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. 82)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Sakya
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.5.1
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. (See HAR #11158).

Wrathful in appearance with one face and two hands he holds a curved knife and skullcup to the heart. A 'gandhi' stick rests across the forearms. From this magical emanation stick all other forms of Mahakala emanate. Hair flaming upward like orange fire, bared fangs and staring eyes, he is very fierce with all the wrathful ornaments and attire such as a crown of five dry skulls, necklace of fifty freshly severed heads, tiger skin lower garment and a long snake as a Brahmin cord. The neck is further adorned with an ornate white scarf. In a squat posture on a corpse seat above a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus blossom he stands within a mass of flaming fire of pristine awareness. Emanating from the circle of fire are numerous animals, garudas above, wolves to the side, black dogs and crows. These are the messengers of Mahakala.

At the top starting from the left side are the gurus for the initiation lineage of Mahakala: the primordial buddha Vajradhara, Brahmin Vararuchi, Pandita Deva Vajra, Shraddha Karavarma, Lochen Rinchen Zangpo, Drag Tengpa Yontan Tsultrim, Mal Lotsawa Lodro Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182), Dragpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216), Sakya Pandita (1182-1251) and at the far right is Chogyal Pagpa (1235-1280).

Slightly above Mahakala and to the left is Sahaja Heruka Hevajra, blue, with one face and two hands embracing Vajra Nairatmya. On the right is Sahaja Heruka Chakrasamvara, blue, with one face and two hands embracing the red Vajravarahi. Below that is Ekajati (Tib.: ral chig ma. Eng.: One Braid) with one face and two hands holding a gold vase, wearing a white upper garment and tiger skin skirt, seated in a relaxed posture on a multi-coloured lotus. Again, below that is Shri Devi (Tib.: pal den lha mo. Eng.: Glorious Goddess), emaciated, light blue in colour, with one face and four hands holding a sword and skullcup in the right and a spear and trident in the left, seated on a human skin atop a mule.

On the left side is Bhutadamara Vajrapani, blue, with one face and four hands, performing the Daemon Subduing mudra (gesture) with the first pair of hands and holding a vajra and lasso in the second. Below that is Kartaridhara Mahakala holding a curved knife aloft and a skullcup to the heart.

On each side of Mahakala are two vertical rows of four worldly deities: Shakra, Yama, Varuna, Yaksha, Agni, Raksha, Vayu and Ishana. They each have one face and two hands and ride a variety of animals. Standing at the sides of the lotus throne are the Four Guardians of the Directions; Vaishravana, Virudhaka, Virupaksha and Dritarashtra;.

In a row along the bottom are the Inner and Outer retinue of Mahakala. For the Inner there are the Five Rakshasa, 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 holding a variety of weapons. For the Outer retinue there are the four types of figures, a man wearing the garb of a warrior carrying a spear and shield, a dark women, a monk and a Mantradharin (Holder of Mantras) holding two 'kilas' (Tib.: purba, Eng.: [three-sided] peg) dagger.

Panjaranata Mahakala is the protector of the Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara (canopy, or pavilion) Tantra, an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to Hevajra itself.

The dark background is detailed with fine gold floral patterns. The style of painting is Nepali influenced indicated by the total use of space, flame patterns, strong use of red colours and the rigid geometric alignment of the figures within square and rectangular fields.

Numbered List:
Panjaranata Mahakala
1. Sahaja Heruka Chakrasamvara
2. Ekajati
3. Shri Devi
4. Kartaridhara Mahakala
5. Bhutadamara Vajrapani
6. Sahaja Heruka Hevajra
7. Vajradhara
8. Brahmin Vararuchi
9. Pandita Deva Vajra
10. Shraddha Karavarma
11. Lochen Rinchen Zangpo
12. Drag Tengpa Yontan Tsultrim
13. Mal Lotsawa Lodro Drag
14. Sachen Kunga Nyingpo
15. Sonam Tsemo
16. Dragpa Gyaltsen
17. Sakya Pandita
18. Chogyal Pagpa
19. Varuna on a makara
20. Vayu on a deer
21. Rakshasa on a zombie
22. Yaksha on a horse
23. Yama on a buffalo
24. Ishana on a bull
25. Agni on a goat
26. Brahma on a goose (?)
27. Shakra on an elephant
28. Unidentified god
29. Vaishravana
30. Dhritarashtra
31. Virudhaka
32. Virupaksha
33. Bhikshu
34. Sorcerer
35. Kala Rakshasa
36. Kala Rakshasi
37. Putra
38. Batra
39. Singmo
40. Black Woman
41. Warrior
42. Outer Retinue Figure
43. Outer Retinue Figure
44. Outer Retinue Figure

Jeff Watt 6-98

Reverse of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: A prayer written in Tibetan Ume script fills the lower portion of the stupa diagram on the reverse of the painting.

Special Features: (Cursive script (Umay), Printed script (Uchen), is stupa-shaped, includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Early Paintings)
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Main Page)
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Eight Deity
Subject: Lineage Paintings - Linear
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Mahakala, Early Paintings