Temple First Gate Guardian

There are 2 majestic Gate Guardians (Dvarapalas) standing watch in front of the Mountain Gate of BTRTM. Their presence serves to protect the temple.
Gate Guardians in BTRTM The Tang Dynasty style pair of temple guardians stands on either side of the temple mountain gate. Their fierce faces with glaring eyes, powerfully muscular bodies, and threatening poses bearing weapons, serve to ward off evil spirits. They show their power and resolve in carrying out their duties in protecting the temple.

The two figures are slightly bigger than life-sized with its natural granite colours rimmed with gold paint. Both are depicted contrapposto: their torsos turn inwards towards the temple’s entrance while their hips turn outwards. Their feet closest to the entrance point towards the doors, forming an L-shape with their other feet pointing straight ahead. Dressed with only a lower body skirt and heavenly ribbons, they stand majestically on a big slab of rock bare-footed. The main ribbons circle round their heads, forming aureoles. Their hair is tied up in a top knot with thinner ribbons whose ends flare up on top of their foreheads, resembling horns. The thicker ribbons are tacked in by the sides of their waists and flow down barely touching the rock upon which they stand.

Both figures show a wrathful appearance with bulging sinews and veins. Depicted with highly stylised adominal muscles and sporting huge pectoral muscles, the two guardians hold implements with their left hands and display unique hand gestures with their right hands, ready to do battle in a moment’s notice.
About Gate Guardians Dvarapala (Sanskrit) is a door or gate guardian statue (either human or demonic) in Hinduism and Buddhism. They were traditionally placed outside Hindu or Buddhist temples and other structures to protect the holy places inside. Dvarapala is usually portrayed as a fierce-looking creature. Depending on the size and wealth of the temple, the guardians could be placed singly, in pairs or in larger groups. Dvarapala (China: Heng Ha Er Jiang 哼哈二将; Japan: Kongōrikishi 金剛力士, Niō 仁王, Shukongoushin 執金剛神; Korea: Geumgangmun 金剛門) are two wrath-filled and muscular guardians of the Buddha, standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in China, Japan and Korea in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues.

They are manifestations of the Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi protector deity and are part of the Mahayana pantheon. According to the Japanese tradition, they travelled with the historical Buddha to protect him. Within the generally pacifist traditions of Buddhism, stories of Niō guardians like Kongōrikishi justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil.

For Tang dynasty period, these are derived from the yaksha beings of Indian mythology. The dvarapala is usually naked from waist up, displaying powerful muscles and energetic movement, with fiercely scowling wrathful expressions, celestial scarves, a chignon on the head and swirling sarongs, standing upright on rocks. Symbolism of Warrior-figures in Buddhism In Buddhism, the imagery of waging war and being a warrior is a metaphor for the battle one must engage in when one tries to destroy our kleshas or delusions (烦恼障) which is the principal cause of our samsaric existence.

Thus these guardians serve as powerful symbols of the need to defend oneself against the undesirable psychological states, such as anger, attachment, ignorance, other non-virtuous minds and negative karma. By practising their opponents of patience, renunciation, love, compassion, concentration, wisdom and purification, a Buddhist practitioner sees himself or herself as being ‘at war’ with his or her negative mental states and would not rest until they are utterly and permanently defeated.

Indeed, the literal translation of Arhats is ‘foe-destroyers’: meaning that they have destroyed the inner demons of the delusions and therefore are completely free from all suffering. ‘Arhat’ is also a name often assigned to the Buddha.

In general, living beings experience many obstacles or enemies preventing their wishes being fulfilled. These obstacles are of two types: outer and inner. Our true enemy is our inner obstacles because while we can try to destroy our outer obstacles, for as long as we have negative karma and delusions within our mental continuum, they will never be fully eliminated.

The 8th century Indian Buddhist pandit Shantideva explained:4.32
No other enemy indeed
Has lived so long as my defiled emotions—
O my enemy, afflictive passion,
Endless and beginningless companion!
Buddha taught that destroying our inner obstacles is the single most important task of a Buddhist practitioner: if we destroy our inner enemies of the delusions and negative karma, outer enemies will have no ability to harm us. This is illustrated most vividly by the ‘The Buddha’s Victory over Mara’ story.

What our outer enemies can do at the most is to harm us in this life but our inner enemies, on the other hand, continue to harm us in this and all our future lives. Therefore they are the true enemies of a pure Buddhist practitioner.

Thus these door guardians are figurative reminders of the constant vigilance practitioners should have on their minds, constantly watching and preventing negative states of mind from arising. Reminding us of this, Shantideva continues:4.38
No need to say that I will not lose heart,
Regardless of the hardships of the fray.
These natural foes today I’ll strive to crush—
These enemies, the source of all my pain.

Garbhavira (Chinese: Mìjī jīngāng; Japanese: Misshaku Kongō, 密迹金剛, Agyō (阿形); Korean: Miljeok geumgang; Vietnames: Mật tích kim cương) is the guardian of the Garbhadhatu Mandala (Mandala of the Womb World) and symbolizes the power it expresses of overt violence. He is placed on the right (east) of the mountain gate with his mouth open, with the shape necessary to form the “ah” sound, and bares his teeth, representing the vocalization of the first grapheme of Sanskrit Devanāgarī (अ) which is pronounced “a”, which symbolizes the beginning of life.
He holds in his left hand a vajra mallet or “vajra-pāṇi” (a diamond club, thunderbolt stick, or sun symbol) i.e. a long staff with varja thunderbolt at each end. His right hand is lowered with fingers outspread. When painted, he is coloured red. It is equivalent to Guhyapāda vajra in Sanskrit.

Vajravira (Chinese: Nàluóyán jīngāng; Japanese: Naraen Kongō, 那羅延金剛, Ungyō 吽形; Korean: Narayeon geumgang, Vietnamese: Na la diên kim cương) is the guardian of the Vajradhatu Mandala (Mandala of the Diamond World) and symbolizes latent power. He is at the left (west) side of the mountain gate with his mouth tightly closed, representing the vocalization of the last grapheme of Devanāgarī (ह [ɦ]) which is pronounced “ɦūṃ” (हूँ), which symbolizes the end of life. (Men are supposedly born speaking the “a” sound with mouths open and die speaking a “ɦūṃ” and mouths closed).
He holds in his left hand a varja thunderbolt. His right hand is raised with fingers outspread. He is also depicted either bare-handed or wielding a sword. When painted, his body is green.

These two characters together symbolize the birth and death of all things. (Men are supposedly born speaking the “a” sound with mouths open and die speaking an “ɦūṃ” and mouths closed.) The contraction of both is Aum (ॐ), which is Sanskrit for The Absolute.
Art Dvarapalas as an architectural feature have their origin in tutelary deities, like Yaksha and warrior figures, such as Acala, of the local popular religion. Presently some dvarapalas are even figures of policemen or soldiers standing guard.

These statues were traditionally placed outside Hindu or Buddhist temples, as well as other structures like royal palaces, to protect the holy places inside. A dvarapala is usually portrayed as an armed fearsome guardian looking like a demon, but at the gates of Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, dvarapalas often display average human features. In other instances a fierce-looking nāga snake figure may perform the same function.

The sculptures in Java and Bali, usually carved from andesite stone, portray the dvarapala as fearsome danavas or daitya (asura race) with a rather bulky physique in semi kneeling position and holding a club. The largest dvarapala stone statue in Java, a dvarapala of the Singhasari period, is 3.7 meters tall.
The traditional dvarapalas of Cambodia and Thailand, on the other hand, are leaner and portrayed in a standing position holding the club downward in the center.

The ancient sculpture of dvarapala in Thailand is made of a high-fired stoneware clay covered with a pale, almost milky celadon glaze. Ceramic sculptures of this type were produced in Thailand, during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, between the 14th and 16th centuries, at several kiln complexes located in northern Thailand.

Depending on the size and wealth of the temple, the guardians could be placed singly, in pairs or in larger groups. Smaller structures may have had only one dvarapala. Often there was a pair placed on either side of the threshold to the shrine. Some larger sites may have had four (lokapālas, guardians of the four cardinal directions), eight, or 12. In some cases only the fierce face or head of the guardian is represented, a figure very common in the kratons in Java.
Development of BTRTM Gate Guardians

Both Gate Guardians were placed in their respective positions on 13 March 2009.
These 2 Gate guardians are produced from special granite by Mr Zhu Poixiong from Zhu Poixiong Arts & Crafts, Putian, Fujian, China. These were carved by 2 deaf and mute brothers who specialise in carving of such stone Gate Guardians.


  1. Frederic, Louis, Flammarion Iconographic Guides, Buddhism, Flammarion, 1995, pages 247 – 249, XXVII
  2. Chicarelli, Charles F., Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Introduction, Silkworm Books, 2004, pages 101 – 103
  3. McArthur, Meher, Reading Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs & Symbols, Thames & Hudson, 2002, pages 68 – 69
  4. Chandra, Lokesh, Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan, 1999, Vol 4, pages 1063 – 1064
  5. Begun, Giles, Buddhist Art, An Historical and Cultural Journey, River Books, 2009, pages 289, 299
  6. Shantideva, The way of the Bodhisattva: a translation of the Bodhicharyavatara, Translated from Tibetan, Shambhala, 1997, pages 59.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvarapala
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nio
  3. Glossary of Japanese Buddhism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  4. http://www.artsmia.org/viewer/detail.php
  5. dvārapāla – 佛門網 Buddhistdoor – 佛學辭彙 – Buddhist Glossary
  6. JAANUS / Kongou rikishi 金剛力士
  7. JAANUS / Niou 仁王
  8. Marcel Nies on Asianart.com
  9. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Door Guardian (Dvarapala)
  10. Dvarapala – Flickr: Search

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