and a single vulture feather. Attired in various robes of different colours reflecting the disciplines of the Vinaya, Bodhisattva and Mantra Vehicles, he sits atop a sun and moon disc above a lotus blossom rising from the blue waters of Dhanakosha lake.

The most common depictions have Padmasambhava holding the vajra scepter in three standard gestures: [1] at the heart, [2] raised upward at the right side, and [3] held outward across the knee. From the standard appearance there can arise a number of variations in hand gestures or objects held in the two hands, seated posture and standing posture. Regardless of the gesture and posture, all of these forms arise from the literature of the Revealed Treasure tradition and the second and third periods of Nyingma development.
- holding the vajra scepter upward & outward to the side.
- holding the vajra scepter down & outstretched across the knee.
- holding a katvanga staff in the left hand
- holding a katvanga staff in the right hand
- holding a kila (purba) in the left hand.
- holding a scullcup extended outward in the left hand.
- with the two hands in the gesture of meditation.
- holding a victory banner & mongoose
- in a standing posture.
- in a standing posture holding a katvanga.
- seated with leg leg pendant.
- others...

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Jeff Watt [updated 8-2013, 6-2017, 12-2019]