Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Shadbhuja (Six-hands, Shangpa)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 650)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Shangpa Kagyu
Size 56.52x36.83cm (22.25x14.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1998.15.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Wisdom Lord with Six Hands and a Retinue of Five (Tibetan: ye she gon po chag drug pa'i kor nga). Shadbhuja Vajra Mahakala with a Retinue of Five Attendant deities: the wrathful emanation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

Fearsome, black in colour, with yellow hair streaming upward he has one face with three round eyes. Having six hands, in the first pair is a curved knife and skullcup held to the heart, in the second a human skull garland and trident - holding upraised the legs of an elephant hide garment. Held in the lower pair is a damaru (drum) and lasso. Adorned with all the wrathful ornaments, a skull crown, bone earrings, bracelets, anklets and vestments, he wears a tiger skin lower garment. Standing on the prone form of the elephant headed god Ganesh, above a sun disc and red-blue lotus, he is surrounded by the fiery red licks of the flames of pristine awareness. Arranged in front is a skullcup filled with the wrathful offerings of the five senses.

At the top center is the peaceful bodhisattva Padmapani Avalokiteshvara with one face and two hands. The right hand is extended in the mudra (gesture) of generosity and the left placed on the ground behind - holding a lotus, seated in a relaxed manner. To the left is the Indian mahasiddha Shavaripa, the first guru of the 'Near Lineage' transmission of Shadbhuja Mahakala. He holds the right hand in the gesture of blessing and a skullcup in the left supported in the lap. To the right is the student and mahasiddha, Maitripa, with the right hand in the mudra of blessing and a golden vase held in the left.

At the middle right is wrathful Takkiraja holding a damaru upraised with the right hand and standing in a dancing posture. Below is Shri Devi Remati, 'Mistress of the Desire Realm' with one face and two hands, riding a black mule. Below that is Trakshe, 'Lord of Maras' with one face and two hands riding a black horse. At the lower left is Ksetrapala with one face and two hands, offering a skullcup to the Lord, and riding a crazy black bear. At the middle left is Jinamitra holding a skullcup and damaru (drum) standing in a dancing posture. These five attendant figures form the inner retinue of Shadbhuja Mahakala. At the lower left is the guardian of the Northern Direction, Vaishravana, with one face and two hands holding a victory banner and mongoose, riding a snow lion.

Near Lineage: Vajradhara, Jnana Dakini, Shri Shavari Ishvara, Lord Maitripa, mahasiddha Rahulagupta, Khedrup Kyungpo Naljor (11th century, founder of the Shangpa Kagyu School), etc.

The style of painting is 'nag thang' - black scroll, with the figures drawn in gold outline on a black background. The name of each figure is painted in fine gold lettering beneath the lotus seat.

Jeff Watt 1-99

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Mahakala: Shadbhuja [Shangpa] Page (Six-hands)
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 3
Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Tradition: Shangpa Kagyu Main Page