Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Shadbhuja, Sita (White, Shangpa)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 1026)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Sakya
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc. # P2001.7.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shadbhuja Sita Mahakala, (Tibetan: gon po kar po chag drug pa. English: the White Lord with Six Hands). Emanation of Avalokiteshvara and principal wealth deity of the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

White in colour, with a pink tinge, with on face, he has three eyes, a gaping mouth with bared fangs, orange hair flaming upward and six hands. In the three right hands are a curved knife, wish-fulfilling jewel and a damaru (drum). In the left hands are a skullcup containing a vase filled with various jewels, a trident and a vajra hook. Adorned with a crown of jewels and gold, precious ornaments and blue silk he stands with the two legs straight atop two elephant-headed figures, spewing jewels, above a sun disc and lotus seat surrounded by the orange and red flames of pristine awareness. Encircled by the 'Five Power-Gathering Dakinis' of various colours, they hold in the right hands a hook and a wishing-jewel in the left. In this composition there appear to be six dakinis rather than the five described in the textual liturgies.

At the top center is a golden Vajradhara holding a jewel to the heart. This form is unique to the practice of Shadbhuja Mahakala. Sakya teachers sit on the right and left. Descending on the left side are White tara, Black Manjushri and then three dakinis belonging to the retinue of Mahakala. Descending on the right are Manjushri, Black Jambhala and then two dakinis as retinue figures for Mahakala. They are followed by Kurukulla, red, with four arms. Another retinue dakini is directly below (in front) of Mahakala.

Along the bottom and starting on the left are Yellow Jambhala, Vaishravana Riding a Lion, Yellow Vasudhara and White Vina Sarasvati.

White Mahakala, a wealth deity of the Kriya class of Tantra, satisfies the economic needs of Tantric Buddhist practitioners. This is a Sakya example of a deity that has become popular within all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It should be noted however that the Shangpa Kagyu School, founded by Khedrup Khyungpo Naljor (11th century), is unrelated to the more famous School of the same name, Kagyu, founded by Marpa and his principal student Milarepa.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Jnana Dakini, Shri Shavaripa, Lord Maitripa, Mahasiddha Rahulagupta, Khedrup Khyungpo Naljor, Nyamme Rinchen Tsondru, Bonton Kyergangpa (famous terton of the Hayagriva cycle of practice), etc.

Jeff Watt 1-2009

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 9
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Subject: Wealth Deities Main Page
Mahakala: Shadbhuja, White (6 Hands, Shangpa)