Attributes of rDo-rje Grags-mo brGyal (Dorje Dragmogyel) in a "rgyan tshogs" banner. Distemper painting by a Tibetan painter.

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Fifteen banners from a Tibetan Protector chapel.
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About this work


The deity who is invited to take her seat here is rDo-rje Grags-mo brGyal (Dorje Dragmogyel), 'The famed vajra lady who causes all to faint'. Dorje Dragmogyel, also known as Mari Rabjam, is revered as the female consort of Machen Pomra, the protecting deity of Mount Amnye Machen in Amdo. As such, she is revered as the leader of the group of twelve mountain goddesses (brtan-ma bcu-gnyis), and in Central Tibet she has a particular affinity with Mount Riwo Gephel, above Drepung and Nechung monasteries, to the west of Lhasa. According to some traditions, Dorje Dragmogyel was first bound under an oath of allegiance to Buddhism in the 8th century at the Chimphu Caves, above Samye, by Padmasambhava, who first introduced the highest tantras and the Dzogchen teachings from India to Tibet in the late 8th century. As in the banners in this series in honour of Kubera and Machik Palden Lhamo, the absence of charnel-house scenes here gives the protectress a more peaceful demeanour

At the bottom centre is a large gtor ma (offering cake) flanked by two small ones. Above the central gtor ma are the accoutrements of the deity: her crown of five turquoises set in gold, a white veil representing her face, and a white robe representing her body, patterned with green and red, with blue facings and a yellow inner garment. She is garlanded with a neck-band, bracelets, earrings and a long necklace of jewels. These accoutrements are draped above a lotus throne, and alongside them are the symbolic hand-held attributes of Dorje Dragmogyel: in her right hand the feathered arrow fastened with an oracular mirror and draped with five-coloured streamers, and in her left hand a vase with flowing streamers

These attributes are set up on a lotus throne before which is a dish with jewels, flanked by two dishes filled with offerings and medicinal substances. To the left of the crown is a white moon, to the right a red sun. Above there is a pair of white doves flying in the air, and grey eagles fly at the sides beyond sun and moon

In the top left-hand corner is a wheel of the law, in the top right-hand corner is a mirror, and in the centre a three-tiered umbrella, a symbol of power; bejewelled hangings and flowers are interspersed between them, very different from the chains of entrails and flayed skins usually seen in this series of banners. Below, there are several vessels, amongst them a Chinese ting (covered copper tripod), a tall jug, a vase containing two red and two white lotuses and bowls filled with offerings and medicinal substances. A conch shell filled with a grey substance emerges from a vase. There are musical instruments: a double drum and two trumpets

Flanking the white offering cake in the bottom half are various animals, including (left) the saddled stag with ten-forked antlers, which is the mount of Dorje Dragmogyel, as well as a grey yak, a pair of grey and white rams, and a tiger, and (right) a saddled white horse, a white roebuck, a grey goat, a grey jackal, and a grey wolf devouring a suspended man whose entrails are eaten by a grey lion with a red mane

Near the bottom, on the left is a pool in front of a Chinese-style house with a Chinese fence. A man standing in the water is having water poured over himself by a Bodhisattva from the type of jar which is called spyi blugs. This is either a scene of consecration or, at least, a purification ritual. There are trees on the left and growing plants on the right. On the right is a five-tiered pagoda. Several items in this banner with Chinese features reflect the protectress's associations with Mount Amnye Machen in Golok, in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands



Physical description

1 painting : distemper on linen ; distemper 62 x 47 cm.

References note

Marianne Winder, Catalogue of Tibetan manuscripts and xylographs, and catalogue of thankas, banners and other paintings and drawings in the Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London 1989, pp. 97-98, thankas banners and paintings no. 38
Gyurme Dorje, 'A rare series of Tibetan banners', in N. Allan (ed.), Pearls of the Orient: Asian treasures of the Wellcome Library, London 2003, pp. 161-177 (pp. 172-174 and fig. 13)


Wellcome Collection 47077i

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