West Tibet, Kadampa Style
First half of the 12th century
72 x 50 cm (28 ¾ by 20 in)
Private American Collection



In the present composition, at center the vivacious red Vajravarahi dances on one leg on a lotus pedestal inside a red arch, representing her radiance and aura. She is subordinate to Dipamsrijnana, better known as Atisa, the Indian Buddhist master who came to western Tibet in the 11th century at the request of the Guge king, for Atisa had composed several rituals for Vajravarahi, as well as translated them into Tibetan himself.  Moreover, with Rinchen zangpo, the renowned chaplain cum translator of the Guge king, Atisa translated a ritual for Vajravarahi as well as two rituals for Cakrasamvara in which Vajravarahi is the consort of Cakrasamvara, taking center stage in the mandalas. Thus during his 3 years in Guge, Atisa’s predilection for Vajrayogini leaves no doubt. Atisa is portrayed in the upper register, at left, recognizable due to his yellow pandita hat with short lappets, as well as his monastic robes, and making the gesture of teaching the dharma. Opposite Atisa is a layman with short hair, wearing Tibetan aristocratic robes, probably to be identified as Atisa’s primary Tibetan disciple, Brom-ston, who did not take monastic vows. 

Vajrayogini’s appearance and attributes reflect her power to sublimate.  In the four categories of rituals, red is the requisite color of deities of power, indicative of Vajravarahi’s force to vanquish. She brandishes the grigug chopper in her raised right hand, holds a kapala skull cup against her heart, and balances a khatvanga scepter in the crook of her left arm. The right leg is raised in tantric dance, the left leg bent with her left foot deftly positioned above the belly of a small male figure lying face up on the lotus pedestal. He represents the “obstacle-creating deities” and his position reflects his submission, his wide open eyes and smile show his adoration of Vajravarahi and enjoyment of his submission. The dark boar’s head protruding from behind her right ear is also indicative of her power because in Buddhist symbolism, the pig or boar is traditionally associated with the root poison of ignorance, thus this head symbolically shows how ignorance is conquered by her wrathful nature. 

The entire composition is surrounded by a border of red and blue jewels, which also serve as a border separate the central sector from a lower register.  Here, in between the upper and lower border of jewels, from left to right: Simhanada, the white form of Avalokitesvara distinguished by the sword inserted in the white/pale pink padma lotus, and the serpents which here, rather than adorn his chignon, are twirling about the vajra-tipped lance beside Avalokitesvara ;  Sakyamuni in monastic garb and bhumisparsa mudra who in this aspect evoked as the Buddha of the Triple Vow was one of Atisa’s yidam, principal meditation deities throughout his life; Green Tara who was one of Atisa’s principal meditation deities and protective goddess, in a specifically Indian iconography of the teaching mudra with central arms, the right shoulder graced with the book of the Prajnaparamita and the left shoulder adorned with the lotus ; Acala in his aspect holding sword in right hand, the left hand in tarjani mudra, precisely as he is described in the rituals composed and translated by Atisa. 

The painting of this thangka is characterized by extreme simplicity and skill; In particular, one may draw attention to the the jewelry such as the tiers of seed-pearls of the crown, the lozenge-shape gold elements with inset gems, the pendants suspended from the successive strands of the multiple necklaces – all these factors recall features identified in several paintings in public and private collections attributed to the 12th century , such as the thangka of Acala,21 x 35 cm,  late 11th-early 12th c, (illustrated in A. Heller, “On the development of the Iconography of Acala and Vighnantaka in Tibet”, in R. Linrothe and H. Sorenson, eds., Embodying Wisdom, Copenhagen, 2001: fig. 4, page 225),  the Green Tara in the Ford Collection, attributed to late 12th century, Central Tibet . This particular painting, however, exhibits the characteristic shape of the vajra which is the distinctive shape found West Tibet in the mural paintings of Dunkar, and in thangka which have also been attributed to this region, which also exhibit the distinctive border of jewels, and extreme starkness of this thangka. (see Vajrapani, 54 x 75 cm, private collection, radio-carbon date to 12th century, exhibited with Carlton Rochell in 2007, expertise by the present writer on August 18th, 2007). The similar size of the latter painting, while this Vajravarahi measures 50 X 72, and the extreme similarity of esthetic in jewelry detail and composition lead to consider that these paintings may have the same regional and chronological attribution.


Dr. Amy Heller, Nyon, May 14, 2009 




72 x 50厘米 28 ¾ x 20 英寸)



在此张唐卡上,画面正中的金刚亥母体呈红色,生动活泼,以舞蹈立姿单脚站立于莲花宝座之上,外有红色背光,象征着金刚亥母的辉光。金刚亥母遵从于印度佛教大师阿底峡。十一世纪的时候,阿底峡由于曾为金刚亥母造轨,并翻译成藏语而受古格王之邀来到西藏。此外,与古格王朝的仁钦桑布(Rinchen zangpo)大译师一起,阿底峡翻译了一本金刚亥母著作,以及两本上乐金刚著作。在古格的三年里,阿底峡对于金刚亥母的推崇是毋庸置疑的。在此张唐卡的左上方,通过其黄色班智达帽和简短的垂饰,僧袍,以及教学手印可以判断这正是噶当派祖师阿底峡。右上方是一位短发居士,身着西藏贵族长袍,被认为可能是阿底峡的大弟子,没有受过比丘戒的仲敦巴(Brom-ston)。





绿度母(Green Tara):阿底峡主要修持的本尊之一和保护神。主臂持印度式说法印,右肩饰有《般若波罗蜜多心经》,左肩开有莲花;



如:a.“不动明王唐卡”,21x35 厘米,十一世纪晚期至十二世纪早期,详见:A. Heller, “On the development of the Iconography of Acala and Vighnantaka in Tibet”; R. Linrothe and H. Sorenson, eds., Embodying Wisdom, Copenhagen, 2001: 4, 225页;

        b. “绿度母”,福特收藏(Ford Collection),认定为十二世纪晚期,西藏中部。

然而,此张唐卡展现出的金刚亥母的独特造型出自西藏西部的东嘎壁画,以及这一区域出产的唐卡。其特点均表现在特有的宝石边及唐卡本身的质朴性上。(参见“金刚手菩萨”,57x75厘米,私人收藏,放射性碳断代为十二世纪)这两张唐卡的大小相近,此张金刚亥母唐卡为 50x 72厘米,而两张唐卡在珠宝的细节处理和造型上极为相似,由此我们认为它们可能作于同样的年代及区域。


Amy Heller 博士,尼翁(瑞士),2009514