The Role of Women in Himalayan Art
Buddhist Himalayan Art
Palden Lhamo or Panden Lhamo is a goddess or Dharmapala in Tibetan Buddhism. Her name translates to “Glorious Goddess”. She is celebrated all over Tibet and Mongolia as a principle protector of the region, and is also claimed to be the tutelary deity of Tibet and its government. She is known to be a wrathful female protector, and the only female among the traditional ‘Eight Guardians of the Law’. She is depicted as being deep blue with red hair and three eyes, often crossing a sea of blood on a white mule. She is also often shown drinking blood from a human skull. It is told that she killed her own son, who was destined to bring an end to Buddhism, and used his skin as a saddle for her mule.
Male figures and gods such as the Buddha or Krishna may come immediately to mind when thinking about historical Buddhist art. This may be due to how this art has been presented in International spaces, because women were not originally meant to take a back seat in this artistic tradition. It’s wonderful that the archival and artistic communities are coming back to re-examine the role of women in Himalayan art and re-frame their interpretation.