In the center of this grand mandala, fourteen-armed, ten-headed, blue-complexion Heruka is standing in the warrior posture on a throne. His expression is wrathful and he embraces his consort with his two principal hands. His remaining hands are in the threatening gesture. His consort is embracing him with her two hands. Her right leg is extended along his, while the left is wrapped around his waist. Both are adorned with bone ornaments. There are auspicious peaceful offerings before his throne. The inner circle is encircled with eight lotus petals depicting the figures of Amitabha Buddha and great Adepts. This circle is followed by another circle of Buddhas, and wrathful Yab-yum figures. The area outside of this circle is filled with stylized designs and there is a square outside this circle, which has four gates with Buddha, figures in them. The walls of the square depict wrathful Yab-yum figures and single ferocious deities. Over the gates are beautiful houses in which are wrathful deities, Buddhas, and ferocious Yab-yum figures. A dragon is depicted on either side of each gate outside the walls.
The square is surrounded with four circles. The outer one is of protective fire circle, which florally rendered here. Then there is a circle of charnel ground. Thereafter come two circles of auspicious symbols and Buddhas. An inner circle of lotus petals follows these two circles. Here the spiritual realm begins and one enters the mandala.
The upper center of the thangka is brilliantly rendered with the figure of eleven-headed, thousand-armed white complexioned Avalokiteshvara before his beautiful palace with attendant deities in clouds. There are two dragons one each side of his palace in clouds. The upper corners are beautifully filled with the figures of Shadakshari Lokeshvara (Avalokiteshvara) with his companions Manidhara and Shadakshari Mahavidya and so on. They are attended by peaceful and wrathful deities. The middle ground of the right side depicts a flying figure, while on the right side an offering deity. Moreover middle ground is beautifully filled with high peaks, waterfall, lakes, stupa (on left side), a dragon on a rock (on right side), flowers, natural vegetation and peaceful offerings etc. One of the interesting scenes of this painting is the scene of Buddha Shakyamuni at Lumbini grove, third major event of the life of Buddha. Here lady Mayadevi, the mother of the Buddha, holding the branch of the shal tree and gives birth to the Buddha from her right side. The baby is held in a cloth by Indra, king of gods and attended by other devas. The center of the foreground depicts twelve-armed, three-faced Mahakala, flanked by two Dakinis seated on mules. Amitabha Buddha is seated in lower right corner flanked by a lute Buddha and a Buddha in abhaya-mudra . Two sentient beings are shown below his throne with offerings. Peaceful and wrathful offerings are shown at the bottom and foreground.
This is perhaps a rare thangka as it depicts various peaceful and wrathful deities of Mahayana and Vajrayana pantheon with an event of the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. So it is very much suitable for sadhana and practices.
A. Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, Tokyo, 1962
Ben Meulenbeld, Buddhist Symbolism in Tibetan Thangka, Holland, 2001
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.)".