Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Gender & Iconography

Iconography Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Gender & Iconography Explanation (below)
- Male Imagery Introduction
- Female Imagery Introduction
- Both Male & Female Figures (Androgynous)
- Neither Male Nor Female Figures: Maning Mahakala
- Three Moods (Peaceful, Semi, Wrathful)
- Conjoined Couples
- Androgynous Gods, Gender Reversed Deities
- Couples in Himalayan Style Art
- Female Dominant Meditaional Deity Couples
- Confusions
- Others...

- Gender Confusions
- A Question on Female Representation
- Male & Female: How to distinguish male from female figures

There are four types of gender represented in Himalayan art: male, female, both, and neither. The gender categorized as both (androgynous) includes the Hindu god Ardhanarisvara Shiva together with the consort Parvati as a single deity followed by the Hindu god Vaikuntha Kamalaja Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi appearing as a single deity.

Only Maning Mahakala practiced in the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is regarded as Neither Male nor Female (asexual), although there is some dispute regarding the meaning of this term 'ma ning.'

In the Buuddhist pantheon there is only one deity, identified so far, that has a male and a female form. Bhurkumkuta typically appears as a male deity however there is one tradition that presents him/her as Krodhini Bhurkumkuta, a female, with one face and two hands.

Some modern Karma Kagyu texts of the 20th century have described the Vajravidarana deity of the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition as being a female deity. This is not yet supported by any literature written prior to the 20th century.

Jeff Watt 12-2015 [updated 11-2018]

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