Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Manjushri, Arapachana (Iconographic Forms)

Arapachana Manjushri

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Three Iconographic Topics
- Iconographic Types
--- White
--- Orange
--- Leg Pendant
--- Five Deity
- Source: Siddhaikavīra Tantra
- Confusions
- Others...

- Arapachana Introduction
- Arapachana: Best Examples
- The Sword & Book
- All Manjushri Videos

Iconographic Forms from the Siddhaikavira Tantra: (Chapter Three)
- White in Colour
--- Solitary
--- Teaching Gesture (or upraised sword & holding book)
--- Vajra Posture or leg pendant
--- Five Deity
- Orange in Colour
--- Solitary
--- Upraised sword & holding book
--- Vajra Posture or leg pendant
--- Five Deity
- Others...

Key Iconographic Points:
- Sway of the body
- Raised Sword
- Holding a book or Stem of an utpala

The principal early text describing the practice and rituals of Arapachana is the Siddhaikavira Tantra. Arapachana must be visually understood by 1. colour, 2. gesture, 3. posture and 4. number. He can be white or orange. He has the two hands in the teaching gesture or with the right arm raised holding a sword, the left supporting a book, or holding a book to the heart. He is either solitary in appearance, or in a five deity configuration. With the five deity configuration he can be either white or orange. (See a mandala example of the two forms of the Arapachana Five Deity configuration).

The form of Manjushri as Vagishvara Arapachana has the four surrounding figures of Keshini, Upakeshini, Jaliniprabha, and Chandraprabha. This is also known as the Arapachana Five Deity Mandala. Both five deity configurations have the same four named secondary figures, two male and two female.

Arapachana as described in early texts is white in colour, but according to 12th and 13th century Kadampa and Sakyapa teachers can also be orange. Generally in Tibetan art the colour orange is not consistent between centuries and artists. The colour of the deity is often described as orange like the rising sun. The variations in painting can range from yellow, to tangerine, to bright orange.

The White Arapachana can be either solitary in appearance or have four retinue attendant figures. The orange form of Arapachana is generally solitary, however at least one example in painting depicts an orange Manjushri in a five deity configuration along with inscriptions. Older art works for both painting and sculpture depict the left hand holding a book to the heart. Later art works depict the right hand holding the stem of a blue utpala flower at the heart with the blossom at the left ear supporting a book. Some depictions of the white Arapachana depict the hands in the teaching gesture at the heart (see an example HAR #77059).

Some forms of Manjushri use the 'arapachana' mantra but do not have Arapachana in the name. The 'arapachana' mantra can also be found in the Namasangiti and Vajrabhairava Tantras.

"...Arya Manjushri with a body orange in colour, having the colour of fresh saffron, one face and two hands. The right holds aloft the sword of wisdom severing ignorance and in the left the stem of an utpala to the heart, blossoming at the ear with the Prajnaparamita book above. With the feet seated in vajra posture, having jewel ornaments and upper and lower garments of silk, the hair tied to the left in five tufts - [some] loose; having the appearance of a youth of sixteen years. A moon disc with the nature of light supports the back." (Sakya Lotsawa Kunga Sonam (1485-1533), 23rd Throne Holder of Sakya. sGrub Thabs Kun bTus, vol.2, fol.258-261. Translated into English by (c)Jetsun Kusho Chimey Luding and Jeff Watt. May 1984).

Bari Gyatsa:
[3] Arapachana Manjushri. White Lord Manjushri Arapachana, holding in the right [hand] a sword [and in] the left a book, in the same manner as before, with ornaments, garments and seated.

Database Search: All Images | Painting | Sculpture | Mandala

Jeff Watt 2-2012 [updated 9-2017, 8-2022]

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