Skip to Content
Arts of Asia

The MFAH collections of art from China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia reflect Houston’s diverse communities. Ancient and contemporary works are displayed together to create innovative juxtapositions.


Shastradhara (Weapon-Bearing) Hevajra
c. 1531
Gilt copper and pigment

11 7/16 x 8 1/2 x 5 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the Friends of Asian Art

Arts of Asia

Hevajra is a popular guardian deity in Tantric Buddhism. He is shown here united with his female consort Nairatmya. The two embrace in an ecstatic dance upon a sacred lotus blossom, trampling 4 figures that represent the Hindu gods Brahma, Yama, Indra, and a yaksha or nature spirit.

Hevajra is represented with 8 heads; each face is positioned into a terrifying scowl and possesses a glaring third eye. As he dances on his 4 legs, he waves his 16 great arms. Each of the figure’s hands is occupied with objects—including a trident, a mace, and a noose—that represent destruction and release from earthly wants, needs, and emotions. Nairatmya has one arm thrown around Hevajra’s neck, and she holds the base of a curved knife in the other.

This Shastradhara, or weapon-bearing depicition of Hevajra, wears an elaborate crown upon which sits the head of the Buddha Akshobhya, who gained his buddhahood by abandoning all feelings of hatred and disgust toward others. He presides over the Eastern paradise, a realm beyond the cycle of death and rebirth.