Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Zombie Figures in Art

Weird Gods & Fantastical Deities

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Mount (vehicle)
- Deity
--- Primary
--- Secondary
- Masterworks
- Confusions: corpses
- Others...

Video: Zombies in Art

Principal Examples:
- Mount
--- Krishnacharya
--- Raksha Deva: Medicine Buddha Mandala
- Meditational Deity
--- Vetali Devi (Shakyashri Rakshita Tradition)
--- Vetali Devi (secondary figure: Hevajra Tantra & others)
- Protector Deity
--- Sinpoi Tsowo Jigje Mar
--- Protector Deities (miscellaneous)

The term zombie (Tibetan: ro lang. Sanskrit: vetala/vetali) is used as a name for a very small number of female deities (vetali) and as a mount for a single well known mahasiddha and again for a very small number of of protector deities, generally secondary figures surrounding Mahakala or a Tibetan worldly protector.

Krishnacharya (Krishnacharin) is an important mahasiddha in the Chakrasamvara lineages of practice. He is also included in several of the lists of Eighty-four Great Mahasiddhas. He is often described as riding a zombie both on the ground and in the air.

Raksha is one of the ten gods included in the Medicine Buddha mandala. He typically rides a zombie and can also be found included in other mandalas usually of the three lower tantras.

Raksha: retinue deity of the south western side of the Medicine Buddha Mandala of Fifty-one Deities. "...in the south west direction...Raksha, reddish-black, holding a sword, riding on a zombie." (Collection of All Tantras vol.1, page 116).

Vetali Devi (Goddess Zombie) is a meditational deity of the Shakyashri Rakshita Tradition. Her function is to remove obstacles. She is wrathful in appearance with one face and four arms. In the first pair of hands she holds a vajra and skullcup. In the second pair she holds a sword and a katvanga staff.

In the Hevajra mandala Vetali is described as - 'west yellow Vetali, right hand holding a tortoise, left a skullcup.' She is also found in other mandala configurations for both the Sarma and Nyingma traditions.

A protector deity named Sinpoi Tsowo Jigje Mar associated with the Yutog Nyingtig rides a nine-headed zombie. He is a secondary figure in the eight deity entourage of Mahakala.

Jeff Watt 1-2022

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