Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Panjarnata (Lord of the Pavilion)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 135)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Sakya and Ngor (Sakya)
Size 86.36x73.66cm (34x29in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold, Red Background on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.21.6
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

TBRC: W25327

Interpretation / Description

Panjarnata Mahakala (Tibetan: gur gyi gon po, English: the Great Black One, Lord of the Pavilion).

With one face and two hands he holds a curved knife and skullcup to the heart with a 'gandhi' stick resting across the forearms. From this magical emanation stick all other forms of Mahakala emanate. His hair flames up like fire as he glares with round eyes and a gaping mouth. Very fierce with all the customary wrathful ornaments and attire such as the necklace of fifty freshly severed heads, tiger skin lower garment and a long snake as a Brahmin cord he also wears an ornate white scarf around the neck. In a squat posture he stands atop a corpse above a sun disc surrounded by a mass of flaming fire of pristine awareness. Emanating above, from the circle of fire are three garudas and to the sides - wolves, black dogs, crows and a black man in front. These five types of beings are the messengers of Mahakala.

At the top center are three lamas, wearing monastic robes and red pandita hats, seated. The central figure portrays the iconographic form of Sakya Pandita (1182-1251) and the figure on the left that of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (1382-1456) the founder of the Ngor sub-school of Sakya. To the left is the tutelary deity Hevajra with eight faces and sixteen hands embracing the consort vajra Nairatmya. To the right is the tutelary deity Chakrasamvara, of the Kanha lineage, with four faces and twelve hands embracing the consort Vajra Yogini.

At the right side is Ekajati (Tib.: ral chig ma, Eng.: One Braid) with one face and two hands holding a vase to the heart, seated in a relaxed posture. Below that is Shri Devi (Tib.: pal den lha mo, Eng.: Glorious Goddess) with one face and four hands holding a sword and skullcup in the right and a spear and 'kila' in the left; riding a mule.

At the left side is Bhutadamara Vajrapani with one face and four hands standing atop a white daemon with four hands and the head of an elephant. This form of Bhutadamara standing atop an elephant is from the Vajravali Collection of Pandita Abhayakaragupta. Below that Kartaridhara Mahakala holds a curved knife aloft with the right hand and a skullcup to the heart with the left.

Directly below Mahakala is a row of five wrathful figures. These are the main attendants to Mahakala, a father and mother, Kala Rakshasa and Kali Rakshasi and their three offspring, Putra, Bhatra and Ekajati Rakshasi. They all have one face and two hands, and hold a variety of weapons. These eight deities, Mahakala, Ekajati, Shri Devi and the Five Rakshasa, form the famous 'Eight Deity Mahakala' of Sakya.

At the bottom right is a group of four standing figures, (1) a man wearing the garb of a warrior holding a spear and shield, (2) a dark woman, (3) a monk and (4) a Mantradharin (Holder of Mantras) wearing a round black hat and holding a 'kila' (Tib.: purba, Eng.: [three-sided] peg) dagger. These four represent the outer retinue of Mahakala. At the left corner is a lama wearing monastic robes, seated, attended upon by a standing monk, before a table of offerings. This most likely is the patron who commissioned the painting.

Panjaranata Mahakala is the protector for the Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra (canopy, or pavilion), an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to the Hevajra Tantra itself.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Vajrapanjara Dakini, Brahmin Vararuchi, Pandita Deva Vajra, Shraddha Karavarma, Lochen Rinchen Zangpo, Drag Tengpa Yontan Tsultrim, Mal Lotsawa Lodro Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

The background is black with lighter shades of detailed floral vine patterns. The near background on which the figures are contrasted is red with intense flame swirls similar to the floral patterns. The gold fill with which all the wrathful figures have been painted is most likely real gold powder mixed with yellow earth pigments and applied as an offering meant for the deity Mahakala. The method of painting is called 'nag tang,' (black scroll) gold outline on black, and in this case red (vermilion), background. The style of painting is Nepali indicated by the tight background patterns, strong use of red colouring and the rigid geometric alignment of the figures.

Numbered List:
1. Sakya Pandita (?)
2. Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (?)
3. Tibetan Lama
4. Shri Hevajra
5. Chakrasamvara
6. Bhutadamara Vajrapani
7. Ekajati
8. Kartridhara Mahakala
9. Shri Devi
10. Kala Rakshasa
11. Kala Rakshasi
12. Putra
13. Batra
14. Singmo
15. The Four Outer Attendants: Warrior, Black Woman, Bhiskshu, Sorceror

Jeff Watt 6-98

"Delivering Threats, Threatening Deliverance: Forms and Functions in Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Wrathful Deities, Part Two." Rob Linrothe Oriental Art, Vol. XLVI No. 3.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Early Paintings)
Painting Type: Red Background
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Painting Style: Tibet (Balri)
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Main Page)
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Eight Deity
Painting Type: Gold Fill Paintings
Subject: Ngor Masterworks
Subject: Greyscale - Figurative & General Composition