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Early Tibetan Mandalas


Hevajra Mandala
dgyes-pa rdo-rje'i dkyil-'khor

Central Tibet, 14th century
54 x 43.5 cm

Hevajara Mandala

Hevajra, "the [syllable] `He' which is luminous or diamond-like," embraces his consort Nairatma, "she who is without ego." Hevajra appears in his eight-faced form, three on either side of his primary face, the eighth surmounting the others and enveloped by flames. The Lord possesses four legs: one pair holds a powerful stance, alidha, the other assumes a gesture of dance, ardhaparyanka. His sixteen arms, poised with a dancer's grace, form a halo around his torso. This particular manifestation of Hevaj ra is known as Hevajra Kapaladhara, "Hevajra who holds the kapala (skullcup)."1 Indeed, each hand holds a skullcup, those on his right containing animals: an elephant, a horse, a donkey, an ox, a camel, a man, a sarabha (a lion or a mythological animal), and a cat. His left hands cradle deities in skullcups: Prthvi, the earth; Varuna, water; Vayu, air; Tejas, fire (or passion); Chandra, the moon; Aditya or Arka, the sun; Yama or Antaka, death; Dhanada, wealth. Garlands of skulls and severed heads adorn the otherwise naked Hevajra as he tramples on the four Maras, hindrances to Enlightenment.

Eight yoginis dance on open lotus petals, marking the first circle of Hevajra's mandala. This traditional group of eight includes: Gauri (E), Cauri (S), Vetali (W), Ghasmari (N), Pukkasi (NE), Sabari (SE), Candali (SW), Dombi (NW). Still within the mand ala-palace are eight initiation vases. In the four corners beyond the eight cremation grounds are images of Hevajra and Nairatma. Other deities appear in the painting's top and bottom registers, and in the lower left corner, a monk sits before ritual im plements.

1 The painting follows an iconographic description in the eighth chapter of the NSP. For identification of all deities in this mandala, see Mallmann, Introduction a l'iconographie du tantrisme bouddhique, pp. 48-49, 184-86.


Images and text Rossi and Rossi, London.

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