An Important thangka of the Chakrasamvara Mandala
An Important thangka of the Chakrasamvara Mandala


An Important thangka of the Chakrasamvara Mandala
Tibet, Shakya Order, Ngor Monastery, mid-15th century
With Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi in embrace at center, surrounded by eight deities within a square plan, an elaborate gate at each direction, all within a larger circle of deities bordered by acanthus leaves, against a red background with glazed scrollwork, retaining original rolling rod with inscription painted in gold
Opaque pigments and gold on textile
12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 cm.)
P. Pal, 'The Zimmerman Collection of Nepali Art,' Arts of Asia, Sept-Oct 1974, p. 48.

Lot Essay

The central deities in this mandala were described by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), as the following: "Shri Chakrasamvara with a body blue in colour, four faces and twelve hands. The main face is blue, left face red, back face yellow and right face white. Each face has three eyes and four bared fangs. The first two hands hold a vajra and bell embracing the mother. The lower two hold an elephant skin out-stretched; third right a damaru, fourth an axe, fifth a trident, sixth a curved knife. The third left holds a katvanga marked with a vajra; fourth a vajra lasso, fifth a blood filled skullcup, sixth carries the four-faced head of Brahma. The right leg is straight and presses on the breast of red Kalaratri; left bent and pressing on the head of black Yama. The hair is tied in a topknot on the crown of the head; on the crest a wish-fulfilling jewel ornament and crescent moon. The soft spot at the top of the head is marked with a visvavajra. Each head has a crown of five dry human skulls; a necklace of fifty fresh heads and six bone ornaments; wearing a lower garment of tiger skin; possessed of the nine emotions of dancing, grace, fearlessness and ugliness, laughter, ferocity and frightfulness; compassion, fury and peacefulness. In the lap is the Mother Vajravarahi, with a body red in colour, one face, two hands and three eyes. The left holds a blood-filled skullcup embracing the Father and the right a curved knife in a threatening gesture pointed in all directions. The hair is worn piled on the head; a crown of five dry human skulls and fifty dry as a necklace. The left leg is straight and right bent, embracing the Father. Both Father-Mother stand in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness."

The central deities are surrounded by four Dakinis interspersed with four vessels on a circular lotus within palace walls, which is further surrounded by the Eight Charnel Grounds. According to the Chakrasamvara ritual text composed by Chogyal Pagpa, these grounds are (starting north and proceeding clockwise): Dense Wild Thicket (north), Wildly Laughing (north-east), Gruesome (east), Marvelous Forest (south-east), Terrifying (south), Interminably Gloomy (south-west), Blazing with [the Sound] Ur Ur (west), Resounding with the Sound Kili Kili (north-west).

The inscription on the rolling rod reads: dril bu pa, which is the Tibetan name for the Ghantapa tradition, the most profound of the three Chakrasamvara-Vajravarahi commentaries. This mandala is in the style of the Ngor Monastery and is likely from a larger set of paintings.

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