Identification and Creation
Object Number
Four-circle Hevajra Mandala
Work Type
15th-16th centuries
Creation Place: South Asia, Tibet
Physical Descriptions
Thangka mounted as an album leaf; ink and colors on linen
H. 53.3 x W. 44.5 cm (21 x 17 1/2 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Paul Bernat Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Painted for the Sakya Order; probably from the Ngor Monastery, Tsang, Tibet

Label Text: Buddhist Art: The Later Tradition (1993) , written 1993
This mandala has at its center the seated Buddha Sakyamuni, his hands arranged in the dharmacakra-mudra, or wheel-turning gesture, indicating that he is preaching his first sermon. The male figure in the embracing couple at the center of each of the four circular mandalas is a form of Hevajra, the presiding deity of the esoteric Vajrayana Buddhist ritual described in the Hevajratantra, indicating that this mandala is dedicated to Hejavra. He is locked in sexual embrace with his female partner, known as Nairatmya, or No-Soul. Below the couple’s feet are supine beings symbolizing evil spirits, who are being trampled and destroyed. Set against a pattern of undulating waves, each Hevajra-Nairatmya couple appears in a stylized lotus blossom centered within the confines of the deities’ square palace; a small deity guards each corner of the palace as well as each of its four gates. Virtuous monks surrounded by a variety of deities appear between the mandala circles, although fierce deities appear immediately below the lower set of circles. Along the top and bottom is an arcaded register, each with fourteen arches. Seated monks occupy twelve of the arches along the top, seated deities the other two; deities occupy twelve of the arches along the bottom, a seated priest and a tantric altar the remaining two. In fact, the monk seated in the lower right corner is presiding over the Hevajratantra, the ritual in which this mandala is traditionally used; a variety of ritual objects rest on the altar.

Publication History

Francesca Herndon-Consagra, Reflections of the Buddha, exh. cat., Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MO, 2011-2012), p. 26 (installation image); p. 28 (color plate); p. 42, no. 12

Exhibition History

Reflections of the Buddha, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 09/09/2011 - 03/10/2012

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at