Mongolia, wrathful forms

18th century, Mongolia, Palden Lhamo, at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Art

18th century, Mongolia, Palden Lhamo, at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art.

This is in fact more likely to be Magzor Gyalmo, a wrathful form of Sarasvati, whose appearance is very similar. She rides her khyang seated sideways, has one head and two arms. Her right hand holds a vajra staff, there is a skull cup filled with blood and flesh in her left hand, at heart level. She is wrapped in a tiger-skin loincloth, wears a garland of severed human heads and sits on the skin of her dead son. The attendant on the left has the head of a makara (see the mythical creatures section in the right-handside column), the other has the head of a snow lion.

17th century circa (or later), Mongolia, Begtse Chen, gilt copper alloy+pigment

17th century circa (or later), Mongolia, Begtse Chen, gilt copper alloy+pigment, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

There are few sculptures of Begtse Chen (‘Great Coat of Mail’), known as red Mahakala in Tibet and popular mainly in Mongolia. Apart from his coat of mail he traditionally wears thick boots. We see him here adorned with a garland of severed human heads and a skull crown. He holds a flaming sword and has both hands in the tarjana mudra. The treatment of the hair, the design of the billowing cloth at shoulder and thigh level and the snake-like upward flying crown ribbons point to a Chinese influence.

17th century circa, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt metal, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

17th century circa, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt metal, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

This singular piece is thought to have been made by Zanabazar himself.  Wrathful Vajrapani stands on a single-lotus pedestal with broad round petals going downwards. He holds a thunderbolt or vajra and wears the skin of a tiger around his waist and a thin celestial scarf, which reaches to the ground and springs up again in a most effective and creative way to evoke leaves or plants perhaps. Instead of his usual snake jewellery and skull crown, the deity is adorned with beaded jewellery and a crown with a flaming pearl design. He does the tarjana mudra  with his left hand.

Yama. Same as before.

Yama. Same as before.

Yama (Dharmaraja) has the head of a buffalo and normally stands on a male buffalo. His attributes are a bone stick and a lasso or a flaming sword and a mirror. This sculpture depicts him with Chinese-style cross-belt, flaming hair and snake-like upward flying crown ribbons. He wears a five-skull crown and a garland of severed heads. We will notice on this piece and on the previous one the exquisite shape of the hands and feet.

18th century, Mongolia, Guru Dragpo, gilt metal, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

18th century, Mongolia, Guru Dragpo, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

Standing on two corpses over a single-lotus base, this wrathful form of Padmsambhava (with three eyes and fangs) holds a vajra in his right hand and a scorpion in the other. He wears a skull-crown, a garland of freshly severed heads, a cross-belt, a tiger-skin loincloth, and beaded jewellery.

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