Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Iconography

Vaishravana Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Two Main Forms
--- Guardian of the North (Sutrayana)
--- Riding a Lion (w/ Eight Horsemen)
- Miscellaneous Forms
--- Black, riding a blue horse
--- Blue (Treasure Tradition)
--- Blue, wrathful with Eight Nagas
--- Green with a gold stick
--- Green, riding a lion
--- Green, riding a dragon
--- Red, riding a dragon
--- Red, riding a horse
--- Red, riding a lion
--- Red with Sixteen Nagas
--- White, riding a lion
- Padmasambhava as Vaishravana
- Seventeen Forms (Sakya)
- Rinjung Lhantab (Jonang & Gelug)
- Confusions: Yaksha Generals, Jambhala, Aparajita
- Others....

- Vaishravana: Study Topics
- Vaishravana, King of the North
- Kubera, Who Am I?

Foundational & Mahayana Buddhist Context:
- Vaishravana with the other three Kings at a temple entrance (sculpture or painting).
- Vaishravana, Guardian King of the North with Shakyamuni, Arhats & Kings.

Vajrayana Context:
- Vaishravana & the Eight Horsemen.
- Miscellaneous Forms of Vaishravana.
- Vaishravana & the other three Kings included in a Tantric Mandala (Medicine Buddha, Pancha Raksha, Tara).

There are three divisions in the study of Vaishravana (Vaiśravaṇa) art depictions. The first, discussed above, is [1] Vaishravana as part of the group of Four Guardian or Direction Kings. These four are based on narrative descriptions found in the early Sutras. The second division of [2] Vaishravana iconography is where the Four Guardian Kings are included in the larger retinue of a Tantric Mandala such as Medicine Buddha, Pancha Raksha or the Tara Seventeen Deity Mandala. The third division [3] contains all of the forms of Vaishravana as found in the Tantra literature where he is either the principal figure for meditation, or visualized in front of the Buddhist practitioner. These forms of Vaishravana have the general function of wealth-bestowing. Vaishravana in his form known as Vaishravana Riding a Lion is the most common in art and most popular Tantric form of the deity. The Sakya Tradition preserve and teach seventeen different forms of Vaishravana (example 1, example 2).

Jeff Watt [updated 2-2019, 2-2020]

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