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. 30592)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Sakya, Ngor (Sakya) and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

TBRC: W25327

Interpretation / Description

Mahakala, Vajra Panjarnata (Tibetan: dor je gur gyi gon po. English: the Great Black One, Lord of the Vajra Pavilion [or Canopy]): from the Vajra Panjara Tantra. The composition is a single painting and does not belong to a set of paintings. (See the Panjarnata Mahakala Main Page).

The iconographic program of the painting can be determined by the size of the figures and the hierarchy in the composition with the highest at the top and lowest at the bottom. The program reads from Panjarnata Mahakala in the middle to Shri Hevajra and then Vajradhara. From Vajradhara it then reads left to right alternating from side to side in a descending manner through two rows of lineage teachers. The lineage teachers are divided into two groups, early and late. The early teachers include two Indian mahasiddhas and then the 'Five Foremost Teachers of Sakya' who are basically the founders of the tradition. The last two lineage teachers were likely contemporary or slightly before the creation of the Mahakala painting. Below the teachers are the group of the most important meditational deities of the Sakya Tradition. Below the deities are the wisdom protectors (enlightened) of the Sakyas and below those are the worldly protectors. The worldly protectors include the twelve 'Tenma Chunyi', Vaishravana Riding a Lion, the twelve animal headed figures at the bottom right along with the 'Three Kings' at the lower center.

The iconographic program of a painting is generally read from:
1. Big to small
2. Top to bottom
3. Left to Right
4. Inside to outside.

Fiercely wrathful, black in colour with one face, large round eyes, flaming yellow hair and two hands he holds a curved knife in the right and a skullcup in the left - both held to the heart. Resting across the forearms is a 'gandhi' stick from which all other forms of Mahakala emanate. Adorned with a crown of five dry skulls, bone ornaments and a necklace of fifty freshly severed heads he wears a lower garment of tiger skin. Atop a corpse, circular disc of the sun and multi-coloured lotus he stands surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness.

Panjaranatha Mahakala arises from the Panjara (Pavilion, or canopy) Tantra for which he is the protector and guardian. This Tantra belongs to the Hevajra Cycle of Tantras and classified as Non-dual Anuttarayoga. The method of painting is 'nag thang,' black scroll - gold outline on a black background with a lack of superfluous ornamentation and landscape.

"...the great Vajra Mahakala, blazing, with one face, two hands, in the right a curved knife and the left a skullcup filled with blood, held above and below the heart. Held across the middle of the two arms is the 'Gandhi of Emanation.' With three eyes, bared fangs, yellow hair flowing upward, a crown of five dry human skulls and a necklace of fifty wet, blood dripping; adorned with six bone ornaments and snakes; having a lower garment of tiger skin; flowing with pendants and streamers of various silks; in a posture dwarfish and thick, standing above a corpse. To the right is a black crow, left a black dog, behind a wolf, in front a black man, above a garuda, emanations of messengers issue forth, with Akshobhya as a crown, standing in the middle of blazing fire of pristine awareness." (Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557).

Lineage of Teachers: 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.

Directly above the central Mahakala are Vajradhara Buddha at the top and Shri Hevajra below. Alternating to both sides of Vajradhara are the lineage teachers; Virupa, Vararuchi, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sonam Tsemo, Sakya Pandita, Chogyal Pagpa, Konchog Pal (?), Sachen Kunga Lodro, 1729-1783 (?), and Wangdu Nyingpo, 1763-1806 (?). Separating the teachers on the right and left is Hevajra in the middle surrounded by eight goddesses all standing in a dancing posture.

On the left side below the teachers are Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara. Below them are Bhutadamara Vajrapani and Brahmanarupa Mahakala. Below them is the protector deity Begtse Chen along with his consort and son. Below them are a male and female protector deities riding a lion and a horse. Below them are the 'Tenma Chunyi" Twelve Protector Goddesses of Tibet.

Below them is a donor figure performing a wrathful subjugation ritual wearing full 'Black hat' ceremony regalia. In front is a triangular shaped hearth with a human shaped effigy in the middle surrounded by flames on three sides. As the ritual proceeds and the black hat spiritualist waves the vajra scepter and rings the vajra bell lightening and hail in the shape of 'kila' pegs descends from dark clouds and destroys all enemies and obstacles portrayed as dark and ligfht skinned figures below.

On the right side are Vajrakila and Vajrabhairava. Below them are Ekajati and Vajrayogini. Below them are Shri Devi Dudsolma and Shri Devi Magzor Gyalmo. Below them are Gauri and Marajit - special protectors for the Vajrakilaya practice. Below them are Vaishravana Riding a Lion and Shri Shmashana Adhipati appearing as two skeletons. Below them are twelve figures, some with animal heads, and some riding animal mounts that have several heads.

On the viewer's left side, directly below Panjara Mahakala is Yama Dharmaraja, the special protector for the Vajrabhairava cycle of practice, standing atop a buffalo mount. To the right and below are the Pancha Rakshasa, special attendants for Panjaranata. They are Kala Rakshasa Kala Rakshasi, Putra, Bhatra and Singmo.

At the bottom of the composition are the Tibetan worldly protectors known as the 'Three Kings': Tsiu Marpo at the center, Dorje Setrab on the left and Dorje Shugden 'Riding a Black Horse' on the right.

The reverse of the painting has a lengthy inscription written in Tibetan script beginning with auspicious Sanskrit language dharani and mantra invocations. The generic long mantra for Mahakala follows along with shorter mantras. All of that is again followed by a long supplication and prayer. There are no dates or donor names mentioned in the verses.

Jeff Watt 2-2014

Secondary Images

View other items in the Thematic Set: Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Main Page)