Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Chaturbhuja (Four-hands)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 453)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Drukpa (Kagyu) and Buddhist
Size 86.36x67.95cm (34x26.75in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.14.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Summary: This form of Mahakala can be either a protector deity (dharmapala) or a meditational deity (ishtadevata).

Interpretation / Description

Chaturbhuja Vajra Nata Mahakala (Tibetan: gon po chag shi pa, dor je nag po chen po. English: The Great Black Vajra Lord with Four Hands) embracing the consort. From the Tradition of Arya Nagarjuna. (Based on some stylistic elements it is possible that this painting originates from Bhutan and not from Tibet).

Sanskrit: Chaturbhuja Tibetan: Chag shi pa

At the top center is the primordial Buddha Vajradhara. At the left are Vajrapani, Ga Lotsawa and Padma Karpo (Pema Karpo). At the right are Nagarjuna, Tsangpa Gyare and Kunzang Jalu.

With one face and four hands, blue-black in colour, Mahakala glares ferociously with three large round eyes, bared fangs and orange hair flowing upward. The first pair of hands hold a fresh heart and the left a skullcup - held to the heart embracing the consort. The second right hand holds upraised a sword and in the left a katvanga staff with a trident point. Ferocious in appearance the consort holds a skullcup in the left hand. Both are adorned with a tiara of skulls, bone and jewel ornaments, garlands of heads and green silk scarves. The Lord wears a tiger skin as a lower garment and the consort a girdle of finely strung bone ornaments. In a relaxed posture they are seated above a multi-coloured lotus, sun and red corpse seat surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness interspersed with the emanations of black dogs, birds and garudas.

Jeff Watt 9-2000

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Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Mahakala: Chaturbhuja, Four-hands (Betapala)
Mahakala: Chaturbhuja, Four-hands Main Page
Collection of RMA: Black Ground Masterworks
Tradition: Drugpa Kagyu Main Page
Mahakala: Chaturbhuja (Painting Masterworks)
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Subject: Protectors (Wisdom) as Ishtadevata (Meditational Deities)
Mahakala - Chaturbhuja (with Consort)