Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Winged Deities (Bon & Buddhist)

Eleven Types of Deities

Subjects, Topic & Types:
- Description (below)
- List of Winged Deities
- Chronological List
- Bird Symbolism
- Animal Headed/Features Gods & Deities
- Confusions
- Others...

- Winged Deities
- Winged Deities Chronological List
- Winged Deities Analysis
- Garuda: King of Birds
Black Garuda
- Bird Deities of the Himalayas
- Hayagriva with Wings
- Bird Deities of the Himalayas

The male and female deities listed, in the link above, all have the shared attribute of a pair of wings. There is no consistency in either the Bon Religion or Buddhism in determining who should have wings and who shouldn't except for the natural appearance of the Kyung and Garuda bird deities.

Aside from the Garuda, the Chakrasamvara of Bari Lotsawa and the Garuda Winged Hayagriva of Jowo Atisha are the only two deities that are believed to have come from India during the later spread of Buddhism into the Himalayan regions and Tibet.

There are a number of deities in the Bon religion that are depicted with wings. They are from all categories of deities, meditational, worldly and protector.

The earliest Nyingma deities that have wings are the Vajrakila and Vajrapanjara Mahakala originating with Padmasambhava and the student Lu'i Sungwa and descending down through the Khon lineage and housed within the Sakya tradition after the late 11th century.

The early Guhyagarbha Heruka deities are not described as having wings. The laterEight Pronouncement Deities are generally depicted with wings as are the later 'Revealed Treasure' deities of the Guhyagarbha and some traditions of the Bardo Heruka deity depictions. The earliest depiction of some of these figures are seen in a mandala painting likely descending from the Nyangral Nyima Ozer tradition. Note that only the central Mahottara and the Vajrakila figure have wings.

Jeff Watt 8-2014 [updated 6-2017, 11-2020]

The Winged & the Fanged. Cathy Cantwell and Rob Mayer, University of Oxford. Publisher: Novus Forlag, 2015.

(The images below are only a selection of subjects chosen from the links above).