Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Legden (Excellent One)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 61511)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Lineages Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Legden Mahakala, Gandi Nata (Tibetan: beng gon po leg den): a Mahakala of the Bhagavat classification popular in both the Sarma and Nyingma Terma (Revealed Treasure) Traditions.

"... Legden Nagpo, Desire Free Son, with a body blue-black in colour, one face, two hands, three eyes. The right [hand] holds a large sandalwood gandi marked with a jewel. From the upper [portion] of the gandi fire blazes and from the lower [portion] water flows. From inside the gandi a great army of asuras issue. The left [hand holds] at the side an iron [bowl] filled with various diseases. Wearing a thick upper cloak and tied with a gold belt, wearing boots, a crown of five dry skulls and having a necklace of fifty wet heads, adorned with snakes, three staring eyes, bared fangs and a curled tongue, black flowing eyebrows, moustache and hair, standing with the right leg bent and the left straight in the middle of a blazing mass of fire." (Terdag Lingpa Gyurme Dorje 1646-1714 and Minling Lochen Dharmashri 1654-1718. Tibetan source text 'dod 'jo bum bzang, Part II, page 149-150).

Along the top register beginning on the left side is Vajradhara Buddha and the Indian lineage teachers. Next to Vajradhara is a figure in siddha appearance. The remaining figures extending to the right side are all in monastic appearance and each wears a yellow or red pandita hat.

Directly above the head of Mahakala is white Vajrasattva and the consort Vajragarvi in a seated posture. At the far left side is Heruka Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini. At the far right side is Heruka Hevajra. Surrounding the central figure of Mahakala are eight animals including birds, wolves, jackals and black dogs. They all look outward and are referred to as the 'messengers' of Mahakala. Interspersed in the ring of figures are, on the left side, a very small figure similar in appearance to Mahakala. This is likely to be the 'minister' of the vast horde of Mahakala attendant deities. On the right side is Shri Devi, light blue in colour, with one face and four hands riding a donkey. Slightly lower on the right side is an attendant figure, dark in colour, with the right arm raised and holding a sword. Six attendant figures stand in the lower register. At the bottom right is a monastic figure seated in front of an offering shrine.

Bhagavat (Legden) is a classification of Mahakala. There are many types of Mahakala and a further many types in the classification of Bhagavat.

Jeff Watt [updated 1-2018]

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Masterworks (Miscellaneous)
Mahakala: Legden (Bhagavat, Excellent One)
Collection: Bonhams NY, March 2018