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Early Tibetan Mandalas


Nairatma Mandala
bdag-med-ma'i dkyil-'khor

Central Tibet, 13th century
64.8 x 53.4 cm

Nairatma mandala

Nairatma ("She who is without ego") appears at the center of this mandala in her four-armed form.1 She holds her characteristic attributes: skullcup, chopper, vajra, and ceremonial staff. Robed in a tiger skin, she dances on a corpse. Two concentric ci rcles of yoginis enclose Nairatma. In the first circle are Vajra (E), Gauri (S), Variyogini (W), and Vajradakini (N). In the second circle are Gauri (E), Cauri (S), Vetali (W), Ghasmari (N), Pukkasi (NE), Sabari (SE), Candali (SW), and Dombini (NW), wit h Khecari marking the zenith, and Bhucari, the nadir of the mandala.

Four musicians appear at the intermediate points, just inside the mandala palace: Vamsa (NE), Vina (SE), Mukunda (SW), Muraja (NW). The door guardians are bi-colored and bear the heads of animals: horse-headed Hayasya (E), pig-head Sukarasya (S), dog-hea ded Svanasya (W), lion-headed Simhasya (N).

Outside the mandala proper are circles containing wrathful deities, one in each of the four corners, surrounded by minor deities. Other deities are arranged in the top and bottom registers, all identified by inscriptions, although some inscriptions are n ow abraded. The monk in the right corner of the lower register is identified by inscription as the donor (sbyin-bdag) Bodhisri. An historical figure by this name is described in early literary sources as one of the main disciples of tandala: Nairatma's m andala of twenty-three deities (bdag-med-ma lha nyi-shu-rtsa-gsum-kyi dkyil-'khor).

2 Roerich, The Blue Annals, pp. 1071-72.

Bodhisri is also identified by the Tibetan translation of his Sanskrit name, byang-chub-dpal.


Images and text Rossi and Rossi, London.

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