Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi
Tangka, gouache on cotton
Image: 28 x 24 in. (71.1 x 61 cm)
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation Fund, 2012
Not on view
This powerful depiction of the twelve-armed Chakrasamvara embracing his consort Vajravarahi depicts 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 raised hands he holds the skin of an elephant. The next pair of hands holds a flaying knife and skull cup, while the third pair holds an elephant goad and a vajra-tipped noose. The fourth pair holds the double-sided drum (damaru) and the four-faced severed head of Brahma. In the fifth pair he holds a trident and a khatvanga ritual staff. With his principal hands he grasps Vajravarahi and holds the bell and vajra. He wears a garland of freshly severed heads over his shoulders.This is one of few Nepalese paintings to evoke so completely the energy of physical union as an expression of knowledge and method coming together to achieve enlightenment. Chakrasamvara is associated with both Heruka and Hevajra, and his iconography closely resembles that of Shiva (both have three eyes and hold a skull cup, trident, and elephant skin). Such concordance of Buddhist and Hindu iconography is not unusual and has its origins in tantrism of medieval eastern India. Here, Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi together trample a blue Bhairava and a red Kalartri, showing their dominance over these Hindu gods.