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. 65387)
Origin Location Nepal
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Buddhist
Material Wood
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shadbhuja Mahakala (Tibetan: pal nyur dze ye she kyi gon po chag drug pa. English: the Swift Acting Lord of Pristine Awareness with Six Hands). The wrathful manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara after having taken on the form of Mahakala - the principal protector of the Shangpa Kagyu and Gelugpa Schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Shadbhuja Mahakala arises from the Eight-Chapter Mahakala Tantra belonging to the Kriya classification. The interlocutor or sponsor of the tantra was Hayagriva. There are numerous other forms of Shadbhuja, the most popular being the wealth deity White Mahakala practiced in all the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Generally, a number of variations in appearance are found in the different traditions principally the leg postures of Mahakala, the number of arms of the retinue attendant figure, Shri Devi, and the colours and hand objects of the remaining retinue attendants. A further seventy-five deities called 'Lords,' in Tibetan called 'gonpo' (mgon po) make up the outer retinue and this enumeration hinging on the word 'mgon po' and a common name used in reference to Mahakala, has led to the mistaken Western notion that there are seventy-five forms of Mahakala in Tibetan Buddhism.

Indian & Tibetan Buddhist Lineage: Vajradhara, Jnana Dakini, Shri Shavaripa, lord Maitripa, Mahasiddha Rahulagupta, Khedrup Khyungpo Naljor (founder of the Shangpa Kagyu School, 11th century), Nyammed Rinchen Tsondru, Bonton Kyergangpa (famous terton of the Hayagriva cycle of practice), etc.

Jeff Watt 10-2007

Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley

Thematic Sets
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 2
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 3
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala, Shadbhuja (Sculpture)
Nepal: Sculpture (Wood)
Mahakala: Shadbhuja [Shangpa] Page (Six-hands)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Sculpture (Gallery 1)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Nepal