The Deity Vajrabhairava, Tantric Form of the Bodhisattva Manjushri


Not on view

The most popular tantric manifestation of Manjushri is Vajrabhairava. Here, he has a buffalo head, holds an array of weapons, and tramples on birds, dogs, and Hindu gods. In this form, he is sometimes called Yamantaka, or the defeater of death, a deity that ends the cycle of rebirth and provides a path to nirvana. He frightens away egotism and selfishness—the root of suffering—and in this true form reveals the awesome and terrifying nature of enlightenment. For this extraordinary embroidery, the artist employed fine silk floss to achieve brilliant gradations of color and used horsehair underneath to create three-dimensional effects. The work was likely part of a group given by the Yongle-period emperor Chengzu to a Tibetan monk who conducted Vajrayana rituals in the Chinese court in 1415–16.

On view from February 25–October 30, 2022

The Deity Vajrabhairava, Tantric Form of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, Embroidery in silk, metallic thread, and horsehair on silk satin, China

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