Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - 'Northern Treasure' (Jangter)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 31762)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Nyingma and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Mahakala of the Jangter 'Northern Treasure' Tradition according to the lineage of Godemchen Ngodrub Gyaltsen (1337-1409). The painting was commissioned by Paljor Tsewang and the inscriptions on the back written by Vidyadhara Kelsang Pema (likely to be the 5th Dorje Drag Rigdzin, Kalzang Pema Wangchug, 172-1771). (See the Mahakala Main Page).

The 'Jangter' Mahakala has three faces, six hands and four legs. The central face is blue, right white and left red. In the right hands are a wooden club, vajra sceptre and iron kila (peg). The left hands hold a skullcup and rakshasa mala [together], a hammer and the heart of an enemy [together], and a snake lasso. He wears a black cloak and the eight cemetery vestments and ornaments.

At the proper right side (viewer's left) is Raksha Tumoche, blue in colour, with four faces and four arms. The two right hands hold a staff and a victory banner. The two left hold a sword and lasso. He rides atop a turquoise dragon. Directly below is a red wrathful figure wearing the garb of a warrior - possibly a form of Marutse - riding atop a bird.

On the left side of Mahakala is Mamo Jnanadhatu (a form of Shri Devi), maroon in colour. She has three faces, six hands and four legs. The three right hands hold a vajra, corpse and sword. The three left hold a kapala, mongoose and trident. She rides atop a mule. Directly below are the the Five Classes of Goddesses together with retinue - all red in colour.

At the top center is Heruka Vajrakila with one face and two hands, two wings, holding a peg (kila). In this usage the term 'heruka' refers to a simplified form of a complex meditational deity. At the lower left is the protector Rahula accompanied below by the peaceful female goddess Dorje Yudronma riding a deer and the wrathful Dorje Legpa riding a snow lion. To the lower right of Vajrakila is Ekajati, maroon in colour, accompanied by three wrathful figures and Dudmo Remati, a form of Shri Devi, riding a donkey.

The three known as 'ma, za dor sum' ་མ་གཟའ་རྡོར་གསུམ་། refers to Ekajati, Rahula and Dorje Legpa as the principal protectors of the Nyingma 'Revealed Treasure' Tradition.

Directly below Mahakala to the right is the worldly protector Pehar riding a white elephant. Next to Pehar is a form of Gonpo Maning Mahakala, blue in colour, holding a staff and skullcup outstretched, standing with a consort. On the lower left side of 'Jangter' Mahakala is the worldly Tibetan god Tsi'u Marpo, red in colour, riding a horse.

Typically Mahakala of the 'Jangter' is accompanied by the body emanation riding a tiger, speech emanation holding a 'ghandi' stick, mind emanation holding a curved knife, qualities emanation riding a lion and activities emanation [in the appearance of] black Trakshe. In addition there are the Five Classes of Goddesses together with retinue and the two - a Raven Headed and Lion Headed servant. Again there are Yama Dharmaraja, Marutse and the Seventy-five Lords of Pure Lineage.

The Seventy-five Lords of Pure Lineage:
The Ten Guardians of the Directions, (Tibetan - chog yong chu)
The Eight Great Gods, (Tib. - lha chenpo gye)
The Eight Great Nagas, (Tib. - lhu chenpo gye)
The Eight Great Planets, (Tib. - za chenpo gye)
The Four Worldly Guardians, (Tib. - jig ten kyong wa shi)
The Twenty-eight Constellations, (Tib. - gyu kar nyi shu tsa gye)
The Nine Great Bhairavas, (Tib. - jig je chenpo gu)

At the bottom center, in a rainbow sphere, is Shri Lakshmi (pal lhamo), the peaceful form of the female protector deity Shri Devi. She holds an arrow upraised in the right hand and a bowl of jewels in the left. Surrounding her are the Twelve Protector Goddesses of Tibet (tenma chu nyi).

At the bottom left side is Shri Shmashana Adhipati in the appearance of two dancing skeletons. On the right side is a Naga figure - possibly Ngagdag.

On the back of the painting there are two sets of hand prints and a four line inscription with a short concluding colophon. The proper right hand of the top set of hand prints shows the imprint of a second thumb.


Textual descriptions of the figures are based on the Tibetan text 'dpal ldan mgon po bstan srung yongs rdzogs kyi 'phrin las' with the root text attributed to Godemchen Ngodrub Gyaltsen (1337-1409).

Jeff Watt 10-2013

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Mahakala: Shadbhuja, Six-armed (All Traditions) Main Page
Collection of Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Mahakala: Jangter (Northern Treasure)