Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Guhyagarbha/Shitro/Bardo Deities

Bardo Page | Guhyagarbha Tantra Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Peaceful Category
--- Wrathful Category
- Art Compositions & Painting Sets
- Miscellaneous
- Others...

- Samantabhadra Buddha
- Nyingma Heruka Deities (Part 1)
- Nyingma Heruka Deities (Part 2)
- Heruka (General)
- Bardo Thodal Paintings
- Bardo Deities
- The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Forty-two Peaceful and Fifty-eight Wrathful Deities of the Guhyagarbha Mandala are the basis for the creation of paintings depicting the subject of the 'Bardo' - Tibetan Book of the Dead. (See a detailed listing and categorization of each of the deities on Rigpawiki of Rigpa Shedra).

Five Buddhas:
- Buddha Heruka
- Vajra Heruka
- Padma Heruka
- Guna Heruka
- Karma Heruka

Forty-two Peaceful Deities:
1. Samantabhadra & Samantabhadri (2)
2. Five Male & Female Buddhas (10)
3. Eight Male & Female Bodhisattvas (16)
4. Six Sages of the Six Realms (Muni, Buddhas) (6)
5. Four Male & Female Gatekeepers (8)

Fifty-eight Wrathful Deities:
1. Five Male & Female Herukas (10)
2. Eight Yoginis (8)
3. Eight 'Tramen' (amalgamated deities) (8)
4. Four Female Gatekeepers (4)
5. Twenty-eight Ishvaris (28)

The names for each of the figures of the Peaceful and Wrathful are rarely added to the front or back of a scrollwork painting. The figures are named and described in the ritual literature. There are some practice manual exceptions where the names of the deities accompany manuscript illuminations. There are two Mongolian examples in the HAR database.
- Manuscript 1
- Manuscript 2

The Forty-two Peaceful and Fifty-eight Wrathful Deities of the Guhyagarbha Mandala are the basis for the creation of paintings depicting the subject of the 'Bardo' - Tibetan Book of the Dead (bardo thodal). In the Nyingma Tradition the Guhyagarbha Tantra is considered the most important of all Tantras. The 'Terton' Karma Lingpa (1326–1386), in the 14th century, is credited with the discovery of the 'treasure text' known as the Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo (Tibetan Book of the Dead), a text intended to be read to the deceased and to influence positively the subsequent rebirth. (There is evidence to suggest that the famous 'Treasure Finder' of the Bon Religion - Shenchen Luga (996-1035) - had discovered similar texts in the 11th century).

Forty-Two Peaceful Deities:

A unique iconographic feature of the Bardo Thodal (and Guhyagarbha) deities is the presentation of the two sets of peaceful and wrathful in round mandala-like enclosures. This however is not universal but depends on painting style and regional choices. With regard to the sub-groupings of figures the unique features are the Six Munis which don't generally appear elsewhere, the Eight Amalgam Deities and the Twenty-eight Ishvaris. These three groups are not pervasively common as are all of the other sets of figures that make up the One Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful.

The Five Buddhas and consorts are standard to Tantric Buddhism: Vairochana (buddha family), Akshobhya (vajra family), Ratnasambhava (ratna family), Amitabha (padma family), and Amoghasiddhi (karma family). The consorts are: Dhatvishvari , Buddhalochana, Mamaki, Pandaravasini, and Samayatara.

The Eight Great Bodhisattvas belong to the standard grouping: Mañjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, Maitreya, Kshitigarbha, Akashagarbha, Sarvanivaranavishkambhin, and Samantabhadra.

The Eight Female Bodhisattvas are typically associated with offering goddesses and the goddesses of the Five Senses: Lasya, Mala, Gita, Nrtya, Pushpa, Dhupa, Aloka and Gandha.

The Six Munis appears to be a unique system of presenting a set of six Buddhas each identified with one of the six realms. They possibly originate from the Guhyagarbha Tantra: Indra Kaushika, Vemachitra, Shakyamuni, Shravasingha, Jvālamukhadeva and Dharmarāja.

The Four Male Gatekeepers are: Achala, Yamantaka, Hayagriva and Amritakundali.

The Female Gatekeepers are: Angkusha, Pasha, Shringkhala and Ghanta.
Fifty-Eight Wrathful Deities:

The foremost of the wrathful deities are the Five Heruka and consorts: Buddhaheruka with Buddhakrodhishvari, Vajraheruka with Vajrarodhishvari, Ratnaheruka with Ratnarodhishvari,
Padmaheruka with Padmakrodhishvari and Karmaheruka with Karmakrodhishvari.

An interesting difference between the iconography of the Guhyagarbha Tantra and the Bardo Thodal is that the Heruka deities of the Bardo Thodal are depicted with wings whereas the Guhyagarbha Heruka deities do not.

The Eight Wrathful Females are: Gauri, Pukkashi, Chaurimatrika, Ghashmari, Pramoha, Chandali, Vetali, and Shmashani.

The Eight Amalgam Deities (tramen, pishaci) are female figures with animal and bird heads: Simhamukha, Vyaghrimukha, Shrigalamukha, Shvanamukha, Gridhamukha, Kangkamukha, Kakamukha, and Ulumukha.

The Four Female Gatekeepers are: Angkusha, Pasha, Shringkhala and Ghanta.

The Twenty-eight Ishvaris are further divided into the four activities with six figures in each group.

Peaceful: Rakshasi, Brahmi, Mahadevi, Lobha, Kumari, Indrani.

Increasing: Vajra, Shanti, Amrita, Chandra, Danda, Rakshasi.

Powerful: Bhakshini, Rati, Mahabala, Rakshasi, Kama, Vasuraksha.

Wrathful: Vayudevi, Nari, Varahi, Nanda, Mahahastini, Varunadevi.
Jeff Watt, 3-2010 [updated 6-2017, 1-2022]
Lotsawa House: Peaceful & Wrathful Deities Series

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