His four heads, in their painted form, have the following four
colors: the central one is blue; the one at the right yellow; the
one at the left green; the one at the back, red. On each head is
a crown of five skulls, above each of which is a flaming pearl.
Each face has a third eye and an angry expression. His body is
blue in color and represented with twelve arms.
He wears a long garland of heads, and a tiger-skin hangs from his
waist. He steps to the left on a nude figure of a four-armed
female, and on the right treads on a four-armed man with a
tiger-skin covering. The whole group is on a lotus with jagged
Shamvara is represented here with his shakti, Vajravarahi, whom
he clasps to his breast, his arms crossed behind her back.
Vajravarahi holds a skull cup and chopper. She is of cherry
color, and according to her sadhana, has 'nothing but the four
quarters as her garments', i.e., is represented nude.
Shamvara's hair is arranged in the coif of a yogi. This is a
reminder that he was first worshipped by the wandering ascetics
of medieval India, and that he shares some attributes with Shiva.
According to legend, the Hindu god Shiva became the Buddhist
deity Shamvara, and his teachings were brought to Tibet in the
eleventh century. Both Shiva and Shamvara are supposed to dwell
on Mount Kailash, a place for pilgrimage for Hindus and Tibetan
Buddhists. His name too, for example, is related to Shamba
(Fortunate), an epithet of Shiva.
Tibetans say that rather than having an ordinary physical form,
such a deity is a congerie of pure symbolic elements. Thus, the
deity's attributes are of paramount importance; they are clues to
his identity and to his function in meditation and ritual.
According to Snellgrove, the symbolic interpretation of Shamvara
is as follows:
'His body is blue, indicating that he does not diverge from the
(celestial) Dharma-sphere. Each face has three eyes, indicating
that he sees the (whole) threefold world and that he knows the
substance of the three times (past, present, and future). He has
twelve arms indicating that he comprehends the evolution and
reversal of the twelvefold causal nexus and eliminates these
twelve stages of transmigration.'
Corresponding to the usual iconography of Shamvara, this image
has twelve arms, each of which hold a characteristic implement.
Tantric texts explain the meaning of each implement:
The first pair of hands holds, right and left, a vajra scepter
and a bell respectively, symbolizing the union of skillful means
The second pair rends the elephant of illusion and stretches its
hide out like a cape.
The drum in the third right hand shows that Shamvara's "voice
resounds joyously." The third left hand holds the khatvanga staff
that represents "the blissful Thought of Enlightenment."
His fourth right hand brandishes the axe that "cuts off birth and
death at the roots." The skull bowl full of blood in his fourth
left hand shows that he "has cut away discrimination between
existence and non-existence.
His fifth right hand wields the vajra chopper that "cuts off the
six defects, pride and the rest." The vajra lasso in his fifth
left hand binds beings to wisdom from life to life.
The trident in his sixth right hand signals that he has "overcome
the evil of the threefold world." The severed head of the god
Brahma dangles from his sixth left hand, showing that Shamvara
"avoids all illusion."
Each of our thangkas comes framed in silk brocade and veil, ready to be hung in your altar.
Of Related Interest:
Paramasukha-Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi (Large Sculpture)
Love and Passion in Tantric Buddhist Art (Article)
Hevajra in Yab Yum (Tibetan Thangka Painting)
Manjushri Yab-Yum (Brass
Shiva Shakti (Brass
Tantric Buddhism (Book)
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