Minor Deities in the Buddhist Paintings of Kucha

In the paintings of Kucha, we encounter numerous Hindu deities. The iconography appears clear to us, as the many-armed god with the blue complexion rides Garuḍa exactly like Viṣṇu, while the many-headed god is seated with his wife upon a bull in the same manner as Śiva. In Kucha, however, we find that both gods are equipped with secondary attributes which are typical of demons, not gods. We must, therefore, ask whether the Indian iconography we find in Kucha implies that the deities were meant to be understood in the same way. 

Looking beyond Viṣṇu and Śiva, much less can be said of the hundreds of Kuchean figures, comprised of male and female “yakṣas”, “nāgas”, and “gandharvas”. In the figures, it is easy to recognize Indian iconography, but difficult to discern their local denotations or designa­tions. It appears quite likely that the Indian iconography was only used to visualize Central Asian beliefs.