Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Vajrabhairava Iconography

Vajrabhairava Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Iconography Description (below)
- Deity Types & Traditions
- Iconographic Notes
- Faces & Configurations
- Vajrabhairava Retinue Deities
- Trampled Deities
- Confusions: Yama Dharmaraja, Yamantaka
- Others...

Video: Nine Faces of Vajrabhairava

Database Search: All Images | Painting | Sculpture | Mandalas | Black Ground

The Three Forms of the Consort:
Vetali, the female consort in wrathful aspect embracing Vajrabhairava
Sarasvati, the peaceful aspect of the consort
Oden Barma (Blazing with Light) the protector aspect of the consort

The words Yama, Yamari, Yamantaka, Bhairava and Vajrabhairava appear frequently in all classes of tantric texts and they can refer to an attendant deity, a protector, or as a worldly god beneath the feet of a Buddhist meditational deity (Skt. ishtadevata) such as Vajrayogini, or Chakrasamvara. In those instances Bhairava represents the various negative emotions to be conquered through meditation. Keeping in mind the similarities in name and form it is important not to confuse the various names, identities, deities and especially the Buddhist Tantric models and systems that each belongs and to properly understand each in its own place. (For more on this subject see the publication Demonic Divine by Rob Linrothe and Jeff Watt, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2004).


Vajrabhairava Profile:
Identity: Manjushri Emanation
Consort: Vajra Vetali
Tantra Class: Anuttarayoga, Method Tantra
Source Text: Vajrabhairava Tantra
Function/activity: Meditational Deity
Metaphor: Death

Special Characteristics:
Appearance: Wrathful with a Buffalo head
Colour: Black/dark blue
Attributes: curved knife & skullcup and 32 additional attributes

Gods Under the Feet: Proper Right Side -
- Brahma
- Indra
- Vishnu
- Shiva

Proper Left Side -
- Kartika
- Surya
- Chandra
- Ganesha

Some texts have the order of the gods slightly different with Kartika followed by Ganesha, Surya, and Chandra, or Ganesha, Kartika, Chandra and Surya.

"Brahma, Indra, Vishnu and Shiva [under right feet]. Ganesha, Kartika, Chandra and Surya [under left feet]. Yellow, white, maroon and black, light yellow, light blue, light red and black. Holding a vase, vajra and chakra, trident, bow and arrow, sword and shield, spear and curved knife." Pandita Vairochana Rakshita.

Jeff Watt [updated 4-2017, 12-2019]

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