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The Image of Vaisravana

The image of Vaisravana held a special place in the ancient kingdom of Khotan, and the god was depicted as having had a particular role in the founding of the Khotan kingdom and its dynasty. The rulers in fact claimed that they were descended from the god Vaisravana, or Kubera. Vaisravana had several important roles--he was the god of wealth and the god of armies. The god is depicted in religious symbolism and art in Khotan, China, and various Buddhist regions. He has been traced indeed to an even earlier Greek tradition as far back as the period of hesiod. The image of Vaisravana changed somewhat over time, eventually being depicted with three legs and as being otherwise deformed. The dominion of Vaisravana is the northern quarter of the world and autumn. He is also king and master of the gods who bring disease. His face is angry, and he always wears a helmet in his role as god of armies. He has two arms and holds aloft a victory banner. He is richly dressed in antique armor. In older depictions, he has two legs, and in more modern depictions he has three.

Vaisravana, then, was originally a protective deity of Khotan in Chinese Central Asia, in the Xinjiang province. During the era when Buddhism was expanding, this local deity, along with many others, was integrated into the Buddhist pantheon as a protector. In China, the cult is found from the fifth century C.E. on. In the Tang period, Vaisravana and his celestial warrior-Yaksas were the objects of a special cult designed to reinforce imperial troops in war. It is believed that in 742 Vaisravana and his miraculous army rescued the city of Anxi in Xinjiang from a barbarian attack. In ancient Tibet, pleas were made for the god's aid against the Chinese. Chinese artists made representations of the god which show Vaisravana surrounded by minor deities in his palace in the Pure Land of Alakavati, located on the north side of Mount Sumeru. Other depictions can also b...

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The Image of Vaisravana. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:30, August 08, 2020, from