Vaishravana riding across the waters, a painting on silk


British Museum

British Museum

This is one of the best depictions of Vaishravana, Guardian King of the North, from Cave 17 at Mogao. Vaishravana is the most frequently represented of the four devarajas, the Guardian Kings of the points of the compass, probably because of Dunhuang's geographical location.Vaishravana upholds the Law and defends believers from evil, and is depicted here patrolling his domain with heavenly troops. He holds a golden halberd in his right hand; to his left, there is a purple cloud supporting a stupa. His procession is preceded by his sister, Shri Devi, Goddess of Material Blessings, holding a golden dish of flowers. On his right, the rishi Vasu is portrayed as a white-haired man. The green-robed figure who holds a flaming pearl and the gentleman wearing a four-pronged crown are probably Vaishravana's sons. Five yaksha warriors bring up the rear. The Garuda in flight represents those dark forces against which Vaishravana offered protection.

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  • Title: Vaishravana riding across the waters, a painting on silk
  • Date Created: 800/899
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 37.60cm; Width: 26.60cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: arms/armour; lokapala; stupa
  • Registration number: 1919,0101,0.45
  • Production place: Painted in China
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Qian Fo Dong. Excavated/Findspot
  • Period/culture: Tang dynasty
  • Material: silk
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Collected by Stein, Marc Aurel


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