Two Yoginis of Hevajra from Thailand

by J.J. Boeles

Publication: Artibus Asiae, Supplementum, Vol. 23, Essays Offered to G. H. Luce by His Colleagues and Friends in Honour of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday. Volume 2: Papers on Asian Art and Archaeology, pp. 14-29

Published: 1966

Pages: 16

Language : English

The first researcher and photographer to extensively document Prasat Phimai and the Khorat Plateau, the author came across two Khmer bronze statuettes during his explorations in the late 1950s. In this essay, he describes them as follows: "The first, now in a private collection in Bangkok, with the bronze covered with a thick green patina, is said to have come from somewhere east of Nagara Rajasima [Nakhon Ratchasima]. It represents a female deity in a dancing posture. Her right hand is raised high and holds a small drum (damaru). Her left hand, placed a little below the left breast (position of the heart) in a ceremonial gesture, holds an animal with a long snout, remnants of canine teeth, stiff bristles of hair along the spine, a long body and short legs. She has an angry face ( krodha aspect) with bulging eyes; traces of a third eye are visible in the forehead. Her only garment is a short sampot (one-piece cloth), one end of which hangs down in folds and touches the pedestal, while the other end is twisted into a knot at the rear so as to secure the garment. She wears a five-pointed crown, with a three(?)pointed tiara in front; also ear-rings, necklace, arm-bands, bracelets, girdle and anklets.(...) The second statuette, a little larger than the first, comes from Khonkaen in Northeastern Thailand and used to be in a private collection in Bangkok. It represents a goddess in the same dancing posture as the first one, but her face wears a peaceful expression. Her eyes are open and the third eye is placed vertically in the forehead. Her hair is combed up in a high pile on top of the head, and encircled by a diadem ( mukuta). She wears the same ornaments as the first goddess. One end of her sampot falls down as far as the left heel; the other is spread out in a fanlike fold behind. The upraised right hand holds the broken part of a small solid discus or cakra. The left hand, placed below the left breast as before, holds a plough, of a shape that is still in use today in Southeast Asia to prepare flooded fields for the planting of wet rice. Attached to the left foot is a short metal pin, apparently original."

From there, the author identifies them as (1) Cauri, (2) Candali, described in the Hevajra-Tantra as two of "the eight goddesses, yoginis whose function is to destroy all ignorance in the eight quarters of the universe as symbolized by their positions in the mandala. Their "seats" are Hindu gods - manifestations of ignorance - slain by the terrible sisters, who then perform a ritual dance on their corpses."

He proceeds to locate them on the Hevajra Mandala, the cosmic representation at the core of Tantric Buddhism, later to be embraced by King Jayavarman VII:


And here the two yoginis, central figures in esoteric Tantrism :


Candali (above) and Cauri (below)


Tags: Phimai, Nakhon, Khmer Empire, dance, dancers, yogini, hevajra, tantrism, Tantric Buddhism, esoterism, Shaivism, Jayavarman VII, statuary, sculpture, female deities, yoga

About the Author

Portrait of J.J.   Boeles

J.J. Boeles

Jan Jetso Boeles (1909, Leeuwarden - ?) was a Dutch independent researcher and photographer based in Thailand for many years.

In 1976-1978, he photographed the Phimai temple and the Wat Sethupon in Bangkok. He directed the Siam Society Research Center, and was an honorary member of the Siam Society since 1960.

He advised the Faculty of Arts at Leiden University in Art and Archaeology of mainland Southeast Asia.