Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Worldly Protector: Tsiu Marpo Main Page

Tsiu Marpo Main Page | Buddhist Worldly Protectors Main Page

Database Search: All Images

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Tsiu Marpo Description (below)
- 'Tsen' Protectors
- Buddhist Worldly Protectors Main Page
- Buddhist Protectors Outline Page
- Tsengo Dragpa Gyaltsen (Bon Religion)
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Iconography:
- Associated with Hayagriva as the principal Ishtadevata
- Male, one face, two arms
- Warrior appearance, red in colour
- Holding a lance and a lasso, sometimes a heart
- Riding a red horse
- Accompanied by a red dog
- Accompanied by six brothers in similar appearance

Special Days:
- 3rd day of the lunar month

Geographic Associations:
- Lo Monthang, Nepal
- Ngari & Guge
- Samye monastery, U Kang Temple
- Drolma Podrang, Sakya
- Others...

Tsiu Marpo is a Tibetan worldly god, Warrior Class (drala), that functions as a Buddhist protector deity. The practice was popularized by the teacher Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyal (1487-1542 [P1669]). Ngari Panchen was a teacher originating from Mustang, Nepal, and he principally practised the Nyingma and Sakya Traditions. He popularised the cult of the protector deity Tsiu Marpo which was likely an adaptation of the local Bon mountain protector unique for the town of Lo Monthang called Tsengo Dragpa Gyaltsen. The mountain is located due west of the Mustang capital and Dragpa Gyaltsen remains to this day the special protector deity to the Mustang royal family. As a Terton, the principal 'Terma' Revealed Treasure cycle of Ngari Panchen is known as the Ngarpan Terdzo.

According to popular accounts, Tsiu Marpo became known as the special protector of Samye Monastery in the 17th century after the long time protector of the monastery, Pehar Gyalpo, moved to Nechung next to Drepung Monastery just outside of Lhasa. The practices of Tsiu Marpo as a Buddhist protector have now been adopted by almost all of the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

The appearance of Tsiu Marpo is easily confused with several other deities both Buddhist and Bon: Dorje Setrab, Kache Marpo, Yamshu Marpo, Tsen Go of the Cho Tradition, and Tsengo Dragpa Gyaltsen of the Bon Religion. (See the 'Tsen' Protectors page).

Jeff Watt 2-2014 [updated 12-2015, 5-2017]


Bibliography:

The Warlord’s Tantra with Accompanying Sadhanas (Dmag dpon gyi rgyud sgrub thabs dang bcas pa). Ngari Panchen Péma Wangyel Dorjé (Mnga’ ris Panchen Padma dbang rgyal rdo rje; 1487-1542).

tsi'u dmar gsol mchod bya tshul bzhugs so. 'jam mgon tham cad mkhyen pa'i zhal gsung. Published at Lhundrub Teng. Pages 85-162.

Tsiu Marpo, the Career of a Tibetan Protector Deity, (35 MB Pdf file) by Christopher Paul Bell. The Florida State University College of Arts and Sciences.

Oracles and Demons of Tibet by Rene De Nebesky-Wojkowitz. The Hague (1956). ISBN 81-7303-039-1. (Contents list).

The Guardian Deities of Tibet by Ladrang Kalsang (first edition 1996). Contents list.

Tibetan Mountain Deities, Their Cults and Representations, edited by Anne-Marie Blondeau.

"From btsanpo to btsan: The Demonization of the Tibetan Sacral Kingship," Todd Gibson (dissertation),completed in 1991.
Tsi'u Marpo: History, Narrative & Myth by Cameron Bailey, December 28th, 2015

According to the Tantra of the Red-Razored One the being that would become the deity Tsi'u Marpo was born during the dispensation of the Buddha Kashyapa as the Khotanese Prince Chorwa. Chorwa is said to have had faith in Buddhism and to have taken monastic ordination. One day, when he was meditating alone in the forest, the daughter of the local king was bathing nearby when she was bitten by a venomous snake. Chorwa was able to save her life by giving her a medicinal antidote, but when two evil ministers saw this, they spread the false rumour that the monk and the princess were making love.

The king, outraged by this, sent men to kill the monk. The princess attempted to dissuade him by telling him the truth of the matter, but he did not listen, and out of protest she vowed to be reborn as the hostile spirit sister of the monk in a future life, then threw herself off a cliff, committing suicide, in protest. Chorwa, meanwhile, fled to the Himalayas, and his mind became downcast and full of evil intentions. He then proceeded to go on a killing and raping spree, but eventually the king's army caught up to him and stabbed him to death. Before he died, the monk swore to be reborn as a tsen demon, and the "executioner of all beings."

Thereafter he hatched from an egg produced from the union of a deity named "Lekpa" and a female tsen. When he was born, he had six other tsen demon brothers growing inside his body - (2) the "black obstacle might demon" in his head, the (3) "divine might demon" in his bones, (4) "rock might demon" in his body heat, (5) "knife might demon" in his blood, (6) "serpentine might demon" in his pus, and (7) "defiling might demon" in his 'messy rotten garments of flesh.' Together they became the seven wild tsen brothers.

Sources:

Bell, Christopher. 2006. “Tsiu Marpo: The Career of a Tibetan Protector Deity.” M.A. Thesis. Florida State University.

Kalsang, Ladrang. 1996. The Guardian Deities of Tibet. Dharamsala: Little Lhasa Publications.