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. 92)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Sakya and Ngor (Sakya)
Size 49.53x36.20cm (19.50x14.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1995.1.3
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.

Fearsome and wrathful, blue-black in colour, with one face, yellow hair flowing upward, three large round staring eyes and a gaping mouth with exposed fangs, he has two hands holding a curved knife in the right and skullcup with the left - both held to the heart. Resting across the forearms is a 'gandhi' stick. Adorned with a crown of five dry skulls, earrings, necklaces and a garland of fifty freshly severed heads he wears a lower garment of tiger skin. Atop a corpse, sun disc and multi-coloured lotus blossom he stands within the orange and red flames of pristine awareness.

At the top center is the primordial buddha Vajradhara, blue, with one face and two hands holding a vajra and bell to the heart. To the right is the mother of all Mahakalas, Ekajati (Tib.: ral chig ma, Eng.: One Braid [of hair]), with one face and two hands holding a vase at the heart. Seated in a relaxed posture she has a slightly wrathful demeanour. Below that is Shri Devi (Tib.: pal den lha mo, Eng.: Glorious Goddess), the female counter-part to Mahakala, black, with one face and four hands holding in the right a sword and skullcup and in the left a spear and trident, riding a brown horse. Her main attendant is placed below, the Queen of the Weapon Army (Tib.: mag zor gyal mo), with one face and two hands holding a stick and skullcup, riding a mule.

Directly below Mahakala are six figures. The five 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, hold various weapons and stand in a dancing manner surrounded by flames. These eight deities, Mahakala, Ekajati, Shri Devi and the Five Rakshasa form the famous 'Eight Deity Mahakala' (Tib.: gur gyi gon po lha gye) of the Sakya School.

Also included with the 'Eight Deities' are the lesser attendants, represented by a monk holding a begging bowl and wearing a gold hat. Below that is a Tantric Mantradharin (Eng.: Holder of Mantras) wearing black flowing robes and a black hat with a broad round rim. At the right is a black woman repeated again on the left side of the painting with a man placed above dressed as a Tibetan warrior with a sword and shield. These four figures represent the outer attendants.

At the bottom center is Begtse Chen (Eng.: the Great Coat of Mail), red, in the appearance of a Tibetan warrior wearing red leather protective armour. In the right hand is a sword and in the left a human heart along with a bow, arrow and lance in the bend of the elbow.

At the top left is Mahakala in Brahmin Form - Brahmarupa, with one face and two hands holding a curved knife and skullcup, seated in a relaxed posture. Below that is the wealth deity White Shadbhuja Mahakala with one face and six hands, in a standing posture with the two legs straight. Below that are the two dancing skeletons, Chitipati (Eng.: Lords of the Funeral Pyre).

Panjaranatha Mahakala arises from the Panjara (Eng.: pavilion, or canopy) Tantra of which he is the protector and guardian. This tantra belongs to the Hevajra Cycle of Teachings and is classified as 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 5-98

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Worlds of Transformation

Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
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
Painting Type: Black Ground (Eastern Tibet, Kham)