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Deities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art

19th century
Pigments and gold on sized cloth; copper, silver and glass case
10.8 x 9.2 cm

Gift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton, 2014.23.399.1a-cVajrapani is the embodiment of spiritual power. He has been revered as a meditational deity in Mongolia since the 16th century, and is also considered to be the nation’s patron saint and protector. As here, Vajrapani is typically portrayed in Mongolian art standing with legs and arms stretched apart in a dynamic pose, and with his raised right hand holding a vajra scepter and his left hand held in front of him in a gesture of warning. He wears a five-jewel crown on his head, and his muscular, blue-skinned body is dressed with a green scarf and tiger-skin loin cloth. Although his grimacing facial expression and threatening hand gestures give Vajrapani a frightening appearance, he is not meant to be feared and is often embraced by monks and lay believers as a personal protector. The reverse of this painting is inscribed with the standard five-syllable consecration mantra oṃ āh hūm svā hā.

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. 724-731; Meinert, Carmen (ed.). Buddha in the Yurt: Buddhist Art from Mongolia, Volumes 1 & 2. Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2011, pp. 274-283.