Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Chaturbhuja (Four-hands)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 101508)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1100 - 1199
Lineages Buddhist
Material Copper
Collection Private
Catalogue # Tibet Museum, Lhasa
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Summary: This form of Mahakala can be either a protector deity (dharmapala) or a meditational deity (ishtadevata).

Interpretation / Description

Chaturbhuja, Mahakala (Tibetan: gon po, chag shi pa. English: the Great Black One with Four Hands). The principal protector of the Chakrasamvara class of Tantras.

Sanskrit: Chaturbhuja Tibetan: Chag shi pa

"From a red-black mandala of fire, above a lotus, sun, moon and corpse, with one face and four hands, seated in a relaxed posture: homage to the Great Black One." (Nyingma liturgical verse).

As a wrathful form of enlightenment, a wisdom deity and buddha, he appears as a protector for Vajrayana Buddhism. There are many forms of this particular Mahakala in both Nyingma and Sarma traditions. The pandita and mahasiddha Nagarjuna originally popularized the practice. In the Sarma Schools Chaturbhuja is strongly related to the Chakrasamvara cycle of Tantras.

Jeff Watt 9-2000

The Great Black One with Four Arms is the principal protector for the Kagyu (Oral Tradition) of Tibetan Buddhism. He originates from Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantra and the Chakrasamvara tantric literature of India. Very wrathful with one face and four hands, he is always shown in a seated posture with two hands extended to the sides brandishing a sword and staff (both now missing). The hair, beard and moustache are painted orange to signify his fearsome character. Religious protector deities are meant to look fierce for the same reason soldiers and policemen are expected to look stern and threatening. (Text courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art, June 2005).

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Tibet, Treasures from the Roof of the World

Thematic Sets
Mahakala: Chaturbhuja, Four-hands (Betapala)
Mahakala: Chaturbhuja, Four-hands Main Page
Mahakala - Chaturbhuja (Single Form)
Mahakala - Chaturbhuja (Sculpture Masterworks)