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, wrathful Vajrapani (13)

Undated, Tibet?, Vajrapani, krodha, copper alloy, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Very similar in style to a 12th century sculpture of Vighnantaka from Tibet, this work depicts the simplest form of wrathful (krodha) Vajrapani, with one head with three eyes, two hands and two legs. He brandishes a vajra sceptre with the right hand and holds a (missing) vajra-handled bell  in the other.

He wears a tiger skin dhoti knotted at the front, the head of the animal placed over his right knee.

He has silver-inlaid eyes and teeth, his flaming hair is tied with a snake. According to textual sources, this form of wrathful Vajrapani has no skull crown ora garland of severed heads. Instead, he is adorned with snakes, including a long one tied across the chest as a sacred cord.

15th century, Tibeto-Chinese, Vajrapani, parcel gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Later works often include a garland of severed heads. The above stands on two prone victims and wears a Chinese-style cross belt with a round breast plate. The rim of the single lotus base is decorated with scrolling vegetation.

15th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with turquoise and silver inlay, traces of pigments, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

In his canda form, Vajrapani does a wrathful gesture with his left hand, in this case the forefinger is raised in a threatening manner (tarjani mudra).

He either stands on snakes or crushes an enemy (of the Buddhist faith). The above wears a mixture of stone-inlaid and snake adornments.

Undated, Tibet?, Vajrapani, copper alloy, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

An example with both the forefinger and the little finger being raised while the others are pressed against the tip of the thumb, to ward off evil (karana mudra).

16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy and pigment, private collection, photo by Arcimboldo.

We have seen before how the tiger skin is sometimes placed with the tail of the animal dangling at the front (especially from the 18th century onwards).


Tibet, peaceful Vajrapani

9th-10th century, Tibet, probably Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

We have seen at least one example of Vajrapani holding a vajra sceptre in his right hand and the tall stem of a lotus in the other, instead of a bell. This figure stands with poise despite unusually broad shoulders and big limbs.

He has Pala-style facial features and accessories.

His short dhoti is richly incised and held in place with a belt decorated with a raining jewel pendant.

12th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This Vajrapani holds a vajra sceptre before his heart and a bell (ghanta) at hip level. He has a knee-length dhoti decorated with an incised lotus pattern  and is adorned with princely jewellery including floral earrings and a necklace with a heart-shaped bead in the middle.

There is an effigy of Akshobhya in his headdress.

There is no gilding at the back of the statue, which probably had a mandorla fastened to it.

12th-13th century (or 18th century?), Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA).

There is a debate as to whether this work actually dates from the 12th-13th century  or whether it is a Pala revival sculpture. The fact is that the sharpness of the petals on the pedestal and the chiselled effect of his plaited hair and of the flowers he holds are not typical of early Tibetan works, and his accessories are a curious mixture of styles and periods.

He is seated with his legs gathered loosely, leaning on his left hand in which he grasps the stem of a lotus. he holds a vajra sceptre horizontally in his right hand.


Tibet, peaceful Vajrapani – standing (5)

Labelled 12th-14th century, Western Himalayas (circa 11th century, Western Tibet or Ladakh?), Vajrapani, bronze (copper alloy) at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, published on wikipedia commons.

This Guge-style sculpture with an athletic body, marked knee caps, a lobed abdomen and a cruciform navel, is very similar to a 1oth-11th century Avalokiteshvara attributed to Western Tibet or Ladakh by the Musée Guimet in Paris and published in a previous post (see below). Vajrapani holds an upright vajra in his right hand and may have had a bell in the other. He is adorned with a long foliate garland, beaded jewellery, sacred thread and matching belt, large floral earrings and a sash worn tightly across the chest. Long strands of hair dyed with blue pigment fall over his shoulders. His transparent dhoti, shorter on one side and with an incised hem, forms a sharp point at the front that almost reaches the pedestal. The eyes are inlaid with silver in the Kashmiri fashion.

10th-11th century, Western Tibet or ancient Tibetan kingdom of Ladakh, Avalokiteshvara, brass with silver inlay, at Musée Guimet (Paris)


Tibet, peaceful Vajrapani – standing (4)

11rh-12th century, Western Tibet, Vajrapani, bronze (copper alloy) with silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Koller.

Possibly part of a set, this solid-cast figure has the bonhomie of many 11th and 12th century West Tibetan sculptures vaguely inspired by the Indian Pala style. The hair is gathered in a three-tier chignon topped with a lotus bud finial, his low tiara with a single leaf panel is fastened with ribbons forming large bows on each side of the head. He holds an upright vajra in his right hand and a vajra-handled bell in the other at hip level. His knee-length garment, knotted at the back, is decorated with a stippled motif and thick beading on the hem.

12th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Capriaquar on http://www.asianart.com.

Occasionally, this bodhisattva holds the stem of a lotus which supports the attribute and does a symbolic gesture with the other hand.

17th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, by Chöying Dorje, copper with cold gold and pigments, is or was at Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

The tenth karmapa portrayed, in his own particular style, a dishevelled Vajrapani standing on  twisted nagas (snakes) over a lotus on a rocky formation supported by two crouching figures.


Tibet, Manjushri triads

12th century, (West?) Tibet, Tibetan brass tradition, Vajrasattva, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, brass with cold gold and pigments, is or was at the potala, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

This group of  deities on lotuses is supported by four yakshas accompanied by a snow lion. Instead of being pot-bellied, naked and crouching the yakshas are depicted like atlantes and wear short dhotis. (For more information on yakshas see an article on the Ashmolean Museum website at http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/object/EA1995.95).

Manjushri, at the centre, brandishes his sword to cut through ignorance and holds the stem of an open lotus with a manuscript balancing on it.

To his left, Avalokiteshvara does the gesture of supreme generosity with his right hand and holds the stem of a similar eight-petal lotus, the skin of an antelope covers his left shoulder.

Vajrasattva holds a thunderbolt sceptre (vajra) and a bell (ghanta) together with the stem of a blue lotus.

12th century, Western Tibet, Vajrapani, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

A similar triad, with the base missing. Manjushri’s book is supported by a blue lotus, Avalokiteshvara holds the neck of a ritual water pot in his right hand. Vajrapani’s main attribute is missing from his right hand.

On both sets, the blade of Manjushri’s sword is decorated with a geometrical pattern typical of sculptures produced in the Ngari area of Western Tibet around the 12th century.

11th-12th century, Tibet, Manjushri, Vajrasattva, Avalokiteshvara, brass, Tibetan brass tradition, is or was at the Lima Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Here Vajrasattva  stands at the centre and Manjushri and Avalokiteshvara are depicted as attendants (smaller size).

NB: when standing, Vajrasattva and Vajrapani may have the same appearance and it is often impossible to know which is which unless an inscription on the base of the sculpture identifies the figure.


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.