Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Vajrayogini, Vajravarahi (Iconographic Variations)

Vajravarahi Iconography

Principal Iconographic Variants:

1. Colour:
- Red, Black, White

2. Sow Head Location:
- Sow on top of the head
- Sow on the side of the head
- Sow Main Face: Shridhara Tradition
- Severed Head

3. Hand Attributes:
- Curved Knife & Skullcup
- Katvanga & Hook (w/ four hands)
- Vajra & Skullcup

4. Leg Posture:
- Dancing Posture:
--- Left Leg Standing (majority of forms)
--- Left Leg Standing (No Boar's Head)
--- Right Leg Standing (w/w/o Boar's Head)
- Standing Posture (Two Legs): Shridhara Tradition, #19290
- Seated Posture

5. Reversed Positions: All Forms

6. Head Necklace Types:
- Fresh Heads (majority of forms)
- Dry Heads: #41017, 94363, 100633, 34862, 19967, 88421, 90053

The variations above a primarily concerned with the basic form of Vajravarahi. Her special iconographic attribute is a sow head (varahi) as a single central face, or placed either on the proper right side of the face (head) or at the top center of the head. Some forms of Varahi have multiple heads and arms although they are much less common in art.

With a single face and a sow head, in some traditions she is known as the 'two-faced' Vajrayogini (shal nyi ma). There are many different forms of Vajravarahi and most types, in keeping with the name, have a boar's face, but not all. There are a number of traditions where neither the iconography nor the literature prescribe a sows head yet the name of the deity remains Vajravarahi. In these cases the use of the name Vajravarahi is basically a synonym for Vajrayogini. Some traditions are more concerned with precise naming while others are less concerned.

Jeff Watt, 9-2021

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