Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Iconography

Vaishravana Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Iconography
- Vaishravana Riding a Lion (Eight Horsemen)
- Black, riding a blue horse
- Blue (Treasure Tradition)
- Blue, wrathful with Eight Nagas
- Green with a gold stick
- Green, riding a lion
- Red, riding a dragon
- Red, riding a horse
- Red, riding a lion
- Red with Sixteen Nagas
- White, riding a lion
- Padmasambhava as Vaishravana
- Rinjung Lhantab Types & Forms
- Confusions
- Others....

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

- Vaishravana & the other three Kings included in a Tantric Mandala (Medicine Buddha, Pancha Raksha, Tara)

There are three divisions in the study of Vaishravana iconography. 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 classification 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).