Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Tibetan Worldly Spirits, Sprites & Ogres

Gods & Deities in Buddhist Art

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- Worldly Protectors Main Page
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Video: Worldly Spirits, Sprites & Ogres

The 22 images depicted in this gallery are a compendium of the various Tibetan worldly spirits that occupy and haunt Tibetan history and folk life stories - some are imported from Indian cultural beliefs and narratives. Often the spirits are the projected demons and obstacles overcome during religious and village rituals of the Bon, Buddhist and Himalayan Tribal religious and spiritual groups. Sometimes the spirits are understood to be mental afflictions or disease and at other times they are real physically appearing monsters that can cause great harm to adults, children, livestock and property.

The images below are likely from one set of depictions associated with a particular Tibetan text. It is not known if the images are complete and the source text is unknown. The associated colour given for a spirit may only be particular to this group and source text. Although the list is quite comprehensive there are many other spirits and gods found in Tibetan culture that are not listed here.

There are a few famous subjugated 'Gyalpo' spirits such as: Dorje Shugden of the Gelug, Sakya and Drugpa, Geshe Pongku (Donkey-Faced) of the Gelug, Karma Tansrung of the Karma Kagyu, and Dorje Dragtsen of the Sakya. All of these individuals are perceived generally as monks having gone bad for various reasons. There are other examples, in Sakya for instance, where a monk gone bad is reborn a 'mamo' spirit (witch) and after subjugation transformed into a 'Bamo' protector named Namkha Drolma - one of the Bamo Sum.

Names of the Spirits:
1. King [spirit]. gyalpo (rgyal po). 51340
2. Ghost, dust [colour]. [preta] Yidag tal (yi dwags thal) 51341
3. God-demon, red [colour]. lha dud mar (lha bdud dmar) 51342
4. Demon, black. dud nag (bdud nag) 51343
5. Aggregate Demon, white. phung po dud kar (phung po bdud dkar) 51344
6. Delusion Demon, yellow. nyonmong dudser (nyon mongs bdud ser) 51345
7. Demon, dust colour. gong dre tal dog ('gong 'dre thal dog) 52346
8. Teurang, blue. teurang ngonpo (theu' rang sngon po) 51347
9. Death Demon, black. chidag dudnag ('chi bdag bdud nag) 51348
10. Enemy Demon, multi-[colour]. Dradre Tra (dgra 'dre khra) 51349
11. [Karmic] Creditor, blue. Lanchag ngonpo (lan chags sngon po) 51350
12. Queen [spirit]. zun mo (btsun mo) 51351
13. Ancestor [spirit], black. tsundre nag (mtshun 'dre nag) 51352
14. Smell-eater, spotted. driza khra (dri za khra) 51353
15. Emaciated [spirit]. shakem (sha skem) 51354
16. Tsen, red. tsen mar (btsan dmar) 51355
17. Victory [spirit], white. gyalkar (rgyal dkar) 51356
18. Ogress, black. mamo nag (ma mo nag) 51357
19. Vampire, blue. sinngon (srin sngon) 51358
20. Eclipse [spirit], black. za nag (gza' nag) 51359
21. Dropsy Disease [spirit], yellow. muchu ser (dmu chu ser) 51360
22. Harm Bringer [spirit], yellow: [yaksha] nujin ser (gnod sbyin ser po) 51361

Jeff Watt 3-2011 [updated 5-2017]