Attributes of Cimara (gNod-sbyin rTsiu-dmar-po) in a "rgyan tshogs" banner. Distemper painting by a Tibetan painter.

Part of:
Fifteen banners from a Tibetan Protector chapel.
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About this work


The painting represents Cimara (Tsiyu Marpo, rTsi'u-dmar-po), an important protector of the Samye Monastery, and the leader of the warrior ghosts (btsan) who can induce colic and abdominal spasm. He is one of the 'world protectors' ('jig-rten-pa'i sruṅ-ma), a group of lower deities in the Tibetan pantheon. He is also a Dharmapāla ('protector of teachings')

Along the top edge are six skull bowls filled with the six sacramental substances: entrails; three eyes, tongue, ears, nose and skin; kidneys; indeterminate; blood; and three pyramids. Suspended between them are a conch, mirror, lute, gong, and roll or pennant of silk. Immediately underneath them are the double skull-drum and pair of shin-bone trumpets. At the centre is the leather helmet of Cimara, inset with three eyes and a band of small skulls, each of which is adorned with a vulture feather. The form of Cimara is represented by an ornate collar, robe, cuirass of scorpion shells, and boots, as well as by the red silken banner and red rope-snare which are his hand-implements

On the left of the central figure is a sṅags pa, a tantric practitioner, wearing a black broadbrimmed hat (on to which a wish-granting jewel has been pinned) and a face apron. He wields a ritual dagger and rope-snare. On the right is a monk who holds a staff and begging bowl. The tantric practitioner and the monk represent the 500 of each who are associated with Cimara. Below these are four further figures: on the left, a black woman making imprecations, and a red-robed, turban-clad man holding a feathered arrow; and on the right a green-hued person wearing a white turban and holding a covered vessel suspended from a rope, and an armour-clad soldier representing the battalions of the warrior ghosts

At the bottom, below the boots of Cimara, is a red offering-cake (gtor ma) in the form of a temple surmounted by a pointed tower to which a face mask is fastened, perhaps because the 'world protectors' are often represented in plays by people wearing deer masks. The mask seems to be ending in hook to which a rope is fastened. Under this tower is a lintel lined with skulls. Flanking the gtor ma are the black saddled horse that is Cimara's mount (top right), along with, on the left, a grey antelope, yak, monkey and white ram; and, on the right, a cockerel, red fox, white ram and grey monkey. In the lower left corner there is the motif of the Eight Auspicious Things, and in the lower right a five-storeyed pagoda



Physical description

1 painting : distemper on linen ; distemper 61 x 48 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. 96-97, thankas banners and paintings no. 37
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 (p. 172 and fig. 12)


Wellcome Collection 47090i

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