Tibet, wrathful females (3)

13th-14th century, Tibet, Kakasya, pyrophillite with remains of cinnabar and other pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Kakasya has a dark blue body and the head of a crow; she appears on mandalas along with another three animal-headed dakinis (owl-headed Ulukasya, dog-headed Svanakasya, sow-headed Sukarasya) each guarding a direction. On paintings she holds a sword and eats lungs and hearts.

The above holds a vajra-handled implement with a diamond-shaped blade in her right hand and a hook (elephant goad) in the other. She has small ears and long hair tied in a chignon, wears a loin cloth, a garland of severed heads and has a human hide over her back.

She stands with both feet on a prostrate figure with a human appearance.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Kakasya, bronze with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Cambi Casa d’Aste.

This one has lost her attributes; she wears bone jewellery and has a crest on her head.

She is naked and wears her long black hair divided in three strands.

18th century, Tibet, wrathful female, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

It is unusual for a wrathful figure to be adorned with princely accessories.

Originally labelled Sarvabuddhdakini then Vajrayogini, 19th century, Tibet, painted clay, at British Museum in London (UK).

Works made after the 18th century are not normally included in this blog but we saw this character before because of the rarity of the subject. There were some doubts as to her identity since her appearance doesn’t correspond to any form of Vajrayogini. On the Himalayan Art Resources website (Index >Mahakala > Panjaranata > Five activity protectors) She is featured as  Singmo, who holds a gold razor in her right hand, like some dakinis do, and a skull cup in the other.

Same as before, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

A wrathful female protector, emanation of Panjaranata Mahakala and retinue figure, she has a rakshasi (female demon) appearance, wears black garments and breathes flames out. Jeff Watts explains on HAR that the wire that sticks out of her mouth once supported flames. 

1900-1959, Tibet, Ragmo Nujin, painted clay, at the British Museum in London (UK).

There is also photo of her mother, Nagmo Nujin (Kali Rakshasi), who has the same attributes (the razor blade broken here) and is supposed to wear her hair in one braid. According to the British Museum, the first figure came from the Cranmore Ethnographical Museum, which closed in 1939, there is no mention of the other on their website.

18th century, India, Rashasa, published by Wepa UNIMA.

During the research on Singmo (Ekajata Rakshasi in sanskrit), there appeared this Indian puppet of a female with a rakshasi appearancewho seems to hold a razor in her right hand, begging to be added to this post!


Tibet, various female deities (4)

12th century, Tibet, female, bronze (copper alloy), Navin Kumar collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

This female deity holds a ritual water pot in both hands and there is another on the plinth of the lotus base, together with a small kneeling figure, possibly the donor.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Vajratara, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Rarely seen in Tibet in the form of sculpture, Vajratara/Vajritara normally has one head with three eyes and 4 to 8 hands, in which she holds a vajra sceptre, a noose, an arrow, a conch shell, in her right hands, a bow, another arrow (or vice-versa), a lotus and a hook (broken here). The above has three heads topped with a vajra finial.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Pancha Raksha deity, gilt metal with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Koller.

Out of the five Pancha Raksha deities, one of them, Pratisara, has eight hands in which she holds most of these attributes but she normally has three heads, this one only has one. Her main hands are ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ and hold the stem of two lotuses; the remaining left hands hold a bow, a stem?, a ritual water pot, the remaining right hands hold an arrow and a wheel, the lower one displays knowledge.

16th century, Tibet, Tara, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Africasia.

Seated with a leg pendent and her right foot on a lotus, this female character holds a triple gem in her right hand.

Late 16th century, Tibet, Amdo, Sarasvati, painted clay, at the Kumbum of Taer monastery, Xining, published in Empire of Emptiness by Patricia Ann Berger.

Sarasvati, goddess of the arts and speech, with one head and two hands, playing the vina.





Tibet, standing female characters

Undated, Tibet (or Nepal?), standing female, bronze with cold gold, pigments, turquoise, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Very similar in style to a Transitional Period Nepalese Tara worshipped in Tibet and published in a previous post, this female character seems to have held a couple of attributes in her hand. Her hair is divided in two coils visible behind the large front panel of her tiara.

Undated, Tibet, standing female, bronze with cold gold, pigments, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Probably from the same period, a similar figure with both hands clasped against her heart in a gesture of salutation, or perhaps to hold a jewel.

12th-14th century, Western Tibet, female deity, brass, is or was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (USA).

Clearly made in Western Tibet, this intriguing personage holds a couple of attributes.

A water pot in the right hand, a disc or mirror in the other.

14th century, Tibet, female, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

This small character with a floral crown and a long garment incised with a large floral pattern holds a skull cup in her left hand and a grain or pearl in the other, between forefinger and thumb.

14th-15th century, Central Tibet, Densatil, offering goddesses, from a frieze, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Four deities with one head and four hands each, in a dancing pose, the first from the left of the viewer holds a flaming jewel and a drum in her right hands, a skull cup and a missing object in the others; the next one has a bowl and a drum in her right hands, a grain or a pearl and another bowl in her left hands; the following one has a jewelled scarf in her main hands, a drum and a skull cup in the others; the last one holds a drum and what could be a mirror, one hand is severed, the other has lost its attribute.

Undated (circa 16th century?), Tibet, Yeshe Tsogyal, metal (brass), private collection, published in Sattvas & Ratjas The Culture and Art of Tibetan Buddhism, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

17th century, Tibet, Yeshe Tsogyal, gilt metal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Allegedly the consort of King Trisong Detsen before becoming Padmasambhava’s, Yeshe Tsogyal is regarded as a buddha, and an emanation of Vajrayogini and Tara or Sarasvati. She may hold a skull cup; on these two examples she holds a vase in one hand and does the fear-allaying gesture with the other.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt bronze with copper and silver inlay, pigments, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

White Tara, standing on a Pala-style pedestal, her right hand extended, the other holding the stem of a lotus, her garment inlaid with copper and silver roundels to imitate the original Indian Pala art, her face with three eyes, painted with cold gold and pigments.

Undated, Tibet, female donor, gilt bronze with cold gold, pigments, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

It is not clear what this donor holds in both hands, perhaps a conch shell?


Tibet, Vasudhara (2)

17th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Buddha Collectors.

This female deity, more popular in Nepal than in Tibet, has a one-head and two-hand form, in which case she normally displays the gesture of generosity and holds a tuft or rice and a vase full of jewels (in her right hand on this Pala revival example).

18th century, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

She may also have one or two heads and six hands. The upper right hand makes a gesture related to music, the lower right hand is open palm (gesture of generosity) and may hold a fruit, the middle right hand holds raining jewels, the left hands hold a long-life vase, a sheaf of rice and the Prajnaparamita sutra (the manuscript in her top hand).

Undated, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Tibet, Ushnishavijaya (6)

17th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, gilt bornze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Michaan’s.

Ushnishavijaya in her three-head and eight-hand form. Each head has three eyes, all the hair is gathered into a knot topped with a jewel. Her attributes are missing. The standard ones in Tibet are a visvajra (held between her main hands at heart level), a long life vase (in her lower left hand), a bow (middle left hand), an effigy of Amitabha (top right hand), and an arrow or a vajra sceptre (middle right hand). The lower right hand is held in the gesture of supreme generosity. The upper left hand does the fear-allaying gesture and may hold a lasso.

18th century, Eastern Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, parcel gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Koller.

We have seen before that (relatively) recent works often depart from traditional iconography: in her three-head form, this deity always has eight hands, yet the above has three heads but only six hands. She may have held a visvajra in her top right hand, while the effigy of Amitabha would have been on a lotus in one of the lower hands.

A view of the back shows that there is no broken limb.

18th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, parcel gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

On this Chinese-style image with eight hands she still has the visvajra and the long-life vase.


Tibet, Prajnaparamita (2)

12th century, Western Tibet, Prajnaparamita, brass, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Both a bodhisattva and the mother of all buddhas, Prajnaparamita has one head and two or four hands. Her main attribute is a manuscript. She may be seated or standing. This sculpture belongs to a group of West Tibetan brass works derived from the Indian Pala style but with features specific to Western Tibet, especially the Ngari district.

In her four-hand version she may hold the manuscript in her top left hand and a vajra sceptre in one of her right hands while the remaining ones display the gesture of debate/teaching and the gesture of meditation.

Her accessories are decorated with incisions and her lower garment with a stippled lotus pattern.

14th-15th century, Tibet, gilt copper, Tara or Prajnaparamita, private collection, photo by Koller.

Another of her attributes is the blue lotus (top left hand) but she normally holds two, both topped with a manuscript. She may also hold a vajra sceptre (lower left hand) and display the teaching gesture (lower left hand), in which case one hand would display the meditation gesture, hence the uncertainty about the identity of this figure.

15th century, Tibet, Prajnaparamita, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, on loan at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (USA).

When two of the hands ‘turn the wheel of dharma‘ the other two usually hold the stem of blue lotuses each topped with a manuscript. When the lower hands are cupped in the meditation gesture to hold a vase, the upper ones hold a vajra sceptre and the manuscript. Here we have a mixture of hand positions and the long-life vase is at the centre of the lion throne that supports the double-lotus base. There is a vajra finial on her head.

Tibet, various female deities (3)

Undated (18th century?), Tibet, Sarasvati, bronze, Pala Revival style, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Tibetan sculptures of Sarasvati, of Hindu origin, are very few. She has one  to three heads, two to six arms,  two legs, and normally sits as in the above manner to play a string instrument (vina) often missing. She may hold a book and a grain of rice instead. This one has a long dhoti decorated with large dots of copper and/or silver inlay in the Indian Pala manner.

18th century, Tibet (or China? Labelled China on Himalayan Art Resources), Sarasvati, bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

A similar style work, with Chinese facial features, a plain dhoti and a different metal alloy.

Undated, Tibet, Pancha Raksha deity, gilt copper or copper alloy, at a mountain sanctuary, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Out of the five pancha raksha deities (the embodiment of five early Buddhist texts) only Maha Sahasrapramardana has one head and six hands and is always seated and adorned with peaceful ornaments. She normally holds a sword, an axe, a bow, an arrow, a lasso, her lower left hand does the gesture of supreme generosity (as above)

This deity holds a bow and an arrow, a lasso, and does the gesture of generosity with her lower left hand. The other two attributes seem to be another lasso (or noose) and a stem.

15th century, Tibet, Densatil, goddess, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

We have seen a very similar dancing figure with one head and four arms holding several objects among which a skull cup and a drum, an attribute missing from the lower left hand. The above sustains a trumpet made from a conch shell in her upper right hand. She has a conical chignon topped with a jewel.

Undated (circa 18th century), Tibet, Sitatapatra, bronze with cold gold and pigments, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (USA).

Sitatapatra, ‘the white parasol’, is depicted in her one-head and two-hand form, seated in the vajra position and holding a parasol with her left hand; the dharma wheel normally in her right hand is missing.