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. 70)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Sakya and Ngor (Sakya)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.3.5
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:W25327

Interpretation / Description

Mahakala, Vajra Panjarnata (Tibetan: dor je gur gyi gon po. English: the Great Black One, Lord of the Vajra Pavilion [or Canopy]): from the Vajra Panjara Tantra.

Fiercely wrathful, black in colour with one face, large round eyes, flaming yellow hair and two hands he holds a curved knife in the right and a skullcup in the left - both held to the heart. Resting across the forearms is a 'gandhi' stick from which all other forms of Mahakala emanate. Adorned with a crown of five dry skulls, bone ornaments and a necklace of fifty freshly severed heads he wears a lower garment of tiger skin. Atop a corpse, circular disc of the sun and multi-coloured lotus he stands surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness.

Seated directly above is the primordial buddha Vajradhara with one face and two hands holding a vajra and bell crossed at the heart. At each side is a seated Indian mahasiddha holding a skullcup. At the left corner is Sahaja Hevajra in Heruka form, standing, with one face and two hands holding skullcups crossed at the heart embracing the consort Vajra Nairatmya. At the right is Vajrabhairava in Heruka form with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup to the heart and riding atop a buffalo.

Directly below is Ekajati (Tib.: ral chig ma, Eng.: One Braid [of hair]), semi-wrathful in appearance, seated, with one face and two hands holding a vase. Below that is Shri Devi (Tib.: pal den lha mo), with one face and four hands holding in the right a sword and skullcup and in the left a spear and trident, riding a mule through an ocean of blood. On the left is Bhutadamara Vajrapani with one face and four hands in a wrathful appearance similar to Mahakala. Below sits Brahmarupa Mahakala, in the appearance of an Indian mahasiddha, with one face and two hands holding a sword and skullcup, seated in a relaxed posture.

At the bottom center is Begtse Chen, red in colour holding a stick in the right hand and a heart in the left. In the bottom right corner is Yama Dharmaraja with a buffalo head, one face and two hands standing on the back of a buffalo. The five remaining black wrathful deities 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, 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 the Sakya School.

Panjaranatha Mahakala arises from the Panjara (Pavilion, or canopy) Tantra for which he is the protector and guardian. This Tantra belongs to the Hevajra Cycle of Tantras and classified as Non-dual Anuttarayoga. The method of painting is 'nag thang,' black scroll - gold outline on a black background with a lack of superfluous ornamentation and landscape.

Jeff Watt 6-98

Secondary Images
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Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Main Page)
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Eight Deity
Collection of RMA: Ngor Style Paintings