Rossi & Rossi, Ltd., London
Axel Ball Collection
Rossi & Rossi Ltd., Tibetan Painted Mandalas, exhibition catalogue, London, 1993
This vibrant mandala represents an unusual four-armed aspect of Vajrapani, identified by the vajra he wields in his upper right hand. Encircled by stylized lotus petals, the ferocious tantric deity stands menacingly upon a makara at the center of the composition. His midnight-blue skin, richly covered in gold jewelry, is highlighted against the vibrant red background of the central section. Wrapped around the god’s bulging waist, a striped tiger skin acts as a short dhoti, and around his shoulders a white serpentine scarf forms a striking collar-like arc. Each of Vajrapani’s three faces bears an expression of belligerence, particularly evident in the expressive features of the primary countenance. With sharp fangs exposed, he ejects writhing snakes from his open mouth, and his three eyes bulge in anger. Further attesting to the deity’s wrathful nature, additional serpents are woven through his fiery orange hair.
Iconographically, this form of Vajrapani is a curious composite derived from both Bhutadamara Vajrapani and Mahacakra Vajrapani. Although Bhutadamara Vajrapani holds his two primary arms in tarjani mudra and the vajra in his upper right hand, as does the central deity of this mandala, he is known to bear a lasso in his upper left hand instead of the ghanta seen here, and he has only a single head. It is Mahacakra Vajrapani who has three faces and holds the vajra and bell, similar to the present deity, yet he is characterized by six arms. The snakes dangling from the gaping mouth and the lunging position, alidha asana, are typical of both Mahacakra and Bhutadamara Vajrapani.
The lineage of spiritual transmission stemming from the central Buddha, and including numerous lamas and monks as well as the goddess-dakini Simhavaktra, depicted in the upper register contextualizes the mandala. The four corners are inhabited by a series of deities; two aspects of Hevajra reside in the upper quadrants, a yab-yum Amitayus is placed in the lower left corner, and Samvara sits in the lower right. The lineage of protective deities in the lower register, left to right, starts with the lama performing the consecration followed by: the ritual offerings; Jambhala as lord of wealth; a form of Vaisravana as warrior in armor and guardian of the north; Mahakala, in unusual aspect of Vairocana–Vagisvara with eight arms and three faces, holding the wheel of dharma in his upper right hand and a sword in his upper left hand; Manjusri; Avalokitesvara Sadaksari; Vajrapani; Acala; and Green Tara.
On the reverse, the inscriptions are in vertical alignment for OM AH HUM in very ornate and elegant lantsa alphabet (ornamental Indic script for writing Sanskrit mantra syllables). At the center, in the shape of a stupa, are dedication prayers in Tibetan script. These mantra syllables are dedicated to the Buddha of Omniscience, Sarvavid Vairocana. In addition, there are the Ye dharma verse of the origination of all phenomena and the Forbearance creed, which is the closing verse of the Disciplinary code (Vinaya) of Buddhist monks.