Vaishravana, God of Wealth


Vaishravana, God of Wealth



The deity, fully decked in heavy chainmail from neck to toe, including shoulder plates shaped as snake-hoods, sits on a recumbent roaring lion. His half-raised right hand must have held a spear which is now missing; the left hand resting on the thigh with palm upward holds a nakula (mongoose). His hair is tied in a bun, like a hermit’s, over which he wears a tiara with five leaves, the central lobe having a design of vishva-vajra (universal thunderbolt). His scarf with sharp folds spreads in a loop above his shoulders, behind his head, and under his armpits. His fierce countenance is emphasized by his bulging eyes, fangs, broad flat nose, moustache, and goatee.
This is in keeping with his role as one of the Eight Dharmapalas or guardians of the faith of Tibet. His mount, a white lion, has an armoured saddle and an angry countenance like his lord. Pigments have been used on his mane, inside the mouth, and on his tail to enhance the dramatic effect. Stylistically the bronze was likely made in eastern Tibet or China.
Vaishravana, the equivalent of Kubera, has a long history in Buddhism and the Buddhist art of India. He is depicted on a 1st-century Amaravati panel. Apart from his role as one of the Eight Dharmapalas in Tibet, he is one of the Four Protectors especially of the Gelugs Pa order, the other three being Palden Lhamo, Beg Tse, and Dorje Shukden. As one of the Four Maharajikas (Protectors) he is present at the Buddha’s birth in early Buddhist art. He is Commander of the Yakshas and the Lord of the North. His militant nature is evident from his attire, facial expression, and his aggressive mount.
Xuanzang, the Chinese pilgrim who visited India in 636 CE, refers to the temple of the Great Spirit King, i.e. Vaishravana, at Kapisa.

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection


Himalayan Art

Object Type



Gilt bronze with pigments






c. 17th century CE


Eastern Tibet or China


17.8 x 17.5 x 7.8 cm