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. 351)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Size 40.64x28.58cm (16x11.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.29.1
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 School of Tibetan Buddhism.

White in colour with on face, he has three glaring 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 green 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 red and gold 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.

Seated directly above is the Buddha Vajradhara, blue in colour, with one face and two hands. In this form he holds to the heart a jewel in the right and a mongoose in the lap with the left. Seated at the top right the mahasiddha Shavaripa, the first human lineage holder for the system of Shadbhuja Mahakala. Below is a lama wearing robes a red pandita hat. On the left side is another pandita holding a book and seated below is a Gelugpa Lama - possibly the second Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gendun Gyatso, who popularized the practices of the Shangpa School within the later Gelugpa School.

At the bottom left is the main form of the wrathful protector, Shadbhuja Mahakala, black, with one face and six hands. Wrathful offerings are arranged in front. At the right is the protector goddess Magzor Gyalmo, black, with one face and two hands, riding a mule. She is the wrathful emanation of the goddess Sarasvati and the special protector to the Dalai Lamas.

The painting is rich with detail and colour executed on a black background almost lost in the opulence, splendour and array of colours.

White Mahakala, a wealth deity of the Kriya class of Tantra, satisfies the economic needs of Tantric Buddhists. This is a Gelugpa 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 founded by Marpa and his principal student Milarepa.

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

Jeff Watt 5-98

Reverse of Painting
Special Features: (handprints)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Selection of Works - Painting (RMA)

Thematic Sets
Mahakala: Shadbhuja, White (Masterworks)
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Mahakala (Gelug)
Subject: Wealth Deities Main Page
Mahakala: Shadbhuja, White (6 Hands, Shangpa)
Painting Style: Tashi Lhunpo Monastery