Mongolia, wrathful forms

18th century, Mongolia, Palden Lhamo, at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Art

18th century, Mongolia, Palden Lhamo, at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art.

This is in fact more likely to be Magzor Gyalmo, a wrathful form of Sarasvati, whose appearance is very similar. She rides her khyang seated sideways, has one head and two arms. Her right hand holds a vajra staff, there is a skull cup filled with blood and flesh in her left hand, at heart level. She is wrapped in a tiger-skin loincloth, wears a garland of severed human heads and sits on the skin of her dead son. The attendant on the left has the head of a makara (see the mythical creatures section in the right-handside column), the other has the head of a snow lion.

17th century circa (or later), Mongolia, Begtse Chen, gilt copper alloy+pigment

17th century circa (or later), Mongolia, Begtse Chen, gilt copper alloy+pigment, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

There are few sculptures of Begtse Chen (‘Great Coat of Mail’), known as red Mahakala in Tibet and popular mainly in Mongolia. Apart from his coat of mail he traditionally wears thick boots. We see him here adorned with a garland of severed human heads and a skull crown. He holds a flaming sword and has both hands in the tarjana mudra. The treatment of the hair, the design of the billowing cloth at shoulder and thigh level and the snake-like upward flying crown ribbons point to a Chinese influence.

17th century circa, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt metal, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

17th century circa, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt metal, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

This singular piece is thought to have been made by Zanabazar himself.  Wrathful Vajrapani stands on a single-lotus pedestal with broad round petals going downwards. He holds a thunderbolt or vajra and wears the skin of a tiger around his waist and a thin celestial scarf, which reaches to the ground and springs up again in a most effective and creative way to evoke leaves or plants perhaps. Instead of his usual snake jewellery and skull crown, the deity is adorned with beaded jewellery and a crown with a flaming pearl design. He does the tarjana mudra  with his left hand.

Yama. Same as before.

Yama. Same as before.

Yama (Dharmaraja) has the head of a buffalo and normally stands on a male buffalo. His attributes are a bone stick and a lasso or a flaming sword and a mirror. This sculpture depicts him with Chinese-style cross-belt, flaming hair and snake-like upward flying crown ribbons. He wears a five-skull crown and a garland of severed heads. We will notice on this piece and on the previous one the exquisite shape of the hands and feet.

18th century, Mongolia, Guru Dragpo, gilt metal, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

18th century, Mongolia, Guru Dragpo, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

Standing on two corpses over a single-lotus base, this wrathful form of Padmsambhava (with three eyes and fangs) holds a vajra in his right hand and a scorpion in the other. He wears a skull-crown, a garland of freshly severed heads, a cross-belt, a tiger-skin loincloth, and beaded jewellery.

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Tibet, Yama and Yami

17th century, Tibet, Yama, copper alloy, private collection.

17th century, Tibet, Yama, copper alloy, private collection.

Yama, of hindu origin, is represented here as a buddhist protector, holding a lasso in his left hand and a stick in his right hand. With a buffalo head, adorned with a five-skull crown, bone jewellery, a cross belt, a garland of fifty severed heads, a tiger skin dhoti, he stands on a buffalo kneeling on a corpse. Next to him is his twin sister and consort Yami, also known as Chamundi or Chamunda, always represented at a much smaller scale than him.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Yama and Yami, gilt copper alloy, photo by Bonhams.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Yama and Yami, gilt copper alloy, photo by Bonhams.

The above sculpture shows Yami with the head of a wild goat. In Northern India there is a temple devoted to  Chamunda with votive offerings shaped like the horns of wild goats or deer.

18th century, Tibet, Yama and Yami, gilt copper alloy, stones, pigment, photo by Christie's.

18th century, Tibet, Yama and Yami, gilt copper alloy, stones, pigment, photo by Christie’s.

On this more modern version, she stands with both feet on the bull

Tibet, Yama

In Tibetan buddhism, Yama is a wrathful protector who presides over  the cycle of death and rebirth. He has a buffalo head and stands on a male buffalo lying over a corpse. He is adorned with the wrathful ornaments (five-skull crown, bone jewellery, garland of  severed heads) and wears a tiger skin as a loin cloth. In his right hand he may hold a bone stick or a sword, in his left hand he may have a lasso or a mirror.

15th century, Tibet, Yama, bronze and cold gold, private collection.

15th century, Tibet, Yama, bronze, cold gold, pigment,  photo by Christie’s.

This could in fact be Vajrabhairava, who may hold a flaying knife and a skull cup at heart level.

16th century, Tibet, Yama, bronze, private collection on Himalayan Art Resources.

16th century, Tibet, Yama, bronze, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The shape of the scarf and the cross belt indicate a Chinese influence and help date the sculpture from around the 16th century onwards.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Yama, bronze, photo by Bonhams.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Yama, bronze, photo by Bonhams.

Here, the raised hair and the head seem out of proportion with the unusually slender body.

17th-18th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy and pigment, private collection.

17th-18th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy and pigment, private collection.