Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Worldly Protector: Virupaksha, Guardian of the West

Virupaksha Masterworks

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- 1. General Subject
--- 2. Characteristics (6)
--- 3. Context (3)
--- 4. Art Styles
--- 5. Masterworks
--- 6. Source Texts
- Four Guardian Kings Page
- King Appearance
- Confusions: Tibetan Kings, Indian Kings
- Others...

Video: Virupaksha, King of the West

Six Characteristics:
1. Deva (Desire Realm God)
2. Appearance:
--- Chinese Style Iconography (King Appearance)
--- Indian Style Iconography (Peaceful Appearance)
3. Colour: Red
4. Attributes: Stupa & Snake
5. Location: Western Direction (slope of Meru)
6. Attendants: Naga Beings

Three Contexts:
- Shakyamuni & the Sixteen Elders
- Temple Entrance (murals)
- Mandala: Secondary Figures
- Others...

Virupaksha (Tibetan: chen mi zang): Guardian of the Western Direction and King of the Nagas.

The contexts in which Virupaksha appears in visual artistic form are very narrow. The first is as a member of the twenty-five figures that comprise the complete set of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Elders. The second context is in the group of Four Kings as presented and painted as murals at the outer entrance to Buddhist temples. Worldly deities and gods traditionally are not permitted inside Buddhist temples. The third context is found with mandala paintings where the Four Great Kings are included as secondary deities, door guardians or in the outer retinue.

Mandala Examples:
- Medicine Buddha Mandala
- Pancha Raksha Fifty-six Deity Mandala
- Vajrapani & the Four Guardian Kings Mandala
- Tara, Seventeen Deity Mandala
- Others...

"Well protecting the Buddha's Teachings with heroic strength of arms; homage to the Kings of the Four Directions, North, South, East and West." (Sakya liturgical verse).

From the set of the Four Great Kings of the Directions the other three are Vaishravana - the leader, Virudhaka and Dhritarashtra. Traditionally painted in association with the Buddha and Sixteen Great Elders the full group would comprise a total of twenty-five figures: the buddha Shakyamuni together with the two foremost disciples - Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the Sixteen Sthavira/Arhats, the attendant Dharmata and the patron Hvashang, together with the Four Kings.

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Jeff Watt 9-99 [updated 8-2018, 1-2020]