Mythical creatures

Garuda on Maitreya statue, Tibet, 18th c., bronze with gold inlay

Half man-half eagle, with two horns, the garuda is the enemy of the nagas (snakes) which he devours. In Tibet this creature is called khyung.

19th century, Tibet, Kirtimukha

Kirtimukha, ‘the Face of Glory’, Tibet, 19th century, private collection

Kirtimukha represents greed, this is why he just has a face (with vegetation coming out his mouth) and two  hands. In Nepal he is known as Chepu while in Tibet it is called Zeepata. (He reminds us of the Green Man seen in Gothic cathedrals but the latter symbolises the spirit of the woods). In Tibet and Nepal deities sometimes have an effigy of Kirtimukha on the front panel of their crown.

Makara, Tibet or Nepal, 18th century, gilt copper and silver on a wooden stand, private collection

Makara, Tibet or Nepal, 18th century, gilt copper and silver on a wooden stand, private collection

Makaras are dragon-like creatures with horns, two fangs, a short elephant trunk. Their head is often represented on Tibetan teapots (as the spout) and on top of buildings in the way of gargoyles.

15th century, Himalayas, Nagaraja, gilt copper, private collection

15th century, Himalayas, nagaraja (naga king), gilt copper inlaid with turquoise, private collection

This snake deity has a ‘naga hood’ over its head. Although the origin is uncertain, this sculpture resembles Tibetan naga kings of the same period.

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