Tibet, Krishna Yamari

11th-12th century, Tibet, Krishna Yamari, bronze (copper alloy) with paint and turquoise, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

Krishna Yamari, with a blue-black body on paintings, may have 1 head and 2 or 4 hands, 3 heads and 2, 4, or 6 hands, 4 heads and 4 hands, 6 or 9 heads and 6 hands. According to textual sources, the four-head version has 4 legs. We saw a figure with 4 heads thought to be Krishna Yamari who only had two legs and the fourth head was Manjushri’s. Here, the heads all have the orange hair and third eye associated with wrathful deities. He holds a sword in the upper left hand and a skull cup in the lower right one, the other attributes are probably incomplete.

14th century, Sino-Tibetan, Krishna Yamari, gilt copper alloy with stones and pigment, private collection, photo by Pundoles.

One of the three-head and six-hand form of Black Yamari tramples two demons lying on the back of a prostrated male buffalo and holds a skull cup, a wheel and a lotus flower or bud in his right hand, a flaying knife, a sword and a vajra in the others (sometimes in a different order). This form may be alone (India) or accompanied by his consort (Sakya tradition).

17th-18th century, Tibet, Krishna Yamari, bronze with gilding and paint, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This rare form of Yamari has six heads, six arms and six legs, two of them folded in the vajra position, the other four in the alidha pose typical of wrathful deities. The main hands are crossed over the heart and hold a vajra sceptre and a bell. The other implements appear to be a vajra-hammer, a sword, another vajra or vajra-tipped attribute and possibly a lasso.





Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani – various forms

Undated (11th-12th century?), Western Tibet?, Vajrapani, three-deities form, copper alloy and pigments, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Rarely seen in sculpture, this form of Vajrapani with one head, two hands and two legs normally has a horse’s head in his headdress to represent Hayagriva and a full-bodied garuda. He wields a five-prong vajra sceptre with the right hand and does a wrathful gesture with the other. His flaming hair is tied in a bunch with a snake and more snakes adorn his body. Here he is clad in a tight-fitting tiger skin engraved in the manner of the Ngari district sculptures, and appears to stand on nagas.

17th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with pigments and cold gold, made by Chöying Dorje, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang in Lhasa (Tibet), published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

A creative work by the 10th karmapa, showing Vajrapani with a human face, squatting over a couple of victims who have been interpreted by Bonhams as garudas, on a rocky pedestal with two kneeling figures at the front.

He holds a vajra sceptre in his right hand and a mongoose in the other (normally associated with Jambhala).

16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

One would expect to see a bell in his left hand, but on this other work ,where he is an attendant to Ushnishavijaya, he also holds a vajra sceptre and a mongoose.

16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani (labelled Hayagriva) gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Ader Nordmann.

In his mahacakra form he has three heads (sometimes four) and six hands (sometimes eight), the lower ones clutching a very long snake held between his teeth. He may be alone or with his consort and usually stands with both legs crushing two victims.

16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani (labelled Mahakala), bronze, at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Vajrapani in the Nilambara form, with one head with three eyes, two hands, in which he holds vajra sceptre and bell, two legs normally treading on a single victim lying on snakes.  He is adorned with snake anklets and bracelets, bone jewellery, a garuda in his headdress and another two on his chest. As, according to textual sources,  this form has no skull crown or garland of several heads the artist has adorned him a flowing celestial scarf and a crown made of floral panels.

17th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, silver, location unknown, photo from the Huntington Archive.

In his chanda form, the left hand holds a lasso and does a wrathful gesture, usually with two fingers raised (karana mudra) to ward off evil, in this case with just the forefinger raised as a threatening gesture (tarjani mudra). Traditionally, he stands on a victim lying on a bed of serpents. Apart from the usual wrathful ornaments, this late example includes a cross-belt with skulls and a lion skin stretched across his back.

Tibet, Shakyamuni seated -dhyana mudra (2)

Circa 11th century, Western Tibet, Guge, Shakyamuni, clay and paint, private collection, photo by Astamangala.

This rare piece depicts the historical buddha with both hands in the meditation gesture (dhyana mudra), his long pleated robe covering both shoulders, the hem decorated with blue embroidery.

11th-12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

On this Indian-style work the diaphanous garments are barely noticeable.

Circa 13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Tibetan brass sculpture at its height often incorporated silver inlay, in this case for the eyes and the beading on the hem…

… and copper inlay, for the lips and the incised border.

The metal inlay continues at the back of the robe, whereas the majority of Tibetan metal sculptures have no lotus petals at the back of the base.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The dharma wheels incised on the sole of his feet distinguish him from Amitabha, who has a buddha appearance and holds a bowl in his cupped hands.



Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (2)

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, copper alloy with pigments, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

One of the most recurrent forms of Mahakala is the one-head and two-hand form known as panjarnata/panjara nata (gurgyi gompo in Tibetan) – for the full and more accurate name and meaning see the Himalayan Art Resources website. Easy to recognise, he squats on a victim and holds a flaying knife and a skull cup before his heart and has a danda stick (missing here) balancing over both arms.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, mGon dkar (labelled son-dkar), bronze, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (USA). Called cintimani sita in sanskrit, this form has one head and six arms, the main right hand holding a wish-granting jewel at heart level. The other right hands hold a flaying knife and a drum, the left ones hold a (broken) trident, an elephant goad and a skull cup with a long-life vase in it.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Mahakala – Chaturbhuja, silver, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The four-hand form (chaturbhuja) of this wrathful deity may hold a variety of attributes. The above holds a skull cup in his left hand and a heart-shaped lotus bud on the other side. The upper hands hold a flaming sword and a staff. He wears the usual wrathful ornaments including a five-skull cup, a garland of severed heads and a long snake worn as a sacred cord.

Generally speaking, male deities with a wrathful appearance wear a tiger skin loin cloth, marked with flame-like stripes, and females wear a leopard skin, marked with star-like dots. The above appears to be wearing a leopard skin.

12th century, Tibet, Chaturbhuja Mahakala, stone, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (USA).

On this much older example he is seated on a victim. He wears a tiger skin that completely covers his legs and his right foot rests on a large lotus fastened to the base, in the Indian fashion (Pala period).


Tibet, Manjushri – various forms (2)

11th century, Tibet, Manjushri, bronze with paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This work, displaying a mixture of Kashmiri, Himachal Pradesh, Indian and West Tibetan features, depicts Manjushri  seated in the vajra position, brandishing a flaming sword and holding the Prajnaparamita sutra against his heart – a form generally  called arapachana although when the book is in his hand (rather than on a blue lotus to his left) it is sometimes referred to as sthiracakra.

12th-13th century, Tibet, Manjughosa (a form of Manjushri), gilt bronze (copper alloy) with paint and stones, t the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

In his peaceful form Manjushri doesn’t have a sword. The above holds the stem of a lotus that supports a book topped with three pearls (to his left).

15th-16th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences at Power House Museum in Sydney (Australia).

From the 13th century onwards he may hold the stem of a lotus supporting the hilt of a sword to his right and the other lotus supports the book. Apart from the style of the lotus base and the belt with raining jewels, the fact that his hands are held in the dharmacakra mudra suggests that this sculpture was made by a Nepalese artist.

16th century, Tibet, Manjushri, copper alloy, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (USA).

A rare image of Manjushri as a child, his hair divided in five top knots, holding a lotus topped with a book in his right hand and a roundish object in the other (possibly a conch shell).


Tibet, Achala – various forms (2)

Undated, Tibet, Achala, bronze with cold gold and pigments, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (USA).

Achala always brandishes a sword with the right hand and holds a lasso, usually at heart level, with the other. The lasso may be unwound (as above), wound around his hand, folded or sheathed inside his hand.

Acala, 12th century, Tibet, Chloritic stone with gilding; H. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm); W. 3 15/16 in. (10 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2015 (2015.500.4.16)

Sculptures often depict the blue form of Achala, who may have blue skin or blue hair (black on paintings) but is otherwise identified by the way his upper fangs bite down his lower lip.

Undated, Tibet, Achala, gilt metal with turquoise inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

When kneeling, Blue Achala may have a human appearance…

17th-18th century, Tibet, Achala, bronze (copper alloy) with paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

and there is no victim under him.


Undated (circa 12th century?), Tibet, blue Achala, brass, at the Palace Museum in Beijing (China).

When standing he may crush one or two victims.

Undated, Tibet, Achala, clay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

One of them is Ganapati, the elephant-headed deity.

16th century, Tibet, Achala, copper alloy, private collection.

On sculptures he often has the ‘flaming’ red-orange hair proper to wrathful deities.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Achala, gilt copper alloy with coral and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Kapoor Gallery.

A few sculptures depict another form of Achala. He has a gaping mouth, his hair and his body are never dyed blue.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Achala, formerly labelled Black Manjushri, copper alloy, is or was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA).

He may be kneeling too and can easily be confused with Black Manjushri but the latter (very rarely seen in the form of a statue) would not hold a lasso in his left hand.




Tibet, Vajrakila (2)

12th century, Tibet, Vajrakila (labelled Samvara with consort), brass with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Originally published as Chakrasamvara, this deity with four heads, each with three eyes, six arms and 4 legs is in fact Vajrakila (and labelled as such on the Himalayan Art Resources website).

He is adorned with snakes, a foliate tiara on each head, large hoops on the main one, his flaming hair is gathered in a bunch and decorated with small buddhas. His main hands are cupped to hold what was should be a kila, his other right hands hold a nine-prong vajra and a five-prong vajra…

… the left ones hold a trident and some flames, all of which correspond to Vajrakila.

He wears a garland of severed heads, they tread on two victims. Diptachakra has one head and two hands, in which she holds a skull cup and a flaying knife.

14th century, Tibet, Vajrakila, gilt copper alloy with stones and pigments, private collection, photo by Pundoles.

On this image two of his attributes are missing but the kila peg is visible between his main hands.

14th century, Tibet, Vajrakila and consort, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This heruka always has four legs (or a kila instead of legs),  the main left leg is always extended, the other is bent, the secondary legs are often smaller and dangling onto the lotus base.

Undated, Tibet, Vajrakila and consort, copper alloy, published in the Realm of Tibetan Buddhism, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

In the texts he is described as having a vajra finial on his chignon.