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This article is about the Vajrayana Buddhist deity Dorje Phagmo. For the incarnation lineage of Samding monastery, see Samding Dorje Phagmo.
Dakini Vajravārāhī

In Tibetan Buddhism, Vajravārāhī ("The Diamond Sow", Tibetan: ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཕག་མོWylie: rdo rje phag mo Dorje Pakmo),[1] is a wrathful form of Vajrayogini associated particularly with the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, where she is paired in Yab-Yum with the heruka Cakrasaṃvara. "Vajravārāhī's iconography is very similar to that of Vajrayoginī, but she often has more prominent fangs and a more wrathful expression, and she prominently displays a sow's head above her right ear.[2]

Although there are practices of Vajravārāhī in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, she is particularly associated with the Kagyu school and is one of the main yidam practices of that school. Her tulkus, the Samding Dorje Phagmo, are associated with the Bodongpa, a little-known school of Tibetan Buddhism.[3]


Vajravārāhī is one of the most popular female Tantric deities in all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Although there are several forms, the basic iconography is that she has one face, (usually) two hands and two legs, is usually red in colour, and standing in a dancing posture on a human corpse. The distinguishing iconographic attribute is a sow head (varahi) placed either on the right side of her head or on the top of her head. Because of this sow's head, sometimes she is called the 'two-faced' Vajrayogini (shal nyi ma).[4]

Incarnation lineages[edit]

Vajravarahi mandala

Samding Dorje Phagmo[edit]

Main article: Samding Dorje Phagmo

The tulku lineage associated with Vajravarahi is that of Samding Dorje Phagmo, who first manifested at Samding Monastery in 1717 in order to tame Yamdrok Lake, a sacred lake as well as a dangerous flashpoint for massive flooding events in Tibet.

However, her effects were said to be more practical: as abbess of Samding, it is said that she stopped the invasion of the Dzungars, who were described as terrified of her great siddhi powers. When faced with her anger - which it is said she expressed by turning the 80 śrāmaṇerīs under her care into furious wild sows - they left the goods and valuables they had plundered as offerings at her monastery and fled the region.[5]

In 1716, when the Jungar invaders of Tibet came to Nangartse, their chief sent word to Samding to the Dorjo Phagmo to appear before him, that he might see if she really had, as reported, a pig's head. A mild answer was returned to him; but, incensed at her refusing to obey his summons, he tore down the walls of the monastery of Samding, and broke into the sanctuary. He found it deserted, not a human being in it, only eighty pigs and as many sows grunting in the congregation hall under the lead of a big sow, and he dared not sack a place belonging to pigs. When the Jungars had given up all idea of sacking Samding, suddenly the pigs disappeared to become venerable-looking lamas and nuns, with the saintly Dorje Phagmo at their head. Filled with astonishment and veneration for the sacred character of the lady abbess, the chief made immense presents to her lamasery.[6]

Other incarnation lineages[edit]

There also is a Dorje Phagmo tulku in Bhutan recognized by the Sakya lama Rikey Jatrel, considered an incarnation of Thang Tong Gyalpo, who was a close associate of Chökyi Drönma despite his political tensions with the Bodongpa lineage heads of the time. She is currently a member of the monastic community of Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery at Zilingkha in Thimphu, which follows the Nyingma and the Shangpa Kagyu traditions.[7]


  1. ^ Tucci, Giuseppe (1988) [1980]. The Religions of Tibet (1st paperback ed.). University of California Press. p. 323. ISBN 0-520-06348-1. 
  2. ^ Simmer-Brown 2014, p. 144.
  3. ^ Tsering, Tashi. "A Preliminary Reconstruction of the Successive Reincarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo: The Foremost Woman Incarnation of Tibet". Journal of Tibetan Women's Studies (1): 20–53. 
  4. ^ Watt, Jeff. "Vajravarahi Main Page". Hiamalayan Art. New York: Rubin Museum. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  5. ^ Simmer-Brown 2014, p. 185.
  6. ^ McGovern, W. M. (2000) [1924]. To Lhasa in Disguise: A Secret Expedition through Mysterious Tibet (Reprint ed.). Delhi: Asian Educational Services. pp. 294–295. ISBN 81-206-1456-9. 
  7. ^ Diemberger, Hildegard (2007). When a Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet. Columbia University Press. p. 334, n. 4. ISBN 978-0-231-14320-2.