Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Dorje Shugden (Tanag, Black Horse)

Dorje Shugden Iconography

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Visual Outline
- Secondary Figure
- Three Kings
- Sakya Protectors
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

- Dorje Shugden
- Worldly Protectors
- Protector Deity Videos

Dorje Shugden is generally believed to be a Tibetan Buddhist worldly protector deity. He first appears in the Sakya Tradition. The earliest known ritual text was written by Morchen Kunga Lhundrub (1654-1728). According to some accounts Dorje Shugden was inducted into the pantheon of Sakya protectors by Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen (1705-1741). Later, placed together with the two protector deities Dorje Setrab and Tsi'u Marpo they were collectively known as the Three Kings (Gyalpo Sum). In the Sakya texts Shugden is known as Dorje Shugden Dragpo Tsal or Dorje Shugden Riding a Black Horse. He typically holds a butcher's stick upraised in the right hand and a heart in the left raised to the mouth. Dressed in the robes of a monastic and wearing a gold lacquer riding hat, he sits atop a black horse. In the early 20th century Dorje Shugden Tanag fell out of favour with the Sakya Tradition and the ritual practices have been discouraged. His devotees and and accompanying ritual practices, oracles, and dances have subsequently diminished. Since the late 20th century the offering rituals for the Three Kings in general are no longer found in the standard daily use Sakya Protectors manuals employed in monasteries across India, Nepal or Tibet.

Essay: Should I Buy Banned Art? (HAR on Patreon)

'In the middle of a whirling palace of black wind ... is the Great King with a body red-black in colour, one face two arms. The right [hand] holds a club aloft to the sky and the left a skullcup filled with blood and a human heart. On the head a Chinese hat is placed, riding a black horse, surrounded by inconceivable emanations.' (Sakya Kangso).

Dorje Shugden Tanag is more commonly found as a Secondary Figure in painted compositions and generally included in the group of the Three Kings.

Jeff Watt 9-2022