Tibet, wrathful deities with heart

18th-19th century, Tibet, Dorje Shugden, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Sculptures of this worldly protector are few and relatively recent. His cult was banned by the 14th dalai lama in the 1980s. He has one head, two hands and two legs and rides a snow lion or a black horse. He wears a riding helmet (missing here) and flowing garments, and holds a ripped human heart close to his mouth with his left hand while brandishing a (missing) curved knife or a butcher’s stick  in the other.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Begtse Chen, copper alloy, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

We saw a very similar sculpture of Begtse Chen attributed to Tibet and dated 18th century. The above has slightly different accessories and facial features, and the face has been painted with cold gold and pigments.

Begtse Chen wears a Mongolian armour and holds a sword with a scorpion hilt in his right hand and the heart of his enemies in the other. The above also holds a spear with a banner, and an arrow. His left foot crushes a human being and his right foot tramples on an animal (traditionally a horse).

Undated, Tibet, Begtse Chen, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

Here the artist has depicted him with his hair tied in a bunch and topped with a lotus finial. The Rubin Museum tells us that he is adorned with a mirror (worn as a breast plate) and a garland of severed heads.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Pehar (or Dorje Legpa?), copper alloy with traces of gilding, published on http://www.the-saleroom.com

The form of Pehar who rides a lion normally has three heads and six arms. Dorje Legpa in his two-hand form may ride a lion, a goat or a camel. He holds a vajra sceptre in his right hand and a human heart in the other, as the above figure. Both may wear a cymbal-shaped hat.

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, painted wood, private collection, photo by Mossgreen.

The four-arm form of Mahakala (chaturbhuja) seated may hold a skull cup and a heart, or a coconut fruit shaped like a human heart. The above holds what looks like one, painted with red pigment.




Tibet, various paired deities

15th-16th century, Tibet, Chemchok Heruka with consort, bronze (copper alloy) and cold gold, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Chemchok Heruka is the Tibetan name for a form of Shri Heruka with three heads and six hands, 4 legs and 2 wings. He embraces his consort (who has one head, two arms and two legs) and holds a vajra sceptre in each right hand, a skull cup in each left hand (on paintings he may have different attributes). The faces are painted with cold gold and the hair and eyebrows with red pigment. They are adorned with crowns and princely jewellery inlaid with turquoise. They stand on two victims.

14th century, Tibet, Densatil or Densatil-style, Buddhakapala and Citrasena, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This meditational deity may be alone or with a consort. He has one head with three eyes, four hands, two legs. She has one head, two hands, two legs, one of them around his waist, and is naked. He wears the wrathful ornaments, including a five-skull crown and a garland of 50 severed heads, and holds a skull cup and a flaying knife in his main hands crossed over her back, a drum and a ritual staff in the remaining ones.

14th century, Tibet, Buddhakapala and consort, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

They each stand on a leg over a victim.

She holds a skull cup and a flaying knife.

18th century, Tibet, Chitipati, painted terracotta, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

Apart from the dancing skeletons seen on bone aprons used for the Cham dance, there is another pair of dancing skeleton known as Chitipati (Shri Shmashana Adhipati in sanskrit). This ‘father and mother’ pair have a frightful skeletal form, with three eyes and protruding fangs. They stand in a dancing posture, are adorned with a skull crown and hold a skull cup and a skull-tipped stick. In some cases, she holds a long-life vase and a stalk of grain on a stick, as above. She wears a garland of skull and he wears a garland of freshly severed heads, as is often the case with paired deities with a wrathful appearance.

17th-18th century, Tibet or Himalayas, Citipati or Kinkara, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

For the sake of comparison, this dancing skeleton is unlikely to be part of a Chitipati set since he is alone. Besides, he only has two eyes, isn’t adorned with wrathful ornaments, and his left hand doesn’t seem to have held any attribute. He wears an interesting cape with a cloud pattern, of the sort we have seen on Padmasambhava works of more or less the same period.





Tibet, unidentified wrathful deities (3)

13th century, Tibet, unidentified, copper alloy with pigment, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This masterpiece depicts a wrathful deity with three heads, six hands and four legs, clad in a tiger skin, adorned with snakes, a garland of skulls and a skull crown. jewellery and a thin celestial scarf, an elephant hide over his back.

He holds a skull cup and a vajra sceptre (instead of a flaying knife) in his main hands…

An arrow, a human corpse, a drum and possibly a vajra-noose in the others.

He stands on two victims, possibly Kalaratri and Bhairava.

There is a form of Yamantaka (Krishna Yamari) with three heads and six hands  who holds various attributes including a human corpse (impaled on a tree, on paintings), a noose and a vajra sceptre but he normally has two legs and one of his attributes is a sword.

15th century, Tibet, unidentified, brass, is or was at the Potala in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

This rare item depicts a 17-head deity (four stacks of four heads plus one head on top, all of them with three eyes), in embrace with his consort who only has one head. It is not clear how many arms they each have. We have seen several examples of a rare form of namasangiti Manjushri with two hands held above his head, but they all have only one head, twelve hands and no consort.

17th century, Tibet, heruka, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.This  wrathful meditational deity is depicted with his consort, who holds a long-life vase in her left hand. Their other attributes are now missing.



Tibet, unidentified wrathful deities (2)

16th century, Tibet, unidentified, gilt copper alloy and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Nagel.

This character, possibly an attendant, has a semi-wrathful aspect and both hands doing a symbolic gesture.

He is adorned with princely jewellery and a five-leaf crown inlaid with stones (many missing).

18th century, Tibet, tantric deity, gilt copper, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (USA).

This very wrathful character riding a horse has one head and four arms. He wears a long coat and boots, a five-skull crown with flowing ribbons, large round earrings, a garland of severed heads. His hair is gathered in a large bun tied with a snake and topped with a flaming finial.

18th century, Tibet, wrathful deity, bronze with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This could be one of several deities and only the missing attributes would give us his identity. He wears the usual wrathful ornaments (snakes and bone accessories, garland of severed heads, tiger skin dhoti, five-skull crown) and has a human hide and the skin of an animal over his back.

Undated (circa 19th century), Tibet, gilt metal, at the American Museum of National History.

Modern sculptures (19th century onwards) are only included in this blog when they are of particular relevance or interest. Out of a set of animal-headed deities, this is the only one with three human heads, each with three eyes. He has six hands, in which he holds various attributes (snake, noose, book, stem?). His red hair is gathered in a tall chignon that seems to be adorned with a multitude of small skulls or heads.


Tibet, Bhurkumkuta (2)

14th century, Tibet, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

Bhurkumkuta, with three heads topped with a vajra finial and six hands, holds a double thunderbolt sceptre (visvajra) in his upper right hand. His other attributes vary. The above has an upturned vajra-handled bell in his lower left hand.

Undated (15th century circa?), Tibet probably, gilt metal with turquoise inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Like most wrathful deities, he wears a tiger-skin dhoti and snake ornaments, complemented here with turquoise inlaid foliate jewellery. Standard attributes may be a visvajra, a vajra, a hook, a stick and a lasso. This one holds the visvajra and a vajra-handled bell (ghanta) in his upper hands, an 8-spoke wheel and a missing object in the middle ones, a stick (or perhaps a pestle) and a lasso in the lower ones.

Undated (18th century circa), Tibet, Bhurkumkuta, private collection, same as before.


Tibet, Pehar

An emanation of the five dhyani buddha, the reincarnation of a demon subdued by Padmasambhava and turned into the main guardian deity of the Samye monastery, a dharmapala, an oracle used by the fifth Dalai Lama, this prominent deity is mainly seen on paintings. On a mandala he is placed at the centre and represents activity while another four deities, with different functions, titles and names, occupy the four cardinal points. In sculpture, the name Pehar tends to be given to any of these five aspects and also, mistakenly, to the three-head and six-hand form of Dorje Legpa, who also rides a lion but holds different attributes.

18th century, Tibet, Pehar, gilt copper alloy, at the National Gallery in Prague.

Pehar has three faces and six hands, in which he holds the following attributes: a knife and an iron hook in his upper hands, a bow and an arrow in his middle hands, a stick and a sword in his lower hands (no mention of a thunderbolt sceptre as on the above Chinese-style sculpture). Some authors describe him as wearing a leopard skin over his shoulders and a tiger skin loin cloth, while other sources mention a silk upper garment and a human skin, bone ornaments and jewellery, a garland of severed heads and a cane hat. He rides a white snow lion with a green mane.

18th century, Tibeto-Chinese (made by a Tibetan artist for a Chinese patron), gilt bronze (copper alloy), source not quoted, published on fromacafe.blogspot.com.es

There are few metal sculptures of him and most of them are late and were made for Chinese worshippers. The above has a tiger skin around his waist, the paws of the animal are dangling at the front. He is adorned with a garland of freshly severed human heads and stone inlaid jewellery. His upper hands hold a flayed human skin over his silk top.

Same as before, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Undated, Tibet?, Pehar, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Another two examples of  him holding a thunderbolt sceptre in one hand.

Undated, Tibeto-Chinese, Pehar, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.


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!