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Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal

Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi
Nepal, Malla period, 1575–1600
Distemper and on cotton
Image: 28 x 24 in. (71.1 x 61 cm)

Zimmerman Family Collection, Purchase, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation Fund, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.457

This twelve-armed Chakrasamvara embracing his consort, Vajravarahi, is a highly charged vision by an advanced tantric master. Potent color dynamics add tension to the picture. The blue figure of Chakrasamvara has additional heads in yellow, green, and red (symbolizing the colors of the Jina "Victor" Buddhas). With his principal arms he grasps Vajravarahi and holds a bell and a thunderbolt (vajra) scepter in each hand. He is closely associated with the esoteric personifications of compassion, Heruka and Hevajra, and his iconography resembles much of Shiva's (both have three eyes and hold a skull cup, trident, and elephant skin). Such concordance of Buddhist and Hindu iconography is traced to Tantrism of medieval eastern India. Here, Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi trample a blue Bhairava and a red Kalaratri, showing their dominance over the Hindu gods.

Exhibition History
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Tibetan and Nepalese Art: Recent Acquisitions," September 17, 2013–February 2, 2014.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal," December 16, 2017–December 16, 2018.