About the Artwork

The dynamic figure of Troma Nagmo (Tib. khros ma nag mo), the 'Wrathful Black Mother' (Skt. Krishna Kali, Krishna Krodhini), dominates the center of this gold-on-black composition. With her right leg drawn up and her left leg bent in 'bow-and-arrow' posture, she dances upon the golden sun-disc of her lotus seat, with her left foot pressing down upon the breasts of a naked female demon that has been thrown down onto its back.

Troma Nagmo's facial expression is ferocious and terrifying, with three round and angry red eyes that gaze piercingly towards the left, and a large gaping mouth that reveals her sharp teeth and fangs, and her twisting red tongue. The tawny-yellow locks of her matted hair swirl upwards like thunderclouds above her five-skull tiara, and from the crown of her head protrudes the wrathful black or brown head of a squealing sow that gazes up into the sky towards her right. Troma Nagmo's face represents her single potential and the 'relative truth', while the sow's face represents her perception of emptiness as the 'absolute truth'. Her black color indicates her unchangeable nature, and her two heads the transformation of ignorance (sow's head) into wisdom or pristine awareness (dakini's head). Her three eyes perceive the three worlds and times; her four sharp canine teeth liberate the four maras or demonic obstructions; her twisting red tongue indicates that she leads beings from cyclic existence; her blazing facial hair indicates her triumph over hopes and fears, and her two legs represent the purity of samsara and nirvana.

Encircling Troma Nagmo is her mandala assembly of eight directional dakinis, with the semi-wrathful form of Vajravarahi appearing directly above her head. Troma Nagmo is actually the extremely wrathful manifestation of Vajravarahi (Dorje Phagmo), whose name means the 'Indestructible Sow'. Vajravarahi is radiant red in color and appears in a similar form to Troma Nagmo, but she is far less wrathful, and is only adorned with the five bone ornaments, a flower garland, and a long silk scarf that billows about her naked body. She likewise has the fierce head of a squealing sow protruding from her crown and stands in dancing bow-and-arrow posture with her left foot pressing upon the breast of a corpse.

Outside the circle of dakinis are the four fierce animal-headed female protectors of Troma Nagmo's mandala, who all wear bone ornaments, human-skin shawls and tiger-skin skirts. Across the bottom of the painting, from left to right, are five Nyingma protectors: Yama Dharmaraja, Nagaraja, Rahula, Shri Devi, and Tsiu Marpo.

The floral profusion that surrounds Vajravarahi's aura extends upwards amongst the clouds, with some of its large convoluted leaves supporting the seven lineage holders that crown this composition. At the top center is Samantabhadri (Skt. Kuntuzangma), the white consort of the blue 'Primordial Buddha' Samantabhadra (Tib. Kuntuzangpo), meaning the 'All Good', who is the source of many tantric transmissions in the early Nyingma traditions of Tibet. Samantabhadri's naked white bodily form is unadorned, and she sits in vajra-posture upon a moon-disc and lotus with her hands folded together upon her lap in the dhyana-mudra of meditation on emptiness.

© text by Robert Beer

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