Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector) - Panjaranata - Retinue Figure

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 65172)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Size 29.21x22.23cm (11.50x8.75in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc. #C2003.33.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Both

Interpretation / Description

Kali Rakshasi (Tibetan: nag mo nu jin): she belongs to the Five Activity Protectors in the retinue of the Eight Deity Panjarnata Mahakala of the Sakya Tradition in the lineage of the great translator Rinchen Zangpo.

"...Kali Rakshasi with one face and two hands: the right holds a gold razor, left a skullcup filled with brains and blood, wearing cloths of black silk, and having one braid." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557).

The circular diagram in the belly of the blue Kali Rakshasi is a magical device called a yantra in the Sanskrit language. Just like a magic charm found in cultures throughout the world, the basic symbol is a lotus shape with a black center and four red petals surrounding, with an outer ring edged by flames. The three sections of the circle are inscribed with different protective verses, imprecations and curses aimed at enemies and misfortune. The principal mantra at the center is that of Kali Rakshasi.

An object such as this would be created based on a perceived threat followed by a divination ritual to determine the best course of action. Based on the outcome of the divination an artist would be commissioned to create a specific painting. In this instance the painting would have been created based on the Panjarnata Mahakala literature where yantras and protective devices such as this are clearly described. Upon completion the painting might be used in further protective ceremonies, but more likely the act of creating the image itself and hanging it serve as the protective remedy.

Jeff Watt 5-2005

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Female Buddhas at RMA

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Deity: Deities (Female)
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened (Female)
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 3
Buddhist Protector: Putra Mising Nga (Five Activity Protectors)
Mahakala (Rare & Unusual Forms)
Collection of RMA: Iconographically Rare Works
Charts: Deity Yantra
Buddhist Protector: Shri Devi Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art (RMA): Main Page