Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Dakini Appearance

Dakini Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Peaceful
--- Semi/peaceful, semi/wrathful
--- Wrathful
- Tantra Classification
--- Mother Tantra (Sarma)
--- Mahayoga (Nyingma)
- Confusions
- Others...

Video: Dakini Appearance

Dakini is believed to be a pre-Sanskrit, possibly Dravidian in origin, abstract term that refers to specific female forms found in art and religious literature associated with the Indian geographic and cultural region. A traditional common understanding is that the dakini are harmful witches and spirits. In the Shaiva religion there are vast hordes of dakini, ugly and disheveled, that are followers of Shiva. In Tantric Buddhism and specifically the Chakrasamvara literature the dakini are used as a metaphor and category of meditational deity. They are divided into three categories of mundane, activity and wisdom. The Wisdom Dakini are synonymous with Chakrasamvara and other highest meditational deities and equal to complete buddhas in realization.

Aside from the female gender, dakini do not have a fixed appearance and can be represented as peaceful in appearance, semi peaceful-wrathful, or wrathful. However, from the Sarma tradition and the Chakrasamvara tantras, the dakini are primarily semi/peaceful and semi/wrathful in appearance. It is also common in both Sarma and Nyingma traditions to find dakini figures with animal, reptile or bird heads. The appearance of any specific named dakini or a meditational deity referred to as a dakini is dependent upon the description in the ritual literature or origin narratives.

Jeff Watt 4-2023

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