Hevajra is an unexcelled yoga Tantra deity, perhaps closely related to the developments in the cult of Shiva Nataraja. Hevajra's art is considered especially valuable in kindling the central nervous system inner fury fire that melts the inner drops from brain to groin and generates the subtle subjectivity of great bliss so essential in Tantric practices in the perfection stage. Nairatmya Hevajra's consort is also a deity of subtle wisdom in her own right, a Tantric form of Prajnaparamita, Mother of all Buddhas.
Hevajra has sixteen-arms, eight faces and four legs. The eight faces indicate the purification of the eight releases. His four legs crush four maras, who symbolize the fourfold obstacles to enlightenment the obstacle of the aggregated constituent elements of existence (skandhamara), the obstacle of egoistic entanglements (kleshmara), the obstacle of (mrityumara), and the obstacle of rebirth in the form of gods (devaputramara). According to a commentary of the Hevajra Tantra, four Hindu gods, Brahma, Yaksha, Yama, and Indra, respectively personify the four maras.
The sixteen arms of Hevajra signify the purification of the sixteen voidnesses. In each of his hands he hold a skullcup. Each of the cups in his right hands contain, starting with his principal hand and moving to the lower, an elephant, horse, ass, man, camel, ox, lion and cat. Those in the left hold Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Moon, Sun, Yama, and Vaishravana. The elements in the skulls held in the left hands are usually visually represented in human form as shown in the present painting.
Carrying skullcup in all of the hands is one of the most distinctive features of Hevajra. The skullcup represents the mind aspect of the body, speech, and mind notion. It also represents death and impermanence, the illusory nature of all the phenomena. The animals and gods in Hevajra's skullcup may symbolize a universal range of all matter and beings, alive, on earth, in the heavens. Thus, the sixteen skullcups collectively symbolize the sixteen voidness or shunyata .
Nairatmya, the consort of Hevajra has two hands and two legs. She is embracing Hevajra by her left hand, while the right hand holds a vajra-marked chopper. Her left leg is along with his, while her right leg is wrapped around his waist. Her expression is also wrathful. Both of them are adorned with bone ornaments and wear long garland of skulls. Nairatmya is wearing a skirt of tiger-skin.
The upper center of the painting is rendered with the figure of great siddha Tilopa, while the bottom center is with Jambhala (Vaishravana). Among the eight dancing dakinis surrounding Hevajra Father-Mother, four are depicted in the background, and the remaining four in the middle ground and foreground, respectively. These dakinis starting from the upper left corner are -
1. Chandali, holding wheel and plough
2. Pukkasi, holding boar and skullcup
3. Chauri, holding drum and wild boar.
4. Gauri, holding knife and bowl.
5. Shabari, holding snake and bowl
6. Ghasmari, holding snake and bowl
7. Dombi, holding vajra-marked chopper and fish
8. Vetali, holding conch and fan.
The painting is very much suitable for esoteric sadhana and practices. All the figures are brilliantly drawn.
A. Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Tokyo, 1962
B. Bhattacharyya, The Indian Buddhist Iconography,Calcutta, 1968
J.C. Huntington and D. Bangdel, The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art, Ohio, 2004
Marylin M. Rhie & Robert A.F. Thurman, Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, New York, 1999
R. Linrothe & J. Watt, Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond, New York, 2005
This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)".