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Hindu representation

Hayagriva ( Sanskrit , m., हयग्रीव, hayagrīva , "the horse-headed") is a horse-headed deity of Hindu mythology and Tantric Buddhism . Mythology also knows a demon Hayagriva.

Hayagriva in Hinduism

In Hindu mythology, Hayagriva is mostly a form of Vishnu . His appearance and work are described differently in the scriptures. In Vishnuism , Hayagriva is considered to be the one who gives knowledge and wisdom. It is widespread to begin the daily study of the scriptures with a prayer to Hayagriva and worship figures of Shri Lakshmi-Hayagriva.


Mythology offers different versions of his work. One brings him in connection with a punishment of the creator god Brahma :
Before the beginning of creation, Narayana (Vishnu) transmitted the Vedas to Brahma out of his generosity . This made him very proud, he liked the power he received as the creator of the universe. But pride made him inattentive. Vishnu then decided to break his pride. From two drops of water that fell from Vishnu's mystical lotus position, the two demons Madhu and Kaitabha appeared, embodiments of passion ( Raja Guna ) and ignorance ( Tamas Guna). They stole the Vedas (knowledge) from Brahma, whereupon he could no longer continue his work of creation. He begged Vishnu for help, because without the light of knowledge everything threatened to sink into darkness. Then the mystical figure of Hayagriva appeared from a sacrificial fire and the sound that poured out of his nostrils terrified the demons. They carried the Vedas in "the form of an infant" into the lowest realms of creation and fled. But Hayagriva took her back and brought her back to Brahma. When the demons found that the Vedas had disappeared, they furiously searched for the Creator God. He realized that he was helpless towards them despite his scholarship and asked Vishnu for help. Hayagriva returned and killed the demons. Brahma could now continue his work of creation.

The story from the Markandeya Purana is also widespread :
At the end of an age when the worlds were devoured by water, Vishnu rested in a mystical sleep. Two demons, Kaitabha and Madhu, appeared from his ear wax. Both very powerfully, they immediately tried to destroy Brahma. In dire need he turned to the great goddess Mahadevi , who finally manifested herself out of the body of Vishnu before him. She helped to awaken Vishnu, who protected Brahma and fought against the demons for over 5000 years. The goddess then influenced the spirit of the two demons, whereupon they agreed to a blessing from Vishnu. This blessing read, "You two will be killed by me!" The demons agreed, but made the condition that this could only happen in a place where there was no water. With the worlds all flooded, the demons were certain that Vishnu would not find a suitable place to kill them. But Vishnu sat her on his thighs and beheaded her. In this way he saved the Vedas and the world.

In the Markandeya Purana Hayagriva is not mentioned by name, but many commentators make the connection with the avatar Hayagriva.

The Devi Bhagavata describes in detail another version of the appearance of Hayagriva, who is killed here as a horse-headed demon by the horse-headed Vishnu:

Vishnu was gripped by fatigue after fighting the demons for thousands of years. So he withdrew into a deep, mystical sleep. During this time Indra , Brahma and Shiva made a great sacrifice, which could only be ended successfully in the presence of Vishnu. But they did not dare to wake him and so Brahma decided to instruct small insects to eat the bow on which Vishnu's head rested. In this way the removal of the bow would awaken Vishnu in due course. But when the time came, the bowstring tore with a supernatural sound - not only was the bow gone, but Vishnu's head as well . In dire straits, they all turned to Mahamaya . The goddess not only clarified the cause of the disappearance of the head, but also revealed why Vishnu should receive a horse's head through her. Accordingly, many years earlier, a demon named Hayagriva had undertaken the most severe renunciation for a long time and was allowed to ask her for a favor. He asked for invisibility. With the help of this quality, he fought against and defeated the gods for hundreds of years . But he also wanted to be immortal. But since immortality cannot be given in this world, he changed his wish so that he could only die if a person with a horse's head would kill him. This happened with the appearance of Vishnu when he received a new head. And with that, Vishnu-Hayagriva released the gods from the yoke of the demon Hayagriva.


Brahma said to his son Narada : "Bhagavan, the Lord, appeared in a sacrifice that I offered as the incarnation of Hayagriva. He has a golden hue and it is he who is delighted by sacrifices. He is the soul of demigods and the personification of Vedic hymns. When he breathes through his nostrils, wonderful sounds can be heard. " ( Bhagavatapurana 2.7.11)

Hayagriva in Buddhism

Hayagriva ( Tib . : rta mgrin ) has an important position in the Nyingma and later also in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism . He is one of the so-called "eight great Heruka deities" of Mahayoga alongside Hevajra , Guhyasamaja , Chakrasamvara , Vajrakilaya , Yamantaka , Amrita and Mamo . Hayagriva is a wrathful form of the Buddha Amitabha , Lord of the Lotus Buddha family . Hayagriva embodies energetic compassion and is thus a wrathful expression of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara . There are various tantric transmissions to Hayagriva in these traditions. Hayagriva is represented with different attributes individually or in association with his partner. The tantric writings on Hayagriva were translated during the first phase of translation of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Tibetan in the eighth century in the Tibetan monastery of Samye .


  1. Markandeya Purana
  2. Devi Bhagavatam: Book 1, Chapter 5

Web links

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