Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Worldly Protector: Virudhaka, Guardian of the South

Virudhaka 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: Virudhaka, King of the South

Six Characteristics:
1. Classification: Deva (Desire Realm God)
2. Appearance:
--- Chinese Style Iconography (King Appearance)
--- Indian Style Iconography (Peaceful Appearance): HAR #48272
3. Colour: Blue
4. Attributes: Sword & Jewel (or pill)
5. Location: Southern Direction (slope of Meru)
6. Attendants: Kumbhanda Beings (kumbhāṇḍa, कुम्भाण्ड, གྲུལ་བུམ་)

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

Virudhaka (Tibetan: pag kye bo), the god that lives on the southern slope of Mount Sumeru. A king and a guardian of the southern direction, lord over the Kumbhanda and Kumbhandaka (lesser beings, dwarfish, horse-headed, shapeshifters).

Virudhaka, is a worldly god, worshipped as a protector. He lives on the south side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. Like the other Direction Kings, the leader Vaishravana, Virupaksha and Dritarashtra, he swore an oath of protection before the buddha Shakyamuni shortly after the moment of enlightenment under the bodhi tree.

The contexts in which Virudhaka 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).

The stories and iconography of the Four Guardian Kings arose originally with the early Buddhist sutras and became fully developed in the later Mahayana literature. The four are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Paintings of the Kings are generally found in two different contexts. First, the four kings belong to the larger thematic set featuring the Buddha Shakyamuni, two principal students, the Sixteen Great Elders/Arhats, the attendant and patron. Secondly, the four kings are commonly found painted on the outer walls to the right and left sides of the door to a temple. The Bon religion also has a form of the four kings but with slightly different iconography and origin myths.

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Jeff Watt 6-99 [updated 8-2018, 1-2020]