Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Worldly Protector: Garwa Nagpo

Garwa Nagpo Masterworks

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Iconography
- Dorje Legpa
- Buddhist Worldly Protectors Page
- Confusions: Dorje Legpa Riding a Goat, Dorje Shugden
- Others...

Video: Garwa Nagpo, the Blacksmith

Garwa Nagpo, Damchen (English: the Blacksmith), the main attendant deity to the Tibetan worldly protector Dorje Legpa (See Dorje Legpa Outline Page). Garwa Nagpo can typically be found in art as a retinue figure in paintings of Dorje Legpa or as an independent figure in a painted composition with his own retinue of attendant figures. Garwa Nagpo is generally found as a standard protector deity in the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma Traditions. Some Gelug monasteries and incarnate lama traditions (trulku) have also adopted Garwa Nagpo as their special protector deity.

Tibetan: Dam chen gar wa nag po

Dorje Legpa and his retinue, including Damchen Garwa Nagpo, were originally believed to be subjugated in Tibet by Padmasambhava in the 8th century. They are avowed, oath-bound, protectors and perform the specific function of safeguarding the Nyingma Terma (treasure) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Garwa Nagpo appears as a retinue figure for a number of different Wisdom Protector deities such as - Bernagchen Mahakala and others.

There are two interesting works with unusual iconography. The first and earliest example of a painting, dated to 1655, is #81825 which has lengthy inscription claiming that it was painted by the 10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje. The goat, in a horse-like pose at full gallop, appears to be painted white in colour which is unusual. The clothing and head covering of Garwa Nagpo seems non-traditional along with the lack of wrathful ornaments save for the possibility of naga serpent bracelets.

The second painting is #533. It has ten retinue deities in various forms. Note the Chinese demon on the lower left side, red in colour, riding a brown goat. Also observe on the lower right side the monkey riding the white lion. Below that is a wolf-headed demon, blue in colour, riding a grey wolf.

Observing the horns of the goat, from the images depicted below, eleven paintings and sculpture portray the horns as twisted together while five examples have the horns untwisted.

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Jeff Watt 10-98 [updated 12-2011, 5-2017, 1-2020]