Attributes of Pehar and his four companions 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 painting shows the attributes of the protector deity Pehar and his four companions. The five aspects of Pehar are protectors within the Nyingmapa and Gelukpa traditions, where they are known as the 'Kings of Buddha's body, speech, mind, attributes and activities'. The aspects of Pehar appear to have had a Central Asian origin as the guardians of the kingdom of Bhatahor (identified with the Qilian Mountain region on the borders of Amdo and Gansu), which was subdued by the sons of King Trisong Detsen during the late 8th century. An image of the deity, known as Shingjachen, was then transported to Samye Monastery. Later, Pehar was propitiated by Lama Zhang of Tsal Gungtang, east of Lhasa, before being installed as a protector at Nechung, the seat of Tibet's official state oracle below Drepung

At the top of the painting, flayed hides and suspended viscera are represented, along with skull bowls holding the six sacramental substances. The skulls, flayed skin, popping eyes and torn-out tongue are sacrificial offerings made symbolically during the ceremony in which the deities take their seats in the banner. To the left and right respectvely are the costumes of the tantric practitioner and warrior, alluding to Pehar's retainers. The principal aspect of Pehar is the 'King of Buddha's activities', represented in this banner by the ritual dagger, with his wide-brimmed rattan hat and three brown faces representing the hilt of the dagger, and flanked by his six hand- implements. In his three right hands (on the viewer's left) he holds an iron hook, curved scimitar and arrow (?), while in the corresponding three left hands (on the viewer's right) he holds a knife(?), bow and arrow, and club. Alongside these are the hand-implements of his four companions the Dharmapālas or defenders of the teachings: Śakra ('King of Buddha's mind') holds a rope snare or lasso (right) and razor (far left?); Monbuputra ('King of Buddha's body') holds a golden vajra (thunderbolt) (second from left); Shingjachen ('King of Buddha's attributes') holds a battle-axe (right of Pehar); and Dralha Kyechigbu ('King of Buddha's speech') holds a bamboo staff (far right) and a sandalwood club (according to Gyurme Dorje, loc. cit.; Winder mentions a mirror)

Below are are the white snow-lion (the mount of Pehar), horse, mule and elephant. Below them is the central offering cake (gto ma), and around it other animals including the fox, camel, ram, and goat (the mounts of Pehar's familiars). The domestic animals in the upper part of the picture are sacred to Pehar and therefore given by householders to the monastery; all the offerings are finally turned into the nectar of health and bliss. The base of the offering cake is flanked by motifs representing the Eight Auspicious Things and the Seven Insignia of Royal Dominion, along with skull-cups of nectar and blood offerings. At the bottom, a half-pagoda can be seen at the margins on each side of the painting



Physical description

1 painting : distemper on linen ; distemper 60 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. 98-99, thankas banners and paintings no. 40
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. 171 and fig. 10)


Wellcome Collection 47072i

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