Mongolia, wrathful Vajrapani

Undated (17th century circa?), Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This masterpiece depicts Vajrapani in his one-head and two-hand form, wielding a vajra and doing a gesture to ward off evil with his left hand. He has a tiger skin knotted around his waist and a mitre-like hair arrangement, a floral tiara and matching earrings, some beaded jewellery, a thin celestial scarf with serpentine ends that forms a frame around him. The style of the lotus pedestal is typical of Mongolia.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This one wears a long snake as a sacred thread. He does the gesture to keep evil away with both hands.

18th century, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy repoussé, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

A different style altogether, with an emphasis on the orange flaming hair and matching eyebrows.

Undated, Mongolia, Vajrapani, copper alloy, same as before.

Same type of hair, but topped with a vajra finial and offset by a five-skull crown with foliate panels. The left hand holds a lasso while doing the same gesture as before.

 

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Mongolia, wrathful forms (2)

16th century (or later?), Mongolia, Hayagriva, gilt copper repoussé, private collection, published on http://www.buddhacollectors.com.

This is Red Hayagriva, who has three heads, each with three eyes and three horses’ heads in his flaming hair. Five of his six hands would normally hold a sword, a ritual staff, a vajra, a lasso of intestine, a spear, the other hand does a wrathful gesture. He may have 6 or 8 legs, the above has six, the right ones bent at the knee, the left ones held straight. He wears a human hide and an elephant hide over his back, a tiger skin loin cloth around his waist – the tail of the animal dangling at the front – and is adorned with snakes.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Achala, gilt copper and painted details, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

Achala with one head, with three eyes and the upper fangs biting the lower lip;  two hands, holding a flaming sword and a lasso; 2 legs, one kneeling and the other crouching. His flaming hair is tied with a snake. He wears a tiger skin dhoti knotted at the front, the head of the animal ‘devouring’ his right knee.

Undated (17th-18th century?), Mongolia, Black Jambhala, gilt copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Black Jambhala, normally ithyphallic and without earrings, stands on the elephant-headed god of wealth while holding a mongoose in his left hand and a skull cup filled with gems in the other. He wears the 8 naga ornaments (snakes) and some jewellery. The artist has given him a human face, with a thin moustache. The darker tone of the cold gold applied to the face is a feature typical of Mongolian works.

 

 

A very angry deity

17th-18th century, Tibet, labelled dharmapala, bronze and pigments, private collection, photo by Christie's.

17th-18th century, Tibet, labelled dharmapala, bronze and pigments, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This unidentified male deity with a wrathful appearance has one head with three eyes and erect flaming hair, two legs in a dancing posture, four arms in which only one attribute remains. He wears a tiger skin dhoti and wrathful ornaments ( a five-skull crown with Chinese-style serpentine ribbons, a garland of severed heads, bone jewellery with rosettes). There are nine male dharmapalas, Begtse Chen, who always wears a coat of mail; Dorje Legpa, who always rides a goat, a lion or a camel; Hayagriva who has the head of a horse on top of his; Rahula whose body is half human and half serpent; Tsang dKarpo, who rides a horse and is dressed in armour; Vaishravana, who always dresses in Mongolian armour; Yama Dharmaraja, who has a buffalo head; Yamantaka, whose Yamari form has a human face but the one-head form only has two hands; Mahakala is the only one who may have one head and four arms, but in Tibet his four-hand form is normally seated and, besides, he always has bulging eyes (and short fat legs). This may not be a dharmapala, at any rate it is a very angry deity!

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.