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Vaiśravaṇa (P. Vessavaṇa; T. rnam thos sras རྣམ་ཐོས་སྲས་; C. Duowen tian/Pishamen tian 多闻天), is one of the four great kings, also known as the "guardians of the world" (lokapāla). He presides over the northern quarter and rules over the yakṣas. He is also known as Kubera.[1]

The Princeton Dictionary states:

Vaiśravaṇa is associated with the Indian gods of wealth Kubera and Jambhala; the three were once individual deities who came to be identified with each other. Vaiśravaṇa may have originated as a Central Asian deity, perhaps in the kingdom of Khotan, where he was believed to have been the progenitor of the royal lineage. He is the main interlocutor in several chapters of the Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra, which sets forth the duties of the lokapāla to the virtuous king and his state.[2]

Worldly protector

As one of the four great kings, or lokapalas, Vaiśravaṇa resides on northern face of the fourth terrace of Mount Meru and guards the northern direction.

Himalayan Art Resources states:

Vaishravana, leader of the Yaksha race, is a worldly guardian worshipped as both a protector and benefactor (wealth deity). He lives on the north side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. As the leader of the Four Direction Guardians, he like the others, swore an oath of protection before the buddha Shakyamuni.[3]

In Tibetan and East Asian traditions, he wears golden armor and is usually portrayed as a warrior-king.

Tantric context

Himalayan Art Resources states:

There are numerous miscellaneous Tantric forms of Vaishravana in both the Sarma and Nyingma traditions. The Sakya school maintains seventeen different traditions of Vaishravana. The different forms range in mood from peaceful to wrathful, a single face and two arms to multiple faces and arms, along with a variety of colours representing the four tantric activities.[4]

Vaishravana Riding a Lion is the most common depiction in Tantric Buddhism.[4] In this context, he is typically accompanied by eight attendants riding horses. This form is popular in paintings, murals, and sculptures in the Himalayan region.[4]


Further reading