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. 497)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1200 - 1299
Lineages Sakya
Size 48.26x43.18cm (19x17in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.27.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

TBRC: W25327

Interpretation / Description

Panjarnata Mahakala (Tibetan: gur gyi gon po nag po chen po, English: the Great Black One, Lord of the Pavilion).

Mahakala with one face and two hands holds a curved knife and skullcup to the heart. Resting across the forearms is a 'gandhi' stick. On the crown of the head is the buddha Vairochana. Very fierce with all the usual wrathful ornaments and attire, he wears a necklace of fifty severed heads and tiger skin lower garment. Standing in a squat posture on a corpse above a sun disc, he stands within a mass of flaming fire of pristine awareness. Emanating from the circle of flames along the top and left side is a wolf, black dogs, black crows and garudas directly above. These animals are the messengers of Mahakala.

Slightly left of the top center is Shri Hevajra, blue in colour, with eight faces, sixteen hands, embracing the consort Vajra Nairatmya. At the top right are two seated lamas, performing the 'Dharma Teaching' mudra (gesture), and below is Ekajati (Tib.: Ral chig ma, Eng.: One Braid), dark blue in colour with one face and two hands holding a vase. Below that is Shri Devi (Tib.: Palden Lhamo, Eng.: Glorious Goddess), black, with one face and four hands holding a sword and skullcup in the right and a spear and trident in the left; riding a horse.

At the top left are two lamas performing the 'Dharma Teaching' mudra and the lama above wears a red pandita hat and the lower a yellow pandita hat. Beneath them are five black wrathful deities. These five are the main attendants to Mahakala, a father and mother, Kala Rakshasa and Kali Rakshasi and their three offspring, Putra, Bhatra and Ekajati Rakshasi. They all have one face and two hands, blue-black in colour, and hold a variety of weapons.

These eight deities, Mahakala, Ekajati, Shri Devi and the Five Rakshasa, form the famous 'Eight Deity Mahakala' of Sakya transmitted from Mal Lotsawa to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the second founding father of Sakya.

To the left of Mahakala's knee is a (1) black woman. Beneath her is a (2) monk and at the very bottom a (3) man dressed as a warrior. On the right side beneath Shri Devi is a (4) Mantradharin (a Holder of Mantras) wearing a round black hat and holding a 'kila' (Tib.: purba, Eng.: [three-sided] peg) dagger; a woman in white stands behind. These four represent the outer retinue of Mahakala. Beneath these last two figures a monk is seated in front of an offering table. He is most probably the sponsor for the painting.

Panjaranatha Mahakala is the protector for the Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals of Mahakala are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra (canopy, or pavilion tantra), an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to the Hevajra Tantra itself.

Jeff Watt 5-98

Reverse of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: A prayer to Mahakala the Protector.

Special Features: (Printed script (Uchen), includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Early Paintings)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery III
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Main Page)
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Eight Deity