Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Guardians of the Ten Directions

Gods & Deities

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Eight Great Gods
- Eight Gods of the Cemeteries
- Worldly Deities (Buddhist Protectors)
- Trampled Gods & Deities
- Confusions: Ten Wrathful Ones
- Others...

- Ten Gods of the Directions
- Eight Great Gods
- Eight Gods of the Cemeteries
- Gods & Deities: Part 1
- Gods & Deities: Part 2

Guardians of the Ten Directions:
- Brahma, yellow, holding a wheel, riding a goose.
- Indra, white, holding a vajra, riding an elephant.
- Agni, red, holding a fire pot, riding a goat.
- Yama, blue, holding a stick, riding a buffalo.
- Raksha, black-maroon, holding a sword, riding a zombie.
- Varuna, white, holding a snake lasso, riding a makara.
- Vayu Deva, smoky-coloured, holding a banner, riding a deer.
- Yaksha, yellow, holding a mongoose, riding a horse.
- Ishana, white, holding a trident, riding a buffalo.
- Bhudevi, yellow, holding a vase, riding a sow.

The Guardians of the Ten Directions are most often found as painting and sculpture within the mandala sets of Medicine Buddha. The ten are also found as secondary figures in the wrathful mandala images of the Eight Great Cemeteries.

In the Tantric Buddhist classification of Anuttarayoga, according to the Hevajra system, the Eight Direction Gods of the Cemeteries are: 1. east Shakra on an elephant, 2. south Yama on a buffalo, 3. west Varuna on a makara, 4. north Yaksha on a horse, 5. north-east Ishana on a bull, 6. south-east Agni on a goat, 7. south-west Rakshasa on a zombie, 8. north-west Vayu on a deer. (See Charnel Grounds & Cemeteries).

Other gods and goddesses of note originating in India are Shiva, Durga, Kali, and a host of female figures such as Lakshmi, Sarasvati and Parvati.

It is possible to have different lists of the Guardians of the Ten Directions. The two related groups of figures, the Eight Great Gods (mahadeva) and the Guardians of the Ten Directions, contain several overlapping names such as the three Ishvara/Ishana (Shiva), Brahma, and Indra

Both groups appear frequently as secondary figures in Buddhist mandalas. Shiva is a very good example showing the inclusion of the god and the other eight in a number of Buddhist mandalas. The Karandavyuha Sutra has a slightly different and varying list of nine Indian gods and goddesses.

Jeff Watt 9-2022

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