12th-13th century, Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay and red pigment, private collection
14th century, Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani, copper alloy and cloth, at the Basel Museum
Snakes (usually cobras) or nagas symbolise water, the underground, and unseen realms. These water spirits become furious when men shows disrespect towards nature and they punish them with disease or calamity. This is why they also symbolise anger and are worn by wrathful gods (Vajrapani, Mahakala, Achala) in the guise of necklaces, bracelets and anklet and sometimes in their headdress or like a hood over their head. The same figures often wear the hide of a tiger attached around their waist with the paws dangling at the front.
17th-18th century, Tibet, wrathful god Mahakala in his Bhairava form (with sword and lasso and tall headdress), private collection
13th century circa, Tibet, wrathful god Achala, private collection. What looks like an incised dhoti is in fact the skin of a tiger.
14th century, Tibet, Hayagriva’s headdress, published by Marcel Nies
15th-16th century, Tibet, healing horse with prayer-collar, cast bronze, private collection. The scroll attached to the collar contains the prayer (to cure somebody).
18th century, Tibet, horse carrying a flaming jewel, gilt copper alloy, private collection
Horses represent the wind, freedom, success. A windhorse carrying a flaming jewel is the vehicle of buddha Ratnasambhava (who has a jewel in the palm of his hand). The horse is also the symbol of wrathful god Hayagriva, who has up to 103 horse’s heads in his headdress.