Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Ushnishavijaya (Anomalies & Inaccuracies)

Ushnishavijaya Iconography

There are a number of interesting anomalies and possible inaccuracies that can be identified on a variety of painted and sculptural forms of the Buddhist deity Ushnishavijaya. The most interesting and greatest of the anomalies is the that in the Sanskrit source texts, The Incantation and Practice of Uṣṇīṣavijayā [Toh 594] and The Incantation and Practice of Uṣṇīṣavijayā [Toh 595], the only deity figure described is that of Amitayus Buddha with three faces and eight hands, white in colour. When and how this figure of Amitayus transformed into a female figure is currently unknown, although it was already established in greater India prior to the practice moving to the Himalayan and Tibetan regions.

Video: Ushnishavijaya: Anomalies & Inaccuracies

'He has three faces, each with three eyes, and he has eight arms. His right face is peaceful and radiant with golden light. His left face is fierce, with fangs biting down on his lower lip, and radiant with light the color of a blue utpala. His central face is charming [F.236.a] and white. His right hands hold a crossed vajra at his heart, Amitābha seated on a lotus, an arrow, and the gesture of supreme generosity. His left hands hold a lasso with the threatening gesture, a bow, the gesture granting freedom from fear, and a vase.' (The Incantation and Practice of Uṣṇīṣavijayā [Toh 595]).


HAR #5147
- The left hand which is described as in the gesture of removing fear is placed over the left knee with the middle and ring fingers folded in.
- The proper left face is blue in colour but in a peaceful appearance rather than wrathful.

HAR #65445
- The Amitabha Buddha figure has the right hand in the earth touching gesture.
- The Dharani texts do not give any description for the appearance of Amitabha.

HAR #69711
- All three faces are in peaceful appearance.

HAR #77197
- Amitabha is depicted with sambhogakaya appearance.

HAR #101323
- The Amitabha Buddha has the two hands in the teaching gesture.
- The proper left face is peaceful rather than wrathful in appearance.
- Neither of the two Dharani texts mention three eyes for the three faces.

HAR #3314425
- Of the three faces only the proper left face has three eyes.

Jeff Watt, 9-2023