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Metal and Stone Vestiges
Religion, Magic and Protection in the Art of Ancient Tibet

Image 14a

This red ochre rock painting of the popular Buddhist deity Vajrapani (Chagna Dorje) is found as part of a composition with an overarching khyung (see image no. 5a). Cultural historical indications are that it was painted between 1000-1300, during the definitive spread of Buddhism in the southeastern Changthang. Like the khyung above it, it was created with water spirit (lu) suppressing qualities in mind. According to the Bon tradition, this particular locale is inhabited by lu, which are part of their mother tantra tradition (Magyud). This pictograph points to a religious stratagem used by the Buddhists to wrest control of the land from the Bonpo and their deities.

Unfortunately, much of the figure has been effaced precluding a complete analysis of its iconographic makeup. The composition is positively identified by the inscription written directly below it in the same red ochre; it reads: ‘Om badzra pani hum’. The stout body of Vajrapani is still recognizable, as well as part of his tiger-skin loincloth and anklets. The corpse he is astride and the flames surrounding him, standard iconographic components, are also visible. This Vajrapani is contained within an oval frame and stands on a lotus base (not shown in image).

all text & images © John Vincent Bellezza

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