Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Figurative Forms as Ritual Objects

Figurative Forms as Ritual Objects | Function-Motivation

Some sculptural figurative forms also have a ritual function such as Jambhala, Vajradaka and the Shiva Lingam. In the Hindu traditions all figurative images can have a ritual role to play in the interactions between the physical form of the god and the offerings proffered by the devotee. It is far less common in Buddhism and principally manifests with Jambhala and Vajradaka.

There are many more sculptural objects of Yellow Jambhala than there are paintings. The reason for this apparent imbalance between paintings and sculpture is because there is a special ritual practice involving Jambhala that requires a physical representation, a sculpture - generally small in size. The actual practice involves pouring 108 offerings of water over the head of Jambhala accompanied by a short mantra. The ritual is narrative based and originates with an event from the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. Sometimes other forms of Jambhala are substituted and used in the ritual.

The physical sculpture of Vajradaka is a ritual piece used while performing one of several specific meditations involving purification. At a certain point in the ritual black sesame seeds are inserted into the mouth of the Vajradaka sculpture accompanied by the recitation of mantras. The black sesame seeds then fall through the hollow body of the metal sculpture and onto an incense pot filled with burning embers or coals. The seeds are burnt and the smoke rises upwards and dissipates just as the defilements and sins of the practitioner are imagined to be destroyed through the power of the ritual.

"...Vajradaka with a body blue-black in colour, one face. With the two hands at the heart performing the King of Desire mudra, the right holds a vajra and left a bell. Possessing three eyes, yellow hair flowing upward, a radiant face and adorned with bones, jewels and the eight great nagas. Wearing a lower garment of tiger skin, with the left leg extended,..." (Chogyal Pagpa, 1235-1280).

Rituals surrounding the Lingam also include the bathing and making offerings to the physical representation of the unique symbol for Shiva.

Figurative Forms:
- Jambhala, Yellow (White & Black)
- Shiva Lingam
- Vajradaka
- Others...

Jeff Watt 5-2015