Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vaishravana: Guardian of the North

Vaishravana is one of the guardians (or kings) of the four directions in Buddhist cosmology. Vaishravana, leader of the Yaksha race, is a worldly guardian viewed as both a protector and benefactor (wealth deity). In Buddhist cosmology he lives on the north side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. As the leader of the Four Direction Guardians, he like the others, swore an oath of protection before the Buddha Shakyamuni. The stories and iconography of the Four Guardian Kings arise originally with the early Buddhist sutras and became fully developed in the later Mahayana sutras. The Four Guardians are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Paintings of the Four are found as murals at the entrance way into temples and in sets depicting Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Great Arhats. The Four Guardians are rarely if ever painted alone except for Vaishravana who has more than a dozen different iconographic forms.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Prajnaparamita: Mother of Wisdom

A new outline page for the deity, the personification of the Prajnaparamita text has been uploaded to the site. There are two common iconographic forms of Prajnaparamita. The more common of these is the one face, four armed, yellow deity and the second is the one face two armed white form. There appear to be a number of Revealed Treasure forms and the Tibetan literature for these will need to be consulted. In museum and private collections worldwide there are many examples of Prajnaparamita represented in illuminated manuscripts. Many of these manuscript depictions do not follow the two common Tantric meditation forms discussed above.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sarasvati: Goddess of Eloquence - Outline Page

Sarasvati is a goddess of wisdom and learning in the both the Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions. She specializes in language, poetry and grammar. In Tantric Buddhism there are numerous forms of Sarasvati, peaceful and wrathful. The most common form is Vina Sarasvati, white in colour, with one face and two hands holding a stringed instrument. In this white two armed form there are descriptions for a solitary figure, a five deity mandala and a thirteen deity mandala. The three red forms of Sarasvati come from the Krishna Yamari Tantra. There are a number of descriptions of Manjushri embracing the consort Sarasvati and one form of red Sarasvati where it is Manjushri that is the minor consort. Shri Devi is a category of female protector deities. The Shri Devi known as Magzor Gyalmo is the most wrathful form of Sarasvati. She is also the special protector of the Dalai Lamas. The deity Rakta Yamari, a wrathful form of Manjushri, is commonly found at the top center of Magzor Gyalmo paintings.

Updates, Changes & Additions

The Iconography Outlines Index has been updated with all the new additions and changes. Mahamaya the Buddhist Tantric deity of 'Great Illusion' has been added along with an outline on Handprints & Footprints.

The Mongolian images from the Rinjung Lhantab of the 4th Panchen Lama are slowly being uploaded and catalogued. This is a complete illuminated text currently belonging to the Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich, Switzerland and the same subject matter as the publication Buddhist Iconography by Lokesh Chandra.

Many more outlines and thematic sets have been updated:
Iconography: Source Texts & Collections
Vajravali: Mandala & Deities

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Changes & Updates for Paintings & Sculptures

From the Art Link on the HAR home page three further links appear: Painting, Sculpture and Textiles. The Painting and Sculpture Pages have been updated. A Regions Page has been added along with an updated Religious Traditions Page. The Regions and Religions links have been added to the left hand navigation menu found on most secondary pages.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Second Call for Testimonials

The HAR website provides many services (HAR Services) that benefit the field of Himalayan art, culture and religious studies. We are in need of testimonials.

The HAR website is requesting, for the purposes of grant writing and fund raising, scholars, academics, and educators of all kinds to send in testimonials of support to be posted on the site. The website was created and went live in 1997. Technology has changed, hardware is more robust, and software offers many more features and benefits to the end users. The HAR website needs to look towards the future with plans for new technologies, upgrades to existing infra-structure and new user features. Please help us in moving the field forward. Thank You.

Send testimonials to:, or

--- Jeff Watt
Director & Chief Curator