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. 87211)
Origin Location China
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Size 122x70cm (48.03x27.56in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Catalogue # acc. #1992.233, Gift of George & Verena Rybicki
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

TBRC: bdr:W25327

Interpretation / Description

Panjarnata, Vajra Mahakala (Tibetan: dor je nag po chen po, gur gyi gon po. English: the Great Vajra Black One, Lord of the Pavilion), special protector of the Hevajra cycle of teachings and principal protector of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Panjarnata Main Page | Panjarnata Outline Page | Panjarnata Masterworks

Panjarnata Mahakala: "The great Vajra Mahakala blazes, with one face, two hands, holding in the right a curved knife and in the left a skullcup filled with blood held above and below the heart. Held across the middle of the two forearms is the 'Gandhi of Emanation.' With three eyes, bared fangs, yellow hair flowing upward, [he has] a crown of five dry human skulls and a necklace of fifty wet - blood dripping. Adorned with six bone ornaments and snakes, having a lower garment of tiger skin, flowing with pendants and streamers of various silks, in a posture dwarfish and thick [he] stands above a corpse. [Surrounding him are]...a black crow, ...a black dog; ...a wolf; ...a black man; above a garuda; emanations of messengers... with Akshobhya [Buddha] as a crown; standing in the middle of blazing fire of pristine awareness." (Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557).

There are four accompanying figures in the painted composition. At the top left is Bhutadamara Vajrapani, blue, with four hands, standing in a wrathful posture surrounded by flames. At the top right is the mother of all Mahakalas, Ekajati, blue, with one face and two hands holding a vase to the heart, in a seated posture. At the bottom left is Mahakala Vyaghravahana, riding a tiger, holding a stick upraised in the right hand and a skullcup in the left. At the bottom right is Shri Devi with one face and four hands, riding a mule.

Bhutadamara Vajrapani: "...the King of the Wrathful, Shri Vajrapani Bhutadamara, with a body blue-black in colour, one face, four hands. The first right hand holds aloft a blue vajra with tines open and the left in a wrathful gesture and holding a vajra lasso. The two main hands perform the daemon subduing mudra at the heart. The mouth has bared fangs and tongue curled, three round red eyes glaring fiercely, orange mustache, eyebrows and hair blazing upward. Having a crown of five dry skulls and a necklace of fifty wet. Adorned with eight great nagas and wearing a lower garment of tiger skin and upper robe of blue silk. Standing with the right leg bent and left straight - pressing on Bhuta Aparajita lying face down; white, with three eyes, four hands. The right holds a drum and curved knife, left a skullcup and trident, wearing a tiger skin as a lower garment and yellow hair in a top knot - standing in the middle of a fiercely blazing fire of pristine awareness."

Ekajati: "...Ekajati, with a body blue in colour, one face, two hands holding a nectar filled vase to the heart; with an upper garment of white silk fabric and a lower garment of tiger skin; with the hair done in one braid, hanging to the left; in a fierce aspect."

Shri Devi: "...the Glorious Goddess, Mistress of the Desire Realm, riding a donkey with a white patch; with a body blue-black in colour, one face and four hands; the first right holds a sword, second a skullcup filled with blood; the first left holds a spear, the second a trident; with a crown of five dry human skulls and a necklace of fifty wet and six bone ornaments; an elephant hide as an upper garment and a rakshasa hide as a lower garment, the lower garment of woven hair; the Lord of Nagas tied as a girdle; possessing three eyes, a stiff human corpse in the mouth; bared fangs. The right ear is adorned with a poisonous snake and the left a lion. On the body arranged in bunches are drops of blood, clots of mold, and ashes of the dead; very emaciated; in the middle of the body a sun and moon appear." (All translations above are from the writings of Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557).

Panjarnata Mahakala is the main protector of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Arising from the Vajrapanjara Tantra, Panjarnata along with Brahmarupa Mahakala, associated with the Guhyasamaja Tantra, are known as the 'Greater and Lesser Mahakalas' of the Sakya School (Tib.: gon po che chung).

Panjarnata Eight Deity Lineage: Vajradhara, Dakini Vajrapanjara, Acharya Brahmin Vararuchi, Norbu Lingka Dewa'i Dorje, Shraddhakara Varman, Lochen Rinchen Zangpo, Drag Tengpa Yontan Tsultrim, Mal Lotsawa Lodro Dragpa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, etc.

Jeff Watt 4-2001 [updated 11-2009]

Numbered List:
1. Panjarnata Mahakala
2. Bhutadamara Vajrapani
3. Ekajati
4. Vyagra-vahana Mahakala
5. Shri Devi

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Faith & Empire - Art & Politics in Tibetan Buddhism

HAR: Art History Main Page

Thematic Sets
Mahakala: Panjarnata Iconography
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Mahakala Paintings
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Masterworks)
Subject: Bird Messengers
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Three Deity
Mahakala: Panjarnata Masterworks (Painting & Textile)
Subject: Wrathful Ornaments (Scarf)
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Early Paintings)
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Main Page
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Main Page)