Janguli: Goddess Protector from Snakes and Poisons

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Janguli: Goddess Protector from Snakes and Poisons

Yellow Janguli. From Facebook 

Janguli is a Buddhist goddess who protects from snakes and poisons, worshiped in the ancient past by the shamanic tribes in Northern India. Her Sanskrit name means “subjugator of snakes.” In Tibet she is known as Dugselma – “remover of poison.”

The goddess masters all poisons and uses them not to harm but to help. Her power origins from the notion that she holds secrets related to the elixir of life, which can be both healing nectar and poison. Like other Mahayana goddesses, she also appears as an independent deity or as an emanation of Tara. As an embodiment of one of the Twenty-one Taras, she is known as “The great peacock, removing and pacifying all poisons” (Tib. Dugrig Tamche Shishing Sungwe Macha Chenmo).

There are three main iconographic forms of the goddess, which are described in Buddhist texts and they can be seen mostly in Tibetan art. They differ in body color (white, green, and yellow), as well as in the number of hands and their attributes.

Green Janguli. From Himalayan Art

White Janguli (Tib. Dygselma Karmo) has one face and four hands, with the main two hands play a lute, whose enchanting sound subjugates the snakes. The lower right performs the fearless gesture (abhaya mudra). The lower left holds a white snake. She wears a white upper garment, adorned with white ornaments and white snakes.

Green Janguli (Tib. Dugselma Jangku) has one face and four hands. The right two hands hold a trident and a snake. The trident symbolizes the elimination of the three poisons (anger, passionate desire, and ignorance), as well as the goddess’s victory over the three worlds (world of desire, world of form, and world of formlessness). The left hands are in abhaya mudra and holding peacock feathers, which express her role as a healer of snake bites. In India, the peacock is perceived as an enemy of snakes and it can swallow their poison without harm. In the Tantric tradition, it is a popular symbol of transforming negative emotions and turning them into a path to enlightenment. The goddess wears snake necklaces and seven snake heads above her head.

Janguli with four hands. Drawing by the author

Yellow Janguli (Tib. Dugselma Serpo) has three faces (yellow, blue, and white), each of them with three eyes and six hands. The three right hands hold a vajra, sword, and an arrow. The three left hands hold a lasso, a blue poisonous flower, and a bow. She has a hood of seven colorful snake heads.

There are also images of the goddess with two hands holding lotuses. Such images can be seen on Tibetan flags (lungta) surrounded of Sanskrit dharani of Ushnisha Sitatapatra written in Tibetan script. There Janguli rides a peacock whose feathers surrounded her aura.

Tibetan prayer flag with Janguli. From Facebook

The images of Janguli are rarely found in the Buddhist art of India. Due to her narrowly specialized role in the Indian context, she also has limited development in Tibet. The goddess is rarely found in the Tibetan ritual practice. When Tibetans seek protection from snake bites or poisons, they usually invoke other Mahayana goddesses like Tara or Marichi. They have similar protective role and are more popular among the Buddhists in the region.

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