Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Shadbhuja (Six-hands, Shangpa)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 266)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Shangpa Kagyu
Size 44.45x30.48cm (17.50x12in)
Material Ground: Textile Image, Applique
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.12.8
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shadbhuja Mahakala (Tibetan: pal ye she gyi gon po nyur du dze pa chag drug pa, English: the Swift Acting Lord of Pristine Awareness with Six Hands): emanation of Avalokiteshvara and the special protector of the Shangpa Kagyu School.

"The Lord of Pristine Awareness has six hands and a body dark blue in colour. The first two hold a curved knife and skullcup, the middle two a human skull mala and trident, the lowest two a damaru drum and lasso. Adorned with a tiger skin, garland of heads, bones and snakes, and small bells on the hands and feet. Standing in a manner with the two legs together pressing down on Ganapati. With three eyes, bared fangs, eyebrows, beard and hair flowing upward with Akshobhya as a crown. Anointed with a sindhura drop on the forehead. Supported behind by a sandalwood tree, dwelling in the middle of a blazing mass of fire." (Jonang Taranatha, 1575-1634).

He stands atop the form of the elephant headed deity Ganapati and a large lotus blossom seat with a skullcup of offerings placed directly in front. Along both sides, severed limbs neatly crossed symbolize a charnel ground scene. At the top center is the buddha Vajradhara with the two hands folded at the heart. Adorned with a crown and wearing silks, he sits in vajra posture surrounded by a sphere of light.

Shadbhuja Mahakala arises from the Eight-Chapter Mahakala Tantra belonging to the Kriya classification. The interlocutor, or sponsor, of the tantra was Hayagriva. There are numerous other forms of Shadbhuja, the most popular being the wealth deity White Mahakala practiced in all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Lineage: Vajradhara, Jnana Dakini, shri Shavaripa, lord Maitripa, mahasiddha Rahulagupta, Khedrup Khyungpo Naljor (founder of the Shangpa Kagyu School, 11th century), Nyamme Rinchen Tsondru, Bonton Kyergangpa (famous terton of the Hayagriva cycle of practice), etc.

Jeff Watt 6-99

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Mahakala: Shadbhuja [Shangpa] Page (Six-hands)
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 7
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Textile: Applique Artwork Main Page
Tradition: Shangpa Kagyu Main Page
Textile: Types & Topics Main Page