About the Artwork

Kurukulla is a semi-wrathful red dakini, whose practice as a powerful subjugating goddess is popular in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Kurukulla was an early Indian tribal goddess, and her name is included in the Hindu text of the Lalita-sahasra-nama, which lists the thousand names of the 'glorious goddess' (Shri Devi) Lalita or Tripura Sundari. However, the Buddhist aspect of Kurukulla is mainly assimilated with the goddess Tara, particularly Red Tara and Vajratara. She is also known as Tarodbhava Kurukulla, meaning 'Kurukulla who has arisen from Tara'; or Uddiyana Kurukulla, who is specifically associated with the early Indian mahasiddha, King Indrabhuti, from Uddiyana in Western India. Her Tibetan name Rigjeyma (Rigs-byed-ma) means 'knowledge lady', and she is also known as Pema Khandro, the 'lotus-dakini', or Wangyi Lhamo, the 'powerful subjugating goddess'.

In the Tibetan Sakya tradition Kurukulla is associated with the Vajrapanjara Tantra and the Hevajra Tantra, with the transmission of the latter coming from the Indian mahasiddha tradition of Lalitavajra and Virupa to the Tibetan translator Drogmi Yeshe (933-1051). Along with Red Takiraja and Great Red Ganapati, Kurukulla appears as one of the 'Three Red Deities' of the Sakya tradition, and her practice is also included amongst the 'Thirteen Golden Dharmas' of the Sakyas. This composition by Sunlal Ratna Tamang depicts Kurukulla in the early Newar style of painting that was first made popular in the Sakya monasteries and temples of Central and Southern Tibet.

Kurukulla's praises describe her function as enslaving all gods, non-gods and humans, and her meditation practice overcomes all forms of avarice, closes the entrance to rebirth in the lower realms, increases wisdom, counteracts negativities or poisons, and leads practitioners towards Amitabha's Pure Land of Sukhavati. Her abode is identified as the Kurukulla Cave, the 'cave of knowledge', located on the Kurukulla Mountain, which is described as possessing all the enchanting attributes and magnetizing qualities of the goddess herself.

Kurukulla is ruby-red in color, with one face, three eyes, four arms, and she appears here within her cave. She is radiant and youthful with a beautiful face that combines the sentiments of mirth, passion and wrath. Her three eyes are piercing and intoxicating, her twisting tongue is soft and red, and she bares her sharp white teeth and fangs. She stands in ardha-paryanka or dancing bow-and-arrow posture with her right leg drawn up and her extended left leg slightly bent. Her left foot presses upon a small red sun disc that rests upon the breast of a yellow wealth god, who disgorges a string of jewels. This figure lies prone upon the red sun-disc cushion and seed-head of a red lotus, which rests upon the jeweled plinth that forms the floor of her Kurukulla Cave.

© text by Robert Beer

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