Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Vulture Feather Adorned Hats

Hats of the Himalayas | Nyingma Tradition Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Padmasambhava
- Dorje Lingpa
- Rigdzin Pema Chogyal
- Godemchen
- Bird Hats
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

The vulture feather decoration at the peak of a lotus hat appears to have originated with the iconography of Padmasambhava sometime during or after the lifetime of Nyangral Nyima Ozer. A lotus hat can be adorned by one or three vulture feathers, a half vajra scepter, or left unadorned.

The symbolic use of the feather seems to be almost exclusively used in the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. A single feather is generally the norm but examples of three feathers both in painting and sculpture can be found for Padmasambhava and others. Godemchen (1337-1409 [P5254]) typically has three feathers protruding upwards at the crown of the hat. The feather itself is said to symbolize the realization of the highest philosophical view within Buddhism.

Jeff Watt 11-2016 [updated 8-2017]