Animals (2)

12th-13th century, Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay and red pigment, private collection

12th-13th century, Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay and red pigment, private collection

14th century, Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani, copper alloy and cloth, at the Basel Museum

14th century, Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani, copper alloy and cloth, at the Basel Museum

SNAKES

Snakes (usually cobras) or nagas symbolise water, the underground, and unseen realms. These water spirits become furious when men shows disrespect towards nature and they punish them with disease or calamity. This is why they also symbolise anger and are worn by wrathful gods (Vajrapani, Mahakala, Achala) in the guise of necklaces, bracelets and anklet and sometimes in their headdress or like a hood over their head. The same figures often wear the hide of a tiger attached around their waist with the paws dangling at the front.

17th-18th century, Tibet, wrathful god Mahakala in his Bhairava form (with sword and lasso).

17th-18th century, Tibet, wrathful god Mahakala in his Bhairava form (with sword and lasso and tall headdress), private collection

13th century circa, Tibet, wrathful god Achala, private collection

13th century circa, Tibet, wrathful god Achala, private collection.                                                             What looks like an incised dhoti is in fact the skin of a tiger.

19th century, Tibet, apron for dance

19th century, Tibet, apron for dance

TIGERS

Tigers represent strength and fearlessness. A tiger skin worn as a loincloth indicates a wrathful activity or symbolises control over anger. In Tibet, some aprons used for dance rituals imitate the skin of a tiger.

14th century, Tibet, Hayagriva's headdress, published by Marcel Nies

14th century, Tibet, Hayagriva’s headdress, published by Marcel Nies

15th-16th century, Tibet, healing horse with prayer-collar, cast bronze, private collection

15th-16th century, Tibet, healing horse with prayer-collar, cast bronze, private collection.                                 The scroll attached to the collar contains the prayer (to cure somebody).

18th century, Tibet, horse carrying a flaming jewel, gilt copper alloy, private collection

18th century, Tibet, horse carrying a flaming jewel, gilt copper alloy, private collection

HORSES

Horses represent the wind, freedom, success. A windhorse carrying a flaming jewel is the vehicle of buddha Ratnasambhava (who has a jewel in the palm of his hand). The horse is also the symbol of wrathful god Hayagriva, who has up to 103 horse’s heads in his headdress.