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Buddhist Deity: Humkara Main Page

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Humkara (resounding with the sound HUM) is a meditational deity belonging to the literature and practice of Vajrayana Buddhism. He functions in both a supporting role as a retinue figure and as a central figure in a Tantric mandala. From the textual and visual descriptions he is male and generally appears as semi-peaceful/wrathful or in a completely wrathful appearance. Typically from the known examples, he can have two or more arms and have up to three faces. Some examples also depict a consort with two or four arms.

Belonging primarily to the new 'Sarma' traditions of the Sakya, Kagyu and Jonang, Humkara is rarely found in the old 'Nyingma' traditions. The deity Humkara should also not be confused with the Vidyadhara Humkara, an Indian siddha, belonging to the group of Eight Vidyadhara of the Nyingma tradition.

The principal identifiable physical feature of Humkara is the main pair of arms crossed at the heart in a variant on the vajra embracing gesture with the palms turned outward and the index fingers straight and upward pointing. Alternately, a similar gesture can also be found on the top of the head rather than in front of the heart. When above the head the hands can be holding a vajra and bell. Sometimes this is referred to in texts as the 'vajra humkara gesture.' The general posture is always standing but with no preference to a right or leftward lean of the body. He is blue in colour with the seated figure of Akshobhya Buddha adorning the top of the head.

The vajra scepter, bell, sword, bow and arrow, and wrathful gesture are all hand attributes associated with Humkara. For the examples below, some are identified by inscription as Humkara while others are identified by the hand gestures. It is not in any way confirmed that all of the examples below are in fact Humkara. Some of the images could be other yet unidentified deities that are similar to Humkara.

Humkara in an eleven deity mandala configuration from the Abhidana Tantra (categorized as a Mother Tantra) is found in the Vajravali collection of initiations compiled by Abhayakara Gupta (11th century). Humkara is also found as one of the Ten Wrathful Ones in various Tantric systems such as Hevajra. Belonging to the Vajra Family of Akshobhya Buddha, with the general attributes of wrath, the colour blue and the vajra scepter, Humkara is closely aligned with, derived from, or heavily borrows, from the Tantric deity Vajrapani, as are other popular figures such as Achala and Vajravidarana.

Many early sculptural forms of Humkara are archaic meaning that they are from the past and not currently popular, or even known, in the present living tradition of Tantric Buddhism. The earliest paintings only go back as far as the 14th century and they are mandalas belonging to the Vajravali literature.

[45] Vajra Humkara.
"Humkara, black [with] one face and two hands. Holding a vajra and bell to the heart in his own gesture. Having slightly bared fangs and three eyes. Yellow hair bristling upwards. Adorned with jewels and snakes. Having a lower garment of tiger skin. Standing in a manner with the left leg extended subduing Bhairava." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557. lha tshogs rnams kyi mngon rtogs rjes gnang gi cho ga dang bcas pa'i tho yig mun sel sgron me).

Jeff Watt [updated 7-2019]