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Tibetan Thangka Painting

1.2 ft x 1.7 ft
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Viewed 13910 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
A Thangka is a painted or embroidered banner which was hung in a monastery or a family altar and carried by lamas in ceremonial processions. In Tibetan the word 'than' means flat and the suffix 'ka' stands for painting. The Thangka is thus a kind of painting done on flat surface but which can be rolled up when not required for display.

Vajravarahi is one of the female Buddha forms, also known as Vajradakini (Diamond Skywalker) or Vajrayogini (Diamond Spiritual Athlete). These female archetype deities symbolically illustrate the Buddhist insight that enlightenment is beyond all sexual identity.

Vajravarahi or the Adamantine Sow, is the consort of Chakrasamvara, the presiding deity of the Samvaratantra. A sow's head can be seen projecting from the apex of her crown of skulls.

Here the three-eyed, red Vajravarahi stands in a dancing pose with one foot on a man lying on his back, and with her right leg raised and suspended in the air in an awesome posture. Although an animal skin wraps her hips and thighs, she appears naked. Apart from various jewelry she wears a garland of severed human heads. She wears gold earrings, and fine bone ornaments adorn her body. The swaying strands of her ornaments reinforce the movements of her body and conjure the tinkling sounds of bone and bell that accompany her dramatic dance. Even livelier is the delineation of the scarf which swirls on either side of her body and forms a sort of halo around her head.

With her right hand she brandishes a chopper and with her left a skullcup. A khatvanga (magic staff) with two severed heads and crowned with a skull, is held against her body by her left arm.

Vajravarahi is the tutelary goddess of the nunnery of Semding, where every abbess is considered to be her emanation. She is also a very important goddess for the Drukpas, a subsect of the Kagyupas, who perform a special ritual for her every year on the twentieth day of the sixth month.

Sharp, almost abstract clarity, a vigorous spirit, and a touch of acerbic wildness characterize the distinctively Tibetan integration of the ideal and the real in this image.


This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.


Beer, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999.

Getty, Alice. The Gods of Northern Buddhism. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1978.

Lipton, Barbara, and Ragnubs, Nima Dorjee. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Rawson, Philip. The Art of Tantra. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Rhie, Marylin M. & Thurman, Robert A.F. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: women in Tantric Buddhism. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1998.

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