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Buddhist Worldly Protector: Garwa Nagpo

Damchen Garwa Nagpo | Buddhist Protectors Outline Page

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Tibetan: Dam chen gar wa nag po

Garwa Nagpo, Damchen (English: the Blacksmith), the main attendant deity to the Tibetan worldly protector Dorje Legpa (See Dorje Legpa Outline Page). Garwa Nagpo can typically be found in art as a retinue figure in paintings of Dorje Legpa or as an independent figure in a painted composition with his own retinue of attendant figures. Garwa Nagpo is generally found as a standard protector deity in the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma Traditions. Some Gelug monasteries and incarnate lama traditions (trulku) have also adopted Garwa Nagpo as their special protector deity.

Dorje Legpa and his retinue, including Damchen Garwa Nagpo, were originally believed to be subjugated in Tibet by Padmasambhava in the 8th century. They are avowed, oath-bound, protectors and perform the specific function of safeguarding the Nyingma Terma (treasure) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

General Description: Wrathful with one face and two hands, he is dark blue in colour, with three eyes, bared fangs and bright orange or brown hair flaming upward. The right hand holds aloft a vajra hammer and the left a blacksmith's bellows made of striped tiger skin. Adorned with a crown of five dry skulls and earrings he is lavishly attired in variously coloured full-length garments and felt boots. Riding atop a brown goat with two horns he is surrounded most often by grey smoke and wisps of orange and yellow flame.

Damchen Garwa Nagpo can be accompanied by an assortment of retinue figures as described in the various ritual texts. Garwa Nagpo is also sometimes depicted with the accompanying figures of a black bear, fox, wild blue mule and a grey wolf. The animals function as servant-like messengers for the protector.

The two most interesting works are painting #533 because of the ten retinue deities in various forms. Note the Chinese demon on the lower left side, red in colour, riding a brown goat. Also note on the lower right side the monkey riding the white lion. Below that is a wolf-headed demon, blue in colour, riding a grey wolf.

The second painting is #81825 which has lengthy inscription claiming that it was painted by the 10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje. The goat, in a hose-like pose at full gallop, appears to be painted white in colour which is unusual. The clothing and head covering of Garwa Nagpo seems non-traditional along with the lack of wrathful ornaments save for the possibility of naga serpent bracelets.

Observing the horns of the goat, from the images depicted below, eleven paintings and sculpture portray the horns as twisted together while five examples have the horns untwisted.

Jeff Watt 10-98 [updated 12-2011, 5-2017]