Hayagriva (Buddhism)

Hayagriva (Buddhism)

Hayagriva, known as Bato Kannon in Japan

In Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism, Hayagriva is a wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara. There are believed to be 108 forms of Hayagriva.[1] His special ability is to cure diseases, especially skin diseases even as serious as leprosy, which is said to be caused by the Nāgas (water spirits with serpent bodies).

In Hinduism, one tradition identifies Hayagriva as a group of demons subdued by Vishnu, according to another tradition, Hayagriva was incarnation of Vishnu.

In Tibet, Hayagriva was promoted especially by Buddhist teacher Atisha.[2] It is said that Tibetan horse-dealers worshipped Hayagriva because he could frighten away demons by neighing like a horse. When invoked he announces his coming by neighing, the sound of which pierces false appearances and disguise.

Buddhist iconography

Hayagriva statue in Samye Ling. Note the green horse's head on top of his head.

In his simplest form Hayagriva is depicted with one face, two arms and two legs. Everything about him is wrathful - a scowling face with three glaring eyes, a roaring mouth with protruding fangs, a pose of warrior’s aggressiveness, a broad belly bulging with inner energy, a sword raised threateningly in his right hand (poised to cut through delusion), his left hand raised in a threatening gesture and snake ornaments. This terrifying aspect expresses compassion’s fierce determination to help us overcome inner egotism and outer obstructions.


  1. ^ Five-Headed Sixteen-Armed Hayagriva with Goddess Marici
  2. ^ Hugo Kreijger (2001). Tibetan Painting: The Jucker Collection. Serindia Publications, Inc. pp. 106–.