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. 730)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Sakya
Size 78.74x59.06cm (31x23.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.22.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

TBRC: W25327

Interpretation / Description

Panjarnata Vajra Mahakala (Tibetan: gur gyi gon po dor je nag po chenpo, English: the Great Black One of the Pavilion), principal protector for the Hevajra cycle of Tantras.

Blue-black in colour, fearsome in appearance, he is squat and dwarfish, with one face, three large round eyes, a red gaping mouth and yellow hair flowing upward. The two hands are placed at the heart holding a curved knife and skullcup with a ghandi stick of sandalwood placed horizontally across the forearms. The head is adorned with a crown of five skulls, gold earrings and ribbons. The body is decorated with necklaces, bracelets, anklets, a green scarf, writhing snakes and a garland of severed heads. With the two feet placed evenly above a corpse, yellow sun disc and multi-coloured lotus seat he stands surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness.

At the top center is the primordial buddha Vajradhara, blue, holding a vajra and bell crossed at the heart. At each side are two principal deities of the Sakya School. On the left is Shri Hevajra, with 8 faces and 16 hands holding skullcups, standing in a dancing posture. On the right is Vajrayogini, red, with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup. Standing on both legs she looks upward to the left and drinks from the skullcup; a katvanga staff rests across the shoulder.

Descending at the right side - first is the tutelary deity Heruka Sahaja Vajra Bhairava, blue, with one buffalo face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup at the heart, standing atop a buffalo. Below is Ekajati, the mother of all mahakalas, with one face and two hands, holding a vase to the heart; seated in a relaxed posture. Below is Shri Devi (Tib.: pal den lha mo) with one face and four hands holding a sword and trident in the first pair and a skullcup and spear in the second. She rides atop a mule through a sea of blood. Below is the younger sister Palden Magzorma with one face and two hands holding a stick in the right and a skullcup to the heart with the left; riding atop a mule.

Descending at the left side is Vajrapani Bhutadamara with one face and four hands performing the Daemon Subduing mudra with the first pair and holding a vajra with the outstretched right and a lasso with the left. He has the same general appearance as Mahakala. Below is Brahmarupa Mahakala with one face and two hands holding a curved knife in the right and a skullcup in the lap with the left. A spear leans against the left shoulder. Brownish in colour with a white beard and topknot, adorned with a shinbone horn, he is surrounded by four naked attendant dakinis. Below is Shri Chitipati, the dancing skeletons, Lords of the Cemetery Father-Mother. They hold bone sticks upraised in the right hands and skullcups to the heart with the left.

At the bottom are the five main attendants - the inner retinue - of Panjarnata, Kala Rakshasa, Kali Rakshasi and their three fearsome offspring. All are black in colour with one face and two hands holding a variety of gruesome weapons and attired in all the wrathful vestments and skins. Scattered throughout the foreground and background are numerous figures of black men and women, warriors, mantradharins, bhikshus and various wild animals - these are all the outer retinue of Mahakala.

Panjarnata is the principal protector of the Sakya School (along with Brahmarupa Mahakala) and arises from an exclusive Hevajra commentary tantra. He is the most wrathful form of the primordial buddha Vajradhara and the protector form of Shri Hevajra.

The style of painting is called 'nag thang' - black scroll. Executed with fine lines, more or less colour is used at the discretion and ability of the artist, creating an ethereal effect.

Jeff Watt 4-99

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