Himalayan Art Resources

Padmasambhava: Dorje Drolo Main Page

Dorje Drolo Masterworks

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Study Topics
--- Iconography
--- Painting Sets
--- Art Styles
- Dorje Drolo with Eyes
- Patchwork Robes
- Padmasambhava Eight Forms
- Confusions: Karma Guru, Guru Dragpo
- Wrathful Gurus with Hats
- Others...

Videos:
- Dorje Drolo
- Dorje Drolo: HAR #298
- Eight Forms of Padmasambhava
- Wrathful Gurus With Hats

Dorje Drolo is a wrathful emanation of Padmasambhava, most often associated with the set of Eight Main Manifestations and the life story of Guru Rinpoche. He also functions as a guruyoga practice/meditational deity with at least fourteen different 'terma' traditions.

For the purpose of subduing daemons and spirits of Tibet and the surrounding Himalayan regions Padmasambhava, at the thirteen mountain retreats each known as the Tiger's Den (tagtsang), appeared as the wrathful Dorje Drolo. At many of these locations it is believed that Guru Rinpoche left impressions of his feet in the rocks. The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava belong to the Revealed Treasures (Tib.: ter ma) classification of teachings according to the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

"In the experience of great bliss fiercely blazing with wrathful power,
Maroon in colour, holding a vajra and kila,
The two feet dancing expressively atop a tigress;
Homage to Dorje Drolo." (Nyingma Liturgical verse).


Iconography:
There are a number of different ways of presenting the iconography of Dorje Drolo. Typically in painting and sculpture he is wrathful in appearance, marron in colour, with one face and two arms. The right hand holds upraised a vajra scepter. The left hand holds outstretched and down thrusting a kila peg. Attired variously with various garments or no garments at all, he is described differently in the more than fourteen Revealed Treasure Traditions. Standing with the right leg bent and the left straight atop a pregnant tigress, he s surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness fire.
Painting Sets:
Dorje Drolo is the name given to a descriptive appearance of Padmasambhava based on an event occurring during his life. All Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava are related to the life story and specific events narrated in a chronological order. For this reason images of Dorje Drolo and the other seven manifestations along with the main form are commonly grouped as sets of paintings or sculpture, numbering nine in total.

Most of the Eight Manifestations are only found in the sets of paintings, however, Dorje Drolo has become popular as an independent meditational deity (guruyoga) on his own and therefore individual paintings and sculpture of him can be found separate from the life story compositions. Sengge Dradog is the only other figure from the Eight Manifestations that also can be found as an independent meditational practice.
Art Styles:
The majority of painting examples below, if not all, are products of the 18th century up to the present time. Painting compositions with Dorje Drolo as the central figure are very rare prior to the 18th century. Dorje Drolo can however be found as a secondary figure in early depictions along with the accompanying Eight Manifestations and a central figure of Padmasambahva.

The majority of examples represented are from Eastern Tibet and mostly from the Kham region. A few of the paintings can be identified as Central Tibetan in origin and Dorje Drag monastery specifically. A few of the paintings and sculpture are of Bhutanese origin. A few of the sculptural pieces on a closer inspection might be datable to the 16th century, otherwise the majority of the sculpture are also post 17th century.
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Jeff Watt 1-1999 [updated 6-2013, 4-2017]