Enlarge Image

Deities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art

Secret Accomplishment Hayagriva
early 20th century
Cotton and silk appliqué
84.4 x 71.4 cm.

Hope College Collection, 2019.10.1

Hayagriva was originally a Hindu deity who became part of the Buddhist pantheon sometime around the 6th century CE.  In Tantric Buddhism, Hayagriva is considered to be a wrathful manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, and can appear in several forms, primarily as a meditational deity. The form of Hayagriva depicted here is called Secret Accomplishment (Guhyasadana) Hayagriva. He has one head, three faces, six arms and eight legs. His most distinctive attributes are the three horseheads that grow from his upswept hair. The hands of Hayagriva’s three right arms hold a vajra scepter, a mace and a sword. The hand of his top left arm is held out in a warning gesture while the other two left hands hold a spear and a lasso. He also wears a skull crown and bone jewelry, and sports a belt of freshly severed human heads around his tiger-skin loincloth. His eight feet trample on bundles of multi-colored snakes and he is surrounded by a luminous mandorla.

References: Fleming, Zara (ed.). Mongolian Buddhist Art: Masterpieces from the Museums of Mongolia. Volume 1, Parts 1 & 2: Thangkas, Appliqués and Embroideries. Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2011, pp. 570-571; Meinert, Carmen (ed.). Buddha in the Yurt: Buddhist Art from Mongolia, Volumes 1 & 2. Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2011, pp. 484-485; Kreijger, Hugo E. Tibetan Painting: The Jucker Collection. Boston: Shambala, 2001, pp. 106-107; Lipton, Barbara. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 111-114; Berger, Patricia and Bartholomew, Terese Tse. Mongolia: The Legacy of Chinggis Khan. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1995, pp. 234-235.