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Oḍḍiyāna (U rgyan)

by Rachel Pang

Overview of History and significance

Often referred to as “the land of the Ḍākinīs,” Oḍḍiyāna is at once a place that is historically verifiable and mythically significant. Oḍḍiyāna was once a kingdom in Northern India. Its most famous king was Indrabodhi who was taught the Nyingma teachings by Vimilamitra. Oḍḍiyāna is important in Buddhism because it is where the image of the dharmakaya represention commissioned by the Buddha himself is suspended (The Clear Mirror 40), and it is also where the Dzogchen teachings of the Nyingma school first appeared. Yet, Oḍḍiyāna is most popularly known as the birthplace of Padmasambhava, the legendary yogin who subdued the demonic forces in Tibet, and together with Śāntaraksita, brought the Buddhist tradition to Tibet.

Oddiyana in the Blue Annals

Given its profound religious significance and mythological underpinnings, it is perhaps not surprising that mentions of Oḍḍiyāna in The Blue Annals often involve an intriguing blend of myth and history. Oḍḍiyāna is a sought after place of learning for Buddhist enthusiasts. In some cases, figures physically visit Oḍḍiyāna as in the case of Sangye Yeshe (sangs rgyas ye shes), and in others, Oḍḍiyāna is visited in dreams and visions as in the case of Drakpa Senge (grags pa seng ge) (Blue Annals 367, 526). Oḍḍiyāna is also often mentioned in conjunction with the word “ḍākinī.” For example, in once case, Atisa is said to have had tantric feasts with ḍākinīs of Oḍḍiyāna (Blue Annals 242). It is also rare that Oḍḍiyāna is mentioned without a fantastical story: in a memorable case, during Dhumatala’s stay in Oḍḍiyāna, he is visited by a Vajrayogini disguised in the form of a prostitute’s daughter, who, after dispelling his defiled karma by having him eat a bowl of curry, manifests in her true form and gives him religious instructions (Blue Annals 701). Thus, the blend of history and myth in the Tibetan conception of Oḍḍiyāna is reflected in its treatment in the Blue Annals.


Dudjom Rinpoche. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals & History.

The Clear Mirror. Trans. McComas Taylor and Lama Choedak Yuthok.