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Hayagriva, 17th century

Tibet or Mongolia (?), 1600-1699
Gilt bronze with pigment
12 x 8-7/8 x 5-1/2 in. (30.5 x 22.5 x 14.0 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, from the Estate of Jennifer Jones Simon
M.2010.1.49.S
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

Hayagriva, known as “one with a horse’s neck,” is an important deity in China, Tibet and Mongolia, where the nomadic population adopted him as a protector of horses and of the Buddhist faith. Three horse heads emerge from his flaming hair. He has six arms, three faces and four pairs of legs; these multiple limbs proclaim his divinity and terrifying visage. He stands in the menacing alidha, or warrior’s pose, upon eight snakes, which are enemies of the horse.
He is adorned with a tiara of skulls and a long garland of severed heads, and he is wrapped in an elephant hide. His voice is said to thunder like that of a horse roaring with the power to subdue all demonic forces.


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