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Asian Art Gallery Ltd - Christopher Bruckner

Thangka depicting Vajrakila
Sino-Tibetan, possibly Mongolian
18th-19th c.
paint on cotton
H: 65cm (25.5"), W: 42.5cm (16.75")

Vajrakila is the deified personification of the phurbhu (magic dagger), a symbol of wisdom. He stands in pratyalidhasana, has three ferocious heads, six arms and four legs. The dagger is held between the principle pair of hands, an ancient Tibetan method of casting a curse upon an enemy. In each of the remaining right hands, he holds a vajra, and in the remaining left hands, a trident and a tripartite flaming object, possibly symbolising the flaming jewel of the Buddhist holy triad.

His consort holds aloft the kapala (skull cup) from which she offers him a gruesome drink. Behind both figures is draped the flayed skin of an elephant and that of a human.

Ten other emanations of Vajrakila, also in yab yum surround the central pair, five of these are blue, and one of each is red, green, white, yellow and silver.

Beneath the main figures, five dagger deities line up amongst a host of animal headed divinities, many riding fantastical mythical creatures.

Vajrakila is one of the archetype deities of the Nyingma order, evidenced by the presence of Samantabhadra Buddha in union with the white Samantabhadri in the top central position, as well as Padma Sambhava to the right.

Two Gelukpa lamas are also present, however, and testify to the popularity of Vajrakila, also for the yellow hat sect. In the top right is Tsong Kapa, with the book and the sword on lotuses at his shoulders, and in the centre below Samantabhadra Buddha sits a Dalai Lama, turning the wheel of law.

Other seated figures in the top register are various lamas and adepts, difficult to identify with certainty, and a Bodhisattva, holding a vajra and a ghanta.

References:

TIBET-TRADITION AND CHANGE, P.Pal, Albuquerque 1997, No: 71
WISDOM AND COMPASSION, M. Rhie & R. Thurmann, New York 1991, Nos: 51 and 53
WORLDS OF TRANSFORMATION, M.Rhie & R. Thurmann, New York 1999, Nos: 73 and 74

all text & images Asian Art Gallery Ltd

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