Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Avalokiteshvara, Chaturbhuja (Three Deity)

Chaturbhuja Iconography Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Retinue with Two Arms
- Retinue with Four Arms
- Retinue with Two & Four Arms
- Avalokiteshvara Main Page
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Possibly the earliest form of Lokeshvara as a meditational deity including, an initiation ritual, is this Three Deity Chaturbhuja. It is taught in the Karandavyuha Sutra. Many of the Potalaka Pureland paintings depict the Three Deity Chaturbhuja. The origins for this depiction of Lokeshvara are rooted in the Karandavyuha Sutra written in prose dated to the 4th-5th century (possibly Kashmir). (See Shrishthikantha Main Page for another form of Lokeshvara arising from the Karandavyuha Sutra).

The central figure is Avalokiteshvara, white in colour, with four hands. At his right is the male attendant Manidharin, yellow in colour, and at the left, the female, Shadakshari, white in colour. Both are similar to the Lord in colour, ornaments and appearance. Sometimes they are referred to as the son and daughter of Avalokiteshvara. Sometimes she is referred to as the consort. The iconography for the two attendant figures is not consistent nor is it necessarily fixed in one authoritative orthodox text. They can appear either white or yellow in colour and have either two arms or four. Often Manidharin appears with two arms and Shadakshari with four.

"As the nature of all buddhas, Avalokiteshvara, in colour like stainless conch and crystal, very resplendent, smiling, peaceful and radiant. With four hands the first are folded at the heart, the lower hold a crystal mala and jeweled lotus, two beautiful feet seated in vajra posture, adorned with many attractive silks and jewels, beautified with dark blue hair in tufts [some] loose. On the crown of the head, the wisdom of all buddhas, is the Lord, source of all refuge gathered as one, in essence the Guru in the aspect of Amitabha [Buddha], in the manner of the Lord of the Family, seated happily." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557).

See the Shalu Monastery with murals of Chaturbhuja Lokeshvara Three Deity.

Jeff Watt 9-2014 [updated 9-2017]

Karandavyuha Sutra:
Toh 116. The Basket’s Display. ཟ་མ་ཏོག་བཀོད་པ། · za ma tog bkod pa. Kāraṇḍa­vyūha.

(The works in this gallery, included below, are only a selection).